Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” More than usual, it was a productive week in Washington, D.C. Thank you for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them. 

Advocating for Fort Riley During Army Briefings with Military and Veterans Advisory Committee at Pentagon
I had a useful meeting at the Pentagon this week to discuss all-things Army in Kansas with members from my Military and Veterans Advisory Committee, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and several Army Assistant Secretaries. Fort Riley was the primary topic of conversation given the Army is assessing potential force reductions at military installations across the country as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

I am pleased to report that the Army has a clear understanding of the military value at Fort Riley in training space, deploying capability and supporting the American soldier with an excellent quality of life. This was underscored by the Army’s investment in military construction on Fort Riley since 2005. From housing to education and health care, the $1.8 billion in investments to the infrastructure on Fort Riley over the last decade equates to half of the total Army budget on military construction today. I feel confident the Army considers Fort Riley a significant asset and will thoughtfully analyze the value Fort Riley offers soldiers, their families and the Army in defense of our nation.

Members of my Military and Veterans Advisory Committee include:

  • John G. Montgomery, Junction City. Civilian Aide Emeritus to the Secretary of the Army;
  • Mark Edwards, Junction City. Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army;
  • John Armbrust, Manhattan. Colonel, U.S. Air Force (retired), Governor’s Military Council Executive Director‎;
  • Tod Bunting, Berryton. Major General, Kansas National Guard, Adjutant General of Kansas (retired);
  • Robert E. Durbin, formerly of Junction City, Kan., now of McLean, Va. Lieutenant General, U.S. Army (retired), Former Commanding General of the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley;
  • Michael Helm, [insert description]
  • Robert Ulin, Lansing. Colonel, U.S. Army (retired), former head of the Command and General Staff College Foundation; and
  • Tim Rogers, Salina. Salina Airport Authority Executive Director, A.A.E.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act
On Tuesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (S. 615), bipartisan legislation to provide Congress with the power to review a final nuclear deal with Iran.

After attending a classified briefing with Secretary of State John Kerry this week, I continue to have serious worries about the consequences of the nuclear negotiations. Given these concerns, we should be encouraged by the work of the Foreign Relations Committee and the promise of Congressional review. There must be an opportunity to review and evaluate any nuclear deal the Obama administration might strike with Iran. The stakes are too high for Americans for their representative in Congress to be denied a say on this critical issue.

Senate Passes Permanent Medicare Physician Payment Reform
To preserve medical access for Kansans, physicians and other health care providers must receive appropriate Medicare reimbursement for the care they provide. On Tuesday evening, I voted in favor of H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, to permanently repeal the broken Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which has dictated how Medicare pays physicians. This legislation passed the Senate 92-8 with strong, bipartisan support after the House of Representatives passed the identical measure by a 392-37 vote last month. I am glad that Congress has finally come together to permanently address this issue. 

More than a decade of short-term “SGR patches” have frustrated health care providers, threatened access for Medicare beneficiaries, and created budgetary problems for Congress. During this time, Congress has allocated nearly $150 billion on temporary patches that did not address the fundamental problems with the SGR. I did not support the formula when it was created and have long urged Congress to permanently repeal and replace the flawed SGR. Click here to view my recent remarks on the Senate floor about the urgent need to permanently address this problem. 

Inadequate and uncertain reimbursements can discourage providers from seeing Medicare patients. Reimbursement problems may also force providers to close their doors altogether. This jeopardizes patients' access to health care in Kansas where our hospitals, physicians, nurses, therapists, and other medical professionals care for an increasingly aging population across a wide area. The reality is that patient care suffers when providers are uncertain as to what amount the government will reimburse them for the care they provide. Passage of H.R. 2 is good news for patients, providers, and Kansas communities.

Ending “Tax Day” with the FairTax
For many Americans, April 15 each year is the source of countless headaches and anxiety brought on by our complex tax code and the scandalized Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - but it doesn’t have to be this way. In order to boost economic growth and give the American people more control over their lives, I have introduced the Fair Tax Act of 2015 (S. 155). This legislation, based on the tax system known as the “FairTax,” would put an end to the burdensome tax filing process each year and close the IRS once and for all.

The FairTax would replace our outdated tax code with a simple and fair system based on a flat national consumption tax. By eliminating the federal income tax and the multitude of loopholes, exemptions and credits, we can create a fundamentally fairer system that boosts growth and incentivizes savings and investment. In addition, businesses would have the certainty and confidence to hire more workers and focus their resources on innovating and growing the American economy.

While overhauling our tax code is not an easy undertaking, the economic need for a leaner, pro-growth system has never been greater. It is long past time for a simplified tax code that cuts the waste and gives our country a competitive advantage in the global economy. The Fair Tax Act deserves to be heard in a committee setting, debated and given and up or down vote. Together, we can end “Tax Day” for good. Click here to read a column I wrote this week on the FairTax and learn more.

VA Wants to Raid Choice Act Funds for Denver VA Hospital Construction
The Department of Veterans Affairs sent a legislative proposal to Congress this week seeking to use nearly $1 billion dollars in funds from the Choice Act to pay for the ballooning price of a new VA medical center under construction in Denver, Colo., which is five times over budget. Just this week, the Washington Post reported that the construction of the VA hospital east of Denver is “riddled with mistakes and cost overruns.”

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) was passed by Congress in July 2014.The Choice Act is not a cookie jar for the VA to raid as it sees fit. If the President is truly focused on fixing the VA, why is his administration proposing to raid emergency funds provided by Congress to support greater access to health care for veterans? The over-budget and behind-schedule Denver project is a catastrophic failure of VA’s own making. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Appropriations I cannot sit by and watch emergency funds intended to make VA medical facilities nationwide more efficient and hire desperately-needed physicians and medical staff – like the Topeka Emergency Room and Liberal Community-Based Outpatient Clinic – be used to clean up this mess. 

Thousands of rural veterans in states like Kansas still can’t get the timely VA care the Choice Act promised and are being forced to travel long distances to VA hospitals to access the services they need because the VA facility within 40 miles of their home cannot provide the care. The request to transfer much-needed Choice Act funds away from their intended use is just one more piece of evidence of the VA’s unwillingness and lack of interest in implementing the Choice Act.

Addressing the Enduring Wounds of War – Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015
On Tuesday, I led the reintroduction of critical bipartisan, bicameral legislation focused on supporting the research of health conditions faced by descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxins during their military service – the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 (S. 901). As in the 113th Congress, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), along with U.S. Representatives Dan Benishek, M.D. (R-Mich.) and Mike Honda (D-Calif.), are cosponsors of this legislation and joined me in taking this necessary step toward making certain our military men and women and their descendants will be properly cared for in the future. 

Many of the symptoms from toxic exposure are frequently misdiagnosed in descendants of veterans due to a lack of understanding and scientific proof. However, veterans have observed increased levels of cancers, birth defects and other conditions in their subsequent generations. The evidence of these wounds of war afflicting the children and grandchildren of service members exposed to toxins is growing and research is warranted to collect data and study this issue. The Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 would establish a national center at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the descendants of individuals exposed to toxic substances during their time in service. Such toxic substances that include Agent Orange in Vietnam, Gulf War neurotoxins, Iraq and Afghanistan chemical weapons and burn pits as well as other chemicals and toxins. The goal of this medical research is to determine the conditions that result from debilitating toxins and hopefully lead to the appropriate support and benefits veterans and family members deserve. Over the past few years, Kansans have held several town halls across the state in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) to address this issue and raise awareness. I’m proud that many Kansans recognize this important issue and I’m pleased this the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 is overwhelmingly supported by the VVA in addition to AMVETS, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Rolling Thunder and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

The Toxic Exposure Research Act is about addressing the painful, enduring wounds of war that may impact a service member’s family long after the military operation is over – wounds that may not be evident until decades later when passed on to children and generations to follow. We must keep our promise to our veterans and their families, who have made great sacrifices for the sake of our country’s security and our freedom. Click here to watch a video of the press conference and learn more.

Greeting the Kansas Honor Flight at the WWII Memorial
I was happy to greet an Honor Flight of World War II veterans from Rooks County on Thursday at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. These veterans who served our country in World War II represent the best of American ideals. I am always reminded when I visit the World War II, Korea and Vietnam Memorials that these men and women answered the call of duty in their country’s time of need because they believed in America. They served and sacrificed for the principles of our Founding Fathers, and the liberties and freedoms they provide. 

Our country owes our veterans a great debt and it was a pleasure to welcome these veterans as they visited the World War II Memorial that was built in their honor. I am thankful for the service of our veterans and I will continue my work on their behalf, ensuring that they receive the benefits they have earned.

Kansans in the Office
Kansas State Board of Healing Arts
Kathleen Lippert of Topeka 

Sunflower Electric Power Corporation
Clare Gustin of Hays
Wayne Penrod of Hays 

Dodge City
Leslie Lomas of Dodge City
Jan Scoggins of Dodge City
Sally Cauble of Dodge City 

Garden City
Roy Cessna of Garden City
Rachelle Powell of Garden City
Bill Clifford of Garden City

City of Hays
Ron Mellick of Hays
Shaun Musil of Hays
Paul Briseno of Hays 

City of Benton
Ken Gile of Benton
Cliff Dillard of Colwich
Ardith Dillard of Colwich 

City of Greensburg
Sue Greenleaf of Greensburg
Janet West of Greensburg 

City of Great Bend
Mike Allison of Great Bend
Allene Owen of Great Bend
Vicki Berryman of Great Bend
Howard Partington of Great Bend
Jan Peters of Great Bend

City of Liberal
Rhonda Crawford of Liberal
Ada Linenbroker of Liberal
Nathan McCaffrey of Liberal
Jack Taylor of Liberal
Rozelle Webb of Liberal
Darrel Webb of Liberal
CJ Wettstein of Liberal 

Genetics Society of America
Eduardo Rosa-Molinar of Lawrence
Roy Jensen of Gardner
Sonia Hall of Ottawa 

Kansas Housing Association
Pat Michaelis of Topeka
Jan Peters of Great Bend
Michael Snodgrass of Kansas City
David Rhodes of Olathe 

American Academy of Pediatrics
Dena Hubbard of Overland Park
Kathleen Weatherstone of Overland Park
Ryan Smith of Leawood 

Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
Chava McKeel of Lawrence
Kaelyn Seymour of Topeka
Rehett Evans of Olathe
Craig Smith of Lawrence
Russell Sypowicz of Lawrence 

American Beverage Association
Todd Roberts of Overland Park 

Creighton University School of Dentistry
Brett Lyman of Glinwood
Mandy Yip of Wichita
Theresa Greving of Olathe 

Kansas Optometric Association
Dawn Williams of Garden City
Cliff Holt of Shawnee
Seth Thibault of Pratt
Wayne Gilmore of Parsons
Todd Fleischer of Topeka
Alex Conley of Wichita 

Epilepsy Foundation
Lindsey Serrano of Mission Hills
Sam Serrano of Mission Hills
Emily Ramza of Mission Woods
Susan Ramza of Mission Woods 

Scott Ferber of Lenexa 

Kansas Emergency Management Association
Teri Smith of Lawrence
Keith Haberer of Russell
Thomas Winter of Anthony
Dan Robeson of Prairie Village 

Kansas Water Environment Association
Susan Pekarek of Olathe
John O’Neil of Olathe
Joe Foster of Olathe
Michelle Wirth of Olathe 

American Ambulance Association
Amanda Hall of Fort Scott
Daniel Hall of Fort Scott
Kristi Stanley of Olathe 

Council of Extension Professionals
Daryl Buchholz of Manhattan
Zelia Wiley of Manhattan
Lisa Pfannenstiel-Garrison of Topeka
Brad Carter of Paola
Jodie Barklson of Wellington
Denise Sullivan of Leavenworth
Loren Snell of Topeka
Rachael Boyle of Kirwin
Robyn Deines of Ness City
Sherry Gager of Kirwin 

Kansas Military Officers Association of America Council President
Patrick Murphy of Olathe
Tony Pimentel of Wichita 

Kansas Contractors Association
Bob Totten of Topeka
Brian Hansen of Andover
Chad Girard of Wichita
Randy Hattesohol of Hays
David Howard of Leawood
Daniel Hines of Overland Park
Jim Ralston of Wichita
Mary Reece of Wichita
Drew Walkenbach of Olathe
Beau Boulden of Leawood
Tanya Bredow of Overland Park

National Association of Realtors Institute of Real Estate Management
Clark Lindstrom Jr of Wichita
Pat Lickiss of Wichita
John Pearsall of Wichita 

Kansas Council on Disabilities
Steve Geiber of Topeka
Courtney Freontz of Derby 

Mortgage Bankers Association
A.W. Pickel of Olathe
Joan Emas of Overland Park 

Pharmaceutical Care Management Association
Alex Knoeferl of Overland Park
Kellie Gillcrist of Overland Park 

Novo Nordisk
Jeffery George of Gardner 

Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association
Hugh O’Reilly of Overland Park
Mario Quiroz of Wichita
Scott Redler of Wichita
Bill Goodlatte of Wichita
Michael Phipps of Wichita
Janez Lomshek of Overland Park
Ron Oberg of Wichita
Adam Mills of Wichita
Al Hinman of Overland Park
Les Padzensky of Wichita 

Military and Veterans Advisory Council
Robert Ulin of Leavenworth
Mark Edwards of Junction City
Robert Durbin of Junction City
John Armbrust of Manhattan
Tod Bunting of Berryton
Tim Rogers of Salina
John Montgomery Junction City

Kansas Bar Association
Rachael Pirner of Wichita 

Kansas City District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Col. Andrew Sexton of Shawnee
Steven Iverson of Lenexa
Jennifer Switzer of Overland Park 

Kansas Motor Carrier Association
Tom Whitaker of Topeka
John Prather of El Dorado
Dave Renfrew of Overland Park 

National Club Association
Mark Bado of Mission Hills 

Chamber of Lawrence
Bonnie Lowe of Lawrence
Hugh Carter of Lawrence
Brad Finkeldei of Lawrence
Tim Caboni of Lawrence
Larry McElwain of Lawrence
Jeremy Farmer of Lawrence
Jack Cline of Lawrence 

National Down Syndrome Society
Veronica Manzano of Mission
Jawanda Mast of Olathe
Rachel Mast of Olathe
Tom Wagstaff of Mission
Sara Weir of Olathe
Charlotte Smith of Wichita 

Dairy Farmers of America
Byron Lehman of Newton
Steve Strickler of Iola
Sam Stone of Kansas City 

Ash Grove Cement Association
Jackie Clark of Overland Park 

Biotechnology Industry Organization
Wayne Carter of Kansas City
Don Stewart of Ft. Scott
Jamie Caldwell of Kansas City 

Heartland Institute for Clinical and Translational Research
William Brooks of Kansas City 

Rebecca Buford of Lawrence 

American Immigration Lawyer Association
Valerie Sprout of Kansas City 

Kansas Reading Roadmap
Stephanie Stindt of Belleville
Kim Fertig of Topeka 

Susan G. Komen
Kristen Bruce of Lindsborg
Peggy Johnson of Wichita 

American Academy of Ophthalmology
Paul Weisharr of Wichita
Fahad Khan of Kansas City
Michelle Boyce of Prairie Village 

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
Linda Craghead of Topeka
Linda Lanterman of Pratt 

Ed McKechnie of Pittsburg

Randy Hayzlett of Lakin
Mark Rude of Garden City
Clay Scott of Ulysses
Nancy Scott of Ulysses 

Capitol Tour
Lindsey Fox of Hays
Michael Harris of Leawood
Julia Harris of Leawood
Thomas Stein of Eudora
Julie Stein of Lenexa
Maureen Axelson of Russell
Sam Smith of Lawrence
Mo Yoder of Buhler 

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.

Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.

Very truly yours,


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