Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” It was a productive week on Capitol Hill. 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.

Voting in Favor of Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act
This week, the Senate finally had the opportunity to vote on the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. This legislation had been blocked from moving forward on the Senate floor despite being unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. I voted in support of the legislation, which passed the Senate by a vote of 99 to 0.

Human trafficking is a serious and too-often invisible problem that affects the lives of tens thousands of women and children, and this legislation protects those individuals and punishes those who enslave them. More than 200 victims’ rights and law enforcement groups support this legislation, and have called it “the most comprehensive and thoughtful piece of anti-trafficking legislation currently pending.” For the victims of modern slavery who suffer such horrible abuse at the hands of human traffickers, the Senate could not afford to wait any longer to vote on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. I am pleased the Senate was able to move forward in a bipartisan fashion to pass this important piece of legislation.

Consideration of New Attorney General
Reviewing the President’s nominees for executive and judicial appointments is one of my most serious responsibilities as a United States Senator. President Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, has failed to demonstrate in her testimony a willingness to exert independence from the White House when applying the laws of the land. On issues ranging from gun rights to immigration, this White House has habitually sought to ignore the law when it posed inconvenient limits on executive power. This troubling trend must come to an end.

The Attorney General is America’s most senior law enforcement official, and Americans must be certain that the rule of law will be applied consistently and fairly by the Department of Justice. After careful consideration, I am unconvinced that Ms. Lynch meets this standard and was unable to support her confirmation for Attorney General. 

Questioning HHS Secretary Burwell About Dietary Guidelines at Senate Appropriations Hearing
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, formulated every five years by USDA and HHS, provide a blueprint for how Americans can have a healthy, nutritious diet. The guidelines also form the basis for our federal nutrition policy and food assistance programs. Recently, a report issued by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, meant to provide unbiased dietary recommendations based on nutritional science, contained a number of concerning and inappropriate recommendations. 

The report relegates the role of lean meat in a healthy diet to a footnote in the 500-plus page report, instead recommending that Americans eat a heavily plant-based diet. The report also factors in environmental sustainability into its dietary recommendations – a field outside the committee members’ background or expertise. Not only does the potential harm to Kansas beef producers greatly concern me, but we are left to wonder if the committee simply ignored the extensive, peer-reviewed research that shows lean red meat as part of a healthy diet, as well as the statutory framework by which the HHS Secretary and USDA Secretary are instructed to develop the guidelines.

This week, I expressed my concerns to HHS Secretary Burwell about the Dietary Guidelines at a Senate Appropriations Hearing. While I’m pleased USDA and HHS heeded our call for an extension of the comment period last month, I was disappointed to learn that she had yet to read the statute framework which inform how the guidelines should be developed. As the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman and as a member of the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to be diligent in my oversight as the agencies finalize the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Sponsoring Legislation to Reduce Food Waste and Feed the Hungry and Visiting Harvesters Community Food Network in Topeka
As Senate Hunger Caucus Co-Chair, I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Act of 2015 (S.390). The bill would permanently extend the same tax incentives available to corporations to donate surplus food to local food banks to small businesses, farmers, ranchers and restaurant owners. In the years since the 2008 financial collapse and the economic recession that followed, demand on food banks across the country has risen dramatically. According to a 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 49 million Americans are living in food insecure households and one-third of these individuals are children. Despite this, more than 30 percent of the food that is produced, grown and transported in the United States will never be used as some businesses find it too costly to donate the excess food. This bipartisan, commonsense bill intends to direct food resources currently being wasted to the people in Kansas who need assistance the most.

This week I had the opportunity to tour Harvesters Community Food Network, a regional food bank serving a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. Harvesters provides food and related household products to more than 620 not-for-profit agencies including food pantries, community kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes and others. They also offer education programs to increase community awareness of hunger and teach about good nutrition. I am proud of the important work food banks such as Harvesters play in solving hunger issues in communities across Kansas. Here, I'm pictured with volunteers from Washburn Rural High School.

Introducing Legislation Focused on Cyber-Security Information Sharing
I chair the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security. This week I joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York in introducing legislation to address critical cyber security vulnerabilities by helping to create a network of trusted partnerships across the public and private sectors aimed at detecting, preventing and mitigating cyber threats through information sharing. Consumers, businesses, and our nation’s critical infrastructure face constant and evolving threats from cyber criminals who seeks to do us harm. When it comes to detecting and preempting these threats and protecting American consumers from cybercrimes, information sharing within trusted industry networks has proven to be a valuable tool across numerous sectors of our economy. The Cyber Information Sharing Tax Credit Act will make participation in vital sector-specific information sharing organizations, known as Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), more accessible for all companies – especially those who may not fully understand their risk of cyber-attack or who would not otherwise have the resources to participate in an information sharing organization. As more industries and businesses participate, these networks will help businesses understand and improve their cyber posture and ensure the timely dissemination of information on increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. Click here to learn more.

Introducing the CLEAR Relief Act and CLEAR Relief Plus Act
Kansans understand the vital role community financial instutitions play in serving rural America and supporting our economy. Unfortunately, Washington regulators have all too often applied a one-size-fits-all regulatory structure that ignores the unique service of our community banks. Because smaller financial institutions have less capacity to absorb the compliance costs of increasingly burdensome regulation, it greatly diminishes their ability to serve their communities and support the local economy.

In order to improve the playing field and enhance the special role of our community financial institutions, I have introduced the Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory (CLEAR) Relief Act (S. 812) and the CLEAR Plus Act (S. 927). By stripping away outdated or unnecessary regulation, the CLEAR Relief Act will strengthen the ability of community banks to support the housing recovery and make certain small businesses have access to much needed capital. Working in tandem with the CLEAR Relief Act, the CLEAR Plus Act will allow savings and loan holding companies to benefit from the JOBS Act, and provide certain healthy financial institutions with relief from complex and costly paperwork requirements.

Striking the right regulatory balance is vital as we seek to support our fragile housing recovery and create an environment for businesses to grow and thrive. Together, the CLEAR Relief Act and CLEAR Plus Act will help support a healthy banking system and foster a strong rural America. I will continue working with my colleagues in the Senate toward passing these important pieces of legislation. Click here to learn more.

Protecting Kansas’ Defense Communities
I serve as the Senate Defense Communities Caucus Co-Chair and am a member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. This week I called on the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to consider legislative language in the Fiscal Year 2016 Defense Authorization Bill that protects the current troop levels of our Armed Forces. Despite a dangerous world with increasing demands on the service members and military families who call Kansas home, Department of Defense resources to protect our country and its citizens from conventional threats and terrorist attacks are dwindling. The Armed Services, particularly the Army, are facing potential force reductions that could put our nation’s defense at risk. 

Fort Leavenworth is the Intellectual Center of the Army, an irreplaceable entity that educates, trains and develops our military commanders. The Army and our national defense – today and for generations to come - would be degraded by losing personnel at Fort Leavenworth who carry out the critical mission of creating future leaders. Fort Riley is also at risk, potentially losing thousands of soldiers who serve in the Big Red One, the Army 1st Infantry Division. 

Fort Leavenworth’s unparalleled professional military education and Fort Riley’s vast training capability are essential to the Army when developing the American soldier. I have been working to make certain the Army understands the defense community in Kansas is committed to supporting Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley as well as the Army as a whole. I will continue to work on maintaining troop levels at our bases in Kansas and across the country so that our nation’s defense and those who serve are ready and equipped to safeguard Americans from terrorists who attempt to destroy and attack our way of life. Click here to read my message to the Chairman and Ranking Member.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act
This week I cosponsored the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (S. 615). This legislation has earned the full support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and would provide Congress with the power to review a final nuclear deal with Iran. As I have stated before, I am concerned about the consequences of these nuclear negotiations and worry about the danger a weak or unverifiable deal would bring about. It is critical that American leadership guide these efforts in the safest possible direction.

Over the years, Congress has passed a series of sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table. Included in those statutory sanctions are national security waiver authorities and other provisions that the President can use to suspend sanctions – without Congressional approval – on Iran as part of any final nuclear deal. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act has emerged as one of the few pieces of legislation that would require Congressional review and limit the President’s ability to act unilaterally.

Congress has faced significant opposition from the President amid Congressional attempts to restrain the existing executive authorities that could result in a nuclear deal being agreed to without review or consent from the Legislative Branch. The President has threatened to veto just about any piece of legislation that might restrict his authority to waive sanctions or limit his ability to make a deal with Iran. 

After the presumed passage of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, and in the case a deal is ultimately struck by the June 30 deadline, Congress would have 30 days to review any potential accord with Iran. Congress, Americans and people around the world must use that time to carefully examine the result of these nuclear negotiations and ask if it puts the world on a path toward peace. Humanity has too much at stake to permit the existence of a path leading elsewhere.

Visiting Community Memorial Healthcare
On Saturday afternoon, I traveled to Marshall County to visit Community Memorial Healthcare (CMH) in Marysville. CMH is a Critical Access Hospital that has been serving Marysville and the surrounding communities since 1958. A few years ago, CMH opened a new facility with the goal of improving and modernizing patient care. CMH offers a wide-range of essential health care services at the hospital, and also operates outpatient care clinics in Wymore, Blue Rapids, and Marysville. During my time representing Kansans in Washington, D.C., I have had the opportunity to visit each of the 127 community hospitals in Kansas. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over most agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that impact hospitals and providers, meeting with Kansas hospital administrators, physicians, nurses and other staff gives me important insight on the challenges they face caring for patients. 

My discussion with CMH administrators and staff spanned various topics including concerns with proposed changes in Medicare reimbursements and the consequences to CAHs, and the challenges of providing quality patient care under regulations that don't account for the realities of delivering care in a rural setting. It is important that the federal government allow rural providers the flexibility necessary to adequately care for their patients, many of whom are older and live across wide areas. I will continue to oppose federal policies that would disproportionately affect health care access in Kansas and other rural states.  Thanks to CMH CEO Curtis Hawkinson for hosting my visit.

Flipping Pancakes at the Combat Air Museum
On Saturday, I started my day by flipping pancakes at the Forbes Field Combat Air Museum’s 22nd Annual Celebrity Pancake Feed benefiting the Combat Air Museum. The Combat Air Museum has served as an educational institution and tourism destination for more than thirty years. It is one of only a few major aviation museums in the United States located on an active air field. The event had a great turnout and was a lot of fun. Thanks agin to Gene Howerter for the invitation to participate.

Kansans in the Office
Kansas Department for Children and Families
Andrew Wiens of Topeka
Chuck Knapp of Topeka 

National Council of Churches
Lyndon Kathleen Morrow of Overland Park
Jerrell Williams of Newton 

Communications Workers of America
Teressa Greer of Wichita
Joshua Coleman of Wichita 

Kansas Health Institute
Jim McLean 

Kansas Wheat Commission
Doug Keesling of Chase 

National Telecommunications Cooperative Association
Catherine Moyer of Ulysses
Beau Rebel of Rush Center
Jason Pettit of Council Grove
Phyllis Weller of Lenexa
Marlene Sander of Maize
Jim Harris of WaKeeney
Anita Hummel of Hope
Terry Force of Wheaton
Brian Thomason of Marysville
Barney Dickman of Menlo
Jimmy Todd of Lenora
Dale Hudson of Brewster
Randy Parker of White City
John Showman of South Haven
Pam Schneider of Caldwell
Scott Bannister of Anthony 

Epic Touch
Trent Boaldin of Elkhart
Susan Boaldin of Elkhart 

American College of Surgeons
Joshua Broghammer of Kansas City
Joshua Mammen of Kansas City
Randi Ryan of Kansas City 

American Council of Engineering Companies of Kansas
David Harwood of Leawood
Kevin Honomichl of Overland Park
Joe Caldwell of Lawrence
Mike Hess of Overland Park 

City of Lenexa
Andy Huckaba of Lenexa
Tom Sloan of Lawrence 

National Tooling and Machining Association
Steve Hasty of Kansas City 

National Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Joe Conroy of Emporia
Ruth Morris of Overland Park
Paul Hertel of Shawnee
Jeff Glasgow of Lawrence
Becky Lucke of Wichita
Alexandria Doyle of Olathe 

University of Kansas Cancer Center
Roy Jensen of Lawrence 

Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau
Carla Stephenson of Westmoreland 

Jennifer Jewers Bowlin of Lenexa 

Kansas Chamber of Commerce
Justin Hill of Lawrence
Mike O’Neal of Lawrence
Christie Kriegshauser of Topeka
Mike Morgan of Wichita 

American Veterinary Medical Association
Cary Christensen of Overland Park
Vern Otte of Leawoot 

Goldman Sachs
Gary Cohn of Iola 

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Julie Govert Walter of Manhattan
Annette Graham of Wichita 

Kansas State University
President Kirk Schulz of Manhattan
John Floros of Manhattan
Ralph Richardson of Manhattan
Verna Fitzsimmons of Salina
Cindy Bontrager of Manhattan
Tim De Noble of Manhattan
Darren Dawson of Manhattan
Garrett Kays of Manhattan
Debbie Mercer of Manhattan
Cody Kennedy of Manhattan
Sue Peterson of Manhattan
Ron Trewyn of Manhattan
Peter Dorhout of Manhattan 

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Brian Threadgold of Topeka
Roger King of Wichita
Shawn Anderson of Wichita 

Flint Hills Job Corps
Mario Morales of Manhattan
Gary Vesta of Manhattan
Celia Meza of Manhattan 

Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
Katy Gorentz of Arma 

Midland Care Connection
Karren Weichert of Topeka
Harmony Hines of Topeka
Greg Reser of Topeka 

McPherson Church of the Brethren
Jerry Bowen of McPherson
Brett Crist of Quinter
Deshaun Pfeiff of Moundridge
Kaitlyn van Asselt of McPherson
Rebecca Ullom-Minnich of Moundridge
Kaylie Denner of Moundridge
Tate Johnson of McPherson
Meklit Tilahun of McPherson
Marla Hofmann of McPherson
Celeste Chapman of McPherson
Emmy Goering of McPherson
Lisa Goering of McPherson
Christian Ramirez of McPherson
Stefan Foulke of Ottawa
Zae Funk of Quinter
Paul Ullom-Minnich of Moundridge 

Blizzard Energy, Inc.
Ari Storch of Overland Park
Franziska Shepard of Great Bend 

National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology
Finn Bullers of Prairie Village
Scott Wells of Overland Park 

Bob Fee of Hutchinson
Dusty Davis of El Dorado
Lyle Davidson of Delphos
SueAnn Schultz of Quenemo
Doug Smart of Abilene 

Kansas Association of Insurance Agents
Austin Renn of Wellington
Greg Renn of Wellington
Lyle Davidson of Delphos
Cindy Hower of Holton 

American Society of Landscape Architects
Steve Winslow of De Soto
John Hunter of Olathe 

Capitol Tour
Louis Holt of Marion
Melania Arrieta of Manhattan
Dale Hudson of Brewster
Jane Hudson of Brewster
Gary Slough of Goodland
Bernard Dickman of Menlo
Matt Hensley of Council Grove
Nicole Hensley of Council Grove
Macey Hensley of Council Grove
Tanner Shade of Council Grove
Riley Shade of Council Grove
William Winston of Prairie Village
Jessica Winston of Prairie Village
Beau Wysong of Merriam
Katelyn Wysong of Merriam
Jeremy Waugh of Gardner
Allison Waugh of Gardner
Brett Gerstenberger of Overland Park
Eleftherios Chapas of Wichita 

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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