Kansas Common Sense
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Celebrating Kansas’ 154th Birthday
On Thursday, we celebrated Kansas Day. The story of Kansas is one of farmers, factory workers, teachers, parents and all the unsung heroes who work hard every day to improve our communities and state for the next generation. These Kansans share the spirit of the pioneers who settled our state and tamed the West 154 years ago under the tenets of freedom and individual responsibility. This is the same legacy we want to leave behind for our children and grandchildren. Bright days lie ahead for Kansas and I will do all I can to make certain we leave behind a stronger, freer and more prosperous place to call home. May God bless the great state of Kansas. Click here to watch a slideshow of photos I’ve taken during my travels around our state.
Kansas Now Represented on Powerful Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee
I was honored to be selected by the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations to serve as a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee (SACD) Member for the 114th Congress. The SACD Subcommittee allocates defense spending for the entire Department of Defense – including the Armed Services, military facilities and sustainment, research, and matters related to the health and well-being of our service members. The primary reason I sought a seat on this important subcommittee was to support Kansas military installations and give a strong voice to those who serve our country including the soldiers of Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, airmen of McConnell Air Force Base and Forbes Field, and Kansans in the National Guard and Reserve.
I recently met with Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno to discuss the future of the Army and the value provided by Kansas military installations. As the military's budget is shaped, it is necessary that Kansans have an advocate with a direct connection to the Department. I look forward actively protecting and fighting for Kansas interests.
Our nation’s defense and those who serve must be equipped to safeguard Americans from terrorists who attempt to destroy and attack our way of life. Their selfless efforts to defend the freedoms we hold dear combined with the aerospace and critical defense assets produced in Kansas make our state invaluable to America’s national security. Kansans could not be more proud of the service members and their families who sacrifice so we are able to live in the strongest, freest nation in the world. Protecting Kansas’ military installations and the communities that support them is my priority.
Senate Approves Keystone XL Pipeline
On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed S.1, a resolution to approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, by a vote of 62 to 36. The new Senate Majority has shown in just a few short weeks what can be accomplished when the United States Senate returns to its roots of regular order, allows open debate on good ideas, and allows for a fair amendment process. While this vote to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline should have happened years ago, I am very pleased the Senate has finally been given the opportunity to take bipartisan action on an issue of such importance to American job-creation and energy independence. When this legislation reaches President Obama’s desk, he will finally be forced to decide whether increases in energy security and American jobs trump special interest politics.
There is overwhelming support for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline across the country because Americans understand the importance of this shovel-ready project to job creation and increasing the supply of North American energy. The Senate has listened to Americans and taken action. This is merely the first of many issues to finally receive the Senate’s attention in the new Congress after years of being denied votes.
Senate Votes on Lesser Prairie Chicken Amendment
An amendment I offered to remove the lesser prairie chicken from the threatened species list under the Endangered Species Act was considered by the Senate this week. While a bipartisan majority of Senators supported my efforts by a vote of 54 to 44, the amendment failed to clear the 60-vote threshold needed for adoption as an amendment to S.1 – the Keystone XL pipeline legislation. However, I was able to take the opportunity to educate my colleagues in both a floor speech and personal conversations about the importance of this issue to Kansans.
As I told my colleagues, the listing was based off artificially low population estimates due to the prolonged, historic drought that we experienced. In fact, as rain and snow fall levels return to more normal levels in much of the habitat area, the last aerial survey showed a 20 percent increase in the lesser prairie chicken’s population.
Listing the bird as a threatened species is not the answer – what we need is more rainfall, not more regulation. I am confident there are ways to conserve the species without hindering economic development in rural communities, and I will continue to push for this straightforward, simple solution. It is time to give Kansas and other states like Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas the opportunity to improve habitats and reduce the economic damage that’s already being done by the listing.
Holding Corrupt VA Senior Executives Accountable
As a Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I led the introduction on Wednesday of the Increasing VA Accountability to Veterans Act of 2015, legislation to give the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) more authority to hold corrupt executives accountable for their actions. This legislation – cosponsored by Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator John McCain of Arizona – would give the VA secretary authority to reduce the pensions of executives convicted of a crime, limit the amount of time VA senior executive service (SES) employees can spend on paid administrative leave, and help end VA’s sordid bonus culture by reforming the Department’s performance appraisal system for senior executives.
Despite the passage of the Choice Act last year, the VA is still not doing enough to hold those responsible accountable for their corrupt behavior when treating our nation’s veterans. The Choice Act, which was signed into law in August 2014, contained civil service reforms that gave the VA Secretary the authority to fire senior executives based on misconduct or incompetency. Still, not a single VA senior executive has been fired for wait time manipulation. Instead, corrupt VA employees have been placed on paid administrative leave for several months.
The television cameras may have turned their focus elsewhere, but we will not. This legislation will help make certain VA senior executives found guilty of crimes that put veterans’ lives at risk are held accountable. Our veterans deserve the best our nation has to offer. We cannot allow a system that rewards mediocrity and failure to remain intact. Click here to learn more about the specific provisions of the Increasing VA Accountability to Veterans Act of 2015.
Senate Continues Work on Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015
My colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee and I met this week to continue our work on legislation regarding U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. A large bipartisan majority of the Committee voted to support the legislation that affirms U.S. policy that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons capability. Nuclear weapons are not an ingredient in any possible recipe for peace in the Middle East. It is critical that we reduce the threat of a belligerent or nuclear capable Iran — falling short of this goal carries risks the world cannot afford to take. This legislation, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, would reapply suspended sanctions if current talks fail to result in an agreement by the summer deadline. The bill will receive the attention of the full Senate in the coming weeks.
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act
This week, I joined Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, which would end travel restrictions to Cuba and remove restrictions on banking transactions resulting from travel to Cuba. Only 90 miles from Florida, Cuba is the only country in the world to which Americans are forbidden from traveling. Lifting these restrictions provides Kansans and all Americans greater freedom, but I believe this bill will work to improve the lives of 11 million Cubans living under the repressive Castro regime. Allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba will advance freedom and liberty by further exposing Cubans to democratic thought and free market principles. As the standard of living among Cubans increases, they will be enabled to make greater demands on their own government to increase individual and political rights. I hope the Senate considers legislation in the near future. Click here to learn more about our legislation.
Representing Kansas Aviation on Capitol Hill
This week, I was selected to serve as a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security for the 114th Congress. This subcommittee oversees civil aviation, with oversight responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Specifically, the subcommittee monitors FAA’s grant making efforts in funding airport infrastructure projects and upgrades to air traffic control facilities, in addition to its jurisdiction over domestic aviation security, which includes the majority of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workforce.
General aviation is the largest industry in Kansas, generating nearly $3 billion in annual exports and producing 40 percent of all general aviation planes. For many individuals and businesses in rural Kansas, it is also the most reliable means of connecting with the rest of the world. I look forward to representing Kansans on this important subcommittee and working to ensure a safer and more efficient air traffic system that will allow the aviation industry to continue to grow and thrive in our great state.
Introducing the PARTS Act to Preserve Rural Therapy Care
On Tuesday, I introduced S. 257, the Protecting Access to Rural Therapy Services (PARTS) Act. This bipartisan legislation would make certain rural and other patients have access to a full range of outpatient therapeutic services in hospitals in their own communities. S. 257 is an updated version of the PARTS Act I introduced last Congress as S. 1143.
“Outpatient therapeutic services” include services such as pulmonary rehabilitation, certain behavior health assessments and counseling, demonstration/evaluating the use of an inhaler or nebulizer, and certain casting/splinting procedures. Hospital outpatient therapeutic services have always been administered by licensed, skilled professionals under the overall direction of a physician. However, in 2009 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) abruptly shifted policy to require that outpatient therapeutic services must be furnished under the “direct supervision” of a physician who is required to be physically present in the department at all times that Medicare beneficiaries receives these services. While the need for this level of supervision is recognized for certain high risk, complex outpatient services, CMS’ policy often applies to even low risk services, such as some medication injections and minor wound debridement. For many years, these procedures have been safely administered in hospital outpatient departments under “general supervision,” a standard that permits services to be furnished under the general oversight and control of a supervising practitioner without requiring his or her physical presence. In fact, in December 2014 President Obama signed into law H.R. 4067 – legislation I originally introduced last year that was unanimously passed by Congress – that suspended enforcement of these burdensome regulations on Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and other small rural hospitals in 2014.
Rural hospitals need reasonable flexibility to appropriately staff their facilities so they can provide a full range of services to their communities. Many hospitals find CMS’ direct supervision requirements impossible to meet, which jeopardizes access to this important care. The PARTS Act would preserve patient safety and oversight while easing unreasonable supervision requirements for therapy care. This bill is crafted to make certain federal regulations reflect the realities of rural health care and address this issue on a permanent basis. Click here to read more about this legislation.
Supporting Efforts to Improve Auto Safety
This week, I joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act. This bill creates incentives for employees from the automotive sector to voluntarily provide information on faulty products to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to prevent serious physical injuries and death. Our legislation would allow employees or contractors of motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships to receive up to 30 percent of the monetary penalties resulting from a DOT or U.S. Department of Justice enforcement action that totals more than $1 million if they share original information not previously known to the DOT relating to any motor vehicle defect, noncompliance, or any violation of reporting requirements that is likely to cause risk of death or serious injury.
Last year was a record year for vehicle recalls in the United States, with nearly 64 million vehicles recalled. Congressional oversight hearings uncovered that had whistleblower protections been in place, information about vehicle defects may have been revealed earlier and could have potentially saved lives. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this important, commonsense safety legislation.
Visiting with Tabor College President Jules Glanzer
Also this week, I met with Tabor College President Dr. Jules Glanzer to visit about the latest developments in Hillsboro and at Tabor. Dr. Glanzer was in Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. He provided me with an update on Tabor’s efforts to offer the best equipment and facilities for students to learn and thrive, and pursue the college’s mission of preparing individuals for a life of learning, work, and service for Christ and His kingdom.
We discussed Tabor’s Signature Campaign – the largest fundraising project in the history of the college – to build a campus home for the fine arts. In a few years, Tabor is planning to open the new Shari Flaming Center for the Arts. This facility will include a comprehensive fine arts performance venue and worship center, a stage for the music and drama programs, a studio theater, and recital hall and gallery space for the visual arts. Tabor alumni and friends have donated nearly $13 million of the $16.2 million total of the Signature Campaign goal. This is a great example of a Kansas college and its community working together to help shape the lives current and future students for generations to come. I appreciate Dr. Glanzer taking time while he was in Washington to update me on this project.
Applications Available for Summer 2015 Internships
I am currently accepting internship applications for my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for summer 2015. An internship, either legislative or communications, provides a unique opportunity to work closely with Senate staff on behalf of the state of Kansas. Legislative interns in Washington, D.C., will gain a better understanding of the legislative process in the U.S. Congress, and develop knowledge and professional skills valuable to future career pursuits. Interns based in Kansas will focus on constituent services.
The application deadline is Friday, March 6, 2015. Application forms are available under the ‘Services’ section of my website at https://www.moran.senate.gov. Applicants should submit a completed application form, resume, academic transcript, two letters of recommendation and a cover letter explaining the applicant’s interest in public service and goals of serving as an intern. Please submit required materials to: email@example.com.
Support Fort Riley By Attending February Listening Session
Next Monday, the U.S. Army will hold a “Fort Riley Listening Session” for members of the Junction City community and Flint Hills region to express their support for Fort Riley. Despite an increasingly dangerous world with growing demands on the service members and military families who call Kansas home, Department of Defense resources to protect our country and its citizens are dwindling. Today, the U.S. Army faces force reductions that could create unmanageable risk in training and readiness.
As a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Member, I determine how the Department of Defense prioritizes its resources during the appropriations process. For example, I will have the opportunity to make the case for Kansas installations when I meet with Army Force Management Director Brigadier General Cloutier and others visiting from Army Headquarters in Washington prior to the listening session. I am hopeful we will have a productive conversation about the future of the Big Red One.
Kansans could not be more proud of the service members and their families who sacrifice so we are able to live in the strongest, freest nation in the world. The listening session next week at Fort Riley will give citizens and local leaders the opportunity to share how instrumental Fort Riley is to the community in areas like education, partnerships and construction investments on base. I encourage you to attend the Fort Riley Listening Session on February 9, 2015, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the Geary County Convention Center.
Kansans in the Office
Lazaro San Martin of Wichita
Mark Richardson of Hutchinson
Kansas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Teresa San Martin of Maize
National Federation for the Blind
Tom Page of Wichita
Jenny Callahan of Wichita
Ania Avramenko of Emporia
Andrew Crane of Wichita
National Association of School Nurses
Joann Wheeler of Maize
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Donna Yadrich of Kansas City
Cheri Faunce of Topeka
Debi Corrigan of Wichita
Donnovan Karber of Wichita
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
Jules Glanzer of Hillsboro
Kansas Head Start Association
Erik Vaughn of Lawrence
Joanie Burke of Girard
Kim Sill of Olathe
Jessica Carner of Girard
Shelli Walrod of Girard
Pat Raffaniello of Leawood
National Teachers Hall of Fame
Carol Strickland of Emporia
Lindy Whetzel of Emporia
Christy Levings of Osawatomie
KS Association of Wheat Growers
Ken Wood of Chapman
Aaron Harries of Manhattan
Jay Armstrong of Muscotah
Ron Suppes of Dighton
Dalton Henry of Manhattan
Kansas Corn Association
Greg Krissek of Garnett
TouchNet Information Systems, Inc.
Dan Toughey of Lenexa
Wendell Maddox of Kansas City
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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