Kansas Common Sense
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National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Fully Funded
The passage of the legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security brings a decade-long battle to fund the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) to a close. I regret, however, that the spending package also included using taxpayer dollars to fund the implementation of the President’s executive amnesty. I have supported NBAF since its inception – especially in my role on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Now, my advocacy responsibilities will continue as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, which will fund the facility’s operations.
Attending King v. Burwell Arguments at the Supreme Court
I was at the Supreme Court on Wednesday to hear oral arguments on the legality of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulation extending subsidies to individuals purchasing health insurance in states using federal insurance exchanges. At issue is whether the words of the ACA, “through an Exchange established by the State,” refer only to state-created exchanges. This case – King v. Burwell – appears to hinge on whether the Court should apply the ACA as written or consider the broader effect of how the law functions in states using the federal exchange. The Court is expected to issue its decision in this case by the end of June. If the Court does find the implementation unlawful, Congress will have an opportunity to steer American health care policy away from Obamacare and implement policies that will actually reduce costs and increase choice for individuals and families.
Sponsoring Legislation Supporting Rural Hospitals
I recently sponsored legislation (S. 607) to extend the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program – an important Medicare initiative that helps certain rural hospitals in sparsely populated states expand care to patients in their communities open. Currently, 23 small, rural hospitals across the country participate in the demonstration, including four Kansas hospitals – Mercy Hospital Fort Scott in Fort Scott; Mercy Hospital Independence in Independence; Geary Community Hospital in Junction City; and Bob Wilson Memorial Hospital in Ulysses.
This initiative, which is budget neutral, enables participating hospitals to test the feasibility and advisability of a cost-based payment model for acute-care inpatient services. This legislation will enable the Kansas hospitals currently utilizing the demonstration to continue receiving Medicare reimbursements that more accurately reflect the cost of providing care to their patients. To preserve medical access for Kansans and strengthen our communities, health care professionals must receive appropriate reimbursement for the care they provide. Click here to read more about this bill.
Freshman Senators Join U.S. Senate Opposition to U.N. ATT
On Tuesday, I was pleased to gain the support of all 12 freshman Republican Senators in joining the U.S. Senate’s opposition to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The letter sent to President Obama and signed by these 12 Senators provides reinforcement to the Senate’s declared intent to reject ratification of the ATT. A bipartisan group of 55 U.S. Senators have now voiced their opposition and informed President Obama that the Senate will not be bound by the obligations of the ATT.
Despite its purported intentions, the ATT was drafted by foreign nations and organizations with a long history of hostility toward our country’s Second Amendment freedoms. Under Presidents Clinton and Bush the United States refused to engage in ATT negotiations, but this U.S. policy was regrettably overturned when President Obama took office. In September of 2013, the Obama Administration formally signed the ATT, and yet almost 18 months later the treaty has not been submitted to the Senate for advice and consent.
Last month, I asked Secretary of State John Kerry why the administration has not submitted the treaty and when it intends to do so, but he did not have an answer. Until then, the Senate’s letters continue to send a powerful signal to the President that it will reject the treaty. Although the Senate cannot “unsign” the treaty, we will continue to build opposition and issue guidance under the hope that a future President can do just that. I am proud to lead the Senate in fighting to uphold the fundamental individual rights of Americans by reiterating our rejection of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. Click here to read the letter.
Providing Ag Industry Relief from Transportation Regulation
On Wednesday, I joined several senators in introducing S. 654, bipartisan legislation to eliminate the regulation requiring agriculture industry professionals to obtain a hazardous material endorsement before transporting diesel fuel for many agricultural operations. Specifically, this bill exempts agribusiness participants from the requirement to obtain a hazardous material endorsement while operating a service vehicle carrying less than 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, provided the tank containing diesel fuel is clearly marked. Under current regulations, any driver transporting more than 119 gallons of diesel fuel is required to obtain this endorsement on their Class A Commercial Driver’s License.
As I visit with Kansas farmers and ranchers, regulatory overreach by the federal government is often cited as their greatest threat. Those who work in agriculture should not be forced to jump through hoops just to haul the necessary quantities of diesel required to fuel their operations. Click here to learn more.
Sponsoring Bill to Revoke Bonuses to VA Employees Responsible for Misconduct
This week, I sponsored a bipartisan bill to rescind bonuses paid to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees who were involved in the manipulation of waitlists. On Monday, the House of Representatives passed a similar bill. In the wake of the VA scandal last year, those responsible for manipulating waitlists and mistreatment of veterans should be held accountable for their actions. The VA used wait-time metrics as a factor in determining employee bonuses, which incentivized some VA employees to maximize their bonus payments by using secret waitlists to artificially inflate compliance data. According to one report, employees at the Phoenix VA hospital – where the scandal first broke –received approximately $10 million in bonuses since 2011 while simultaneously using secret waitlists to hide delays in patients receiving care.
I believe VA medical centers and CBOCs in Kansas are filled with good, hard-working people who want to care for veterans by providing quality health care. But revelations of systemic failures at the VA demonstrates what can happen when bureaucracy in Washington gets in the way of an organization’s mission and ability to properly serve veterans. Click here to learn more.
Joint Session of Congress with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
On Tuesday, I attended a joint session of Congress to hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address. The Prime Minister discussed his country’s concerns about the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons. I welcome his assessment of the threats a nuclear deal with Iran would pose to Israel and appreciate his insight as an experienced leader in the Middle East. In the Senate, I will continue to support legislative efforts to allow Congressional review and approval of any nuclear agreement with Iran. The United States and our allies around the world have too much at stake to accept a potentially dangerous nuclear deal that disregards the concerns of Congress and the American people.
Visiting with AIPAC Delegates from Kansas
This week, I visited with Kansas delegates to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference. More than 80 people from our state traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a conference and speak to their elected officials about the importance of a strong United States-Israeli relationship. The most dominant topic in our discussion was the pending nuclear negotiations with Iran and the implications for Israel. During our conversation, I expressed my continued determination to deny Iran nuclear weapons capability and reject any policies that might undermine the security of the United States and our allies abroad, including Israel. Thanks to all who made the trip to Washington to voice their opinions on this and other critical issues.
Meeting with Fort Riley BG Wesley and Touring Irwin Army Community Hospital
Back in Kansas over the weekend, I met with Brigadier General Wesley at Fort Riley. We discussed the incredible turnout of the Listening Session a few weeks ago. I also toured the new, state-of-the-art $343 million Irwin Army Community Hospital and medical campus, which features unique evidenced-based design. Fort Riley families are looking forward to its opening as much as the surrounding community health care partners.
For example, the operating room is 50 percent larger than their other operating rooms. They also have a new inpatient behavioral health wing and the labor delivery and recovery suites. Every detail to enhance and support quality of life for our soldiers was considered and incorporated. I will continue to work to make certain Fort Riley receives the support it deserves so the Big Red One can continue to defend our nation.
Concordia Rotary Club
I was able to return home to Kansas in time for Concordia’s Rotary Club meeting because of a shortened Congressional schedule due to inclement weather in Washington, D.C. The conversation centered on the implementation of the VA Choice Act, keeping rural America alive with access to health services and education, and the FCC’s net neutrality order. I appreciated hearing the members’ thoughts, suggestions, and concerns.
The former president of the Rotary club, Gordon Morrison was in attendance and brought me a Four-Way Test to hang in my office. As a Rotarian, I appreciated having a copy to remind me of the four principles the Rotary club stands by: Our actions should be true, fair, build good will, and be beneficial to all concerned. Thanks to current Concordia Rotary Club President Patrick Sieben for allowing me to visit and speak this week.
Visiting Clay Center High School
I was also in Clay County to visit with students and staff at Clay Center Community High School (CCCHS). I enjoyed meeting with the senior class. My visits to Kansas schools help me to learn more about the successes and challenges educators face in providing Kansas students opportunities to a quality education. As Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – the primary source of federal aid for K-12 education – these visits help me to gain valuable insight about how Kansas educators work to meet the unique needs of their students. Thanks to CCCHS Principal Bud Young for hosting my visit.
Kansas City Kansas Chamber Luncheon
Friday I attended the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting. It was a great opportunity to visit with many business, religious and civic leaders in Wyandotte County. More than 600 folks from the business community listened to General Motors North American Manufacturing Vice President Cathy Clegg discuss their latest innovations, including a new 450,000 square foot paint shop at the Fairfax facility – a $600 million investment. Sporting Kansas City’s Greg Cotton who is the 2015 Chamber Chairman introduced the “Made in the Dotte” campaign to promote businesses and the workforce in Wyandotte County. Thanks to Interim Chamber President Greg Kindle for his hospitality. Here, I'm pictured with Mayor Holland and his wife, Julie Solomon, and Google's Rachel Merlo.
Visiting the Lawrence Public Library
On Friday, I visited the Lawrence Public Library. It was great to see the significant remodeling and improvements. Lawrence Public Library Director Brad Allen invited me a few months ago to visit. The library serves the city of Lawrence and offers many services including a collection of more than 250,000 books and other materials, homebound delivery, a senior living center bookvan service, public computers, and meeting rooms, as well as extensive programming and exhibits/displays. Below, I'm pictured with longtime children's librarian Linda Clay.
Retirement of Dr. Fred Cholick
Robba and I joined many faculty, staff and supporters on Friday to wish Fred and Cathy Cholick best wishes as Fred retires from K-State. Dr. Cholick came to Manhattan from South Dakota in 2004 to be Dean of the College of Agriculture and most recently has been President of the very successful KSU Foundation. Fred and Robba served together on the Kansas State Fair Board. Thanks Fred and Cathy.
Kansans in the Office
ONE Power Summit
Rick Bartlett of Wichita
Katie Goebel of El Dorado
Anna Herrick of Olathe
Jason Peterson of Overland Park
Carolyn Coda of Overland Park
Delta Sigma Theta Organization
Rita Holmes-Bobo of Shawnee
Sue Wilson of Gardner
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
Prevent Child Abuse America
Vicky Roper of Andover
American Veterinary Medical Association
Hailey Clemons of Overbrook
Mike White of Manhattan
Child Hunger Initiative
Rebekah Gaston of Lawrence
Hilary Gee of Lawrence
National Kidney Foundation
Nicole Harr of Overland Park
Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance
Amy Dublinske of Olathe
University of Kansas and Kansas State University Student Senates
Morgan Said of Lawrence
Miranda Wagner of Lawrence
Will of Lawrence
Jordan Marquess of Manhattan
Abby Works of Manhattan
Cody Kennedy of Manhattan
Zac Shields of Lawrence
Dallas Love of Derby
Robert Teetsel of Shawnee
JT Plummer of Logan
John Mucklebauer of Paola
Lynn Rolf III of Leavenworth
American Association of Orthodontists
Joe Moon of Overland Park
Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition
Todd Dix of Wichita
Dean Richardson of Wichita
School Nutrition Association of Kansas
Cindy Jones of Olathe
Glenda Johnston of Gardner
Elaine Harris of Kansas City
Lynelle Munn of Overland Park
National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants
Bryan Boroughs of Cimarron
Kansas NSF EPSCoR
Doug Byers of Lawrence
Kristin Bowman-James of Lawrence
Paul Adams of Hays
Jim Guikema of Hays
National Fragile X Foundation
Brooke Stack of Olathe
James Stack of Olathe
Larry Lawrence of Olathe
Lisa Lawrence of Olathe
Christina Murphy of Holton
Rhett Murphy of Holton
Nancy Scholdder of Holton
Jean James of Overland Park
Mike Hanna of Vassar
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Austin Harper of Wichita
National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week
Tom Larkin of Lawrence
Kansas Funeral Directors Association
Darin Bradstreet of Garden City
Dudley Feuerborn of Garnett
MO & KS Association of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab
Amy Choitz of Hays
John Petersen of Overland Park
Pizza Hut Franchisees
Lynda Carrier-Metz of Wichita
Jim McNerney of Wichita
Kate Walsh of Wichita
Kansas State University
Sue Peterson of Manhattan
Dr. Kirk Schulz of Manhattan
Fort Hays State University
Dr. John Greathouse of Hays
American Medical Association Medical Student Section
Lowell Fletcher of Overland Park
Ryan Bieberle of Hugoton
Tyler Concannon of Hugoton
Steve Lirsik of Ingalls
Connie Kays of Pittsburg
Ernie Minton of Manhattan
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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