Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” 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.

A Tradition of Listening to Kansans 
Far too often, elected officials do too much talking and not enough listening. As your U.S. Senator, I have the privilege of taking my marching orders directly from Kansans. When it comes to making certain your voice is heard on Capitol Hill, I believe I can best serve my constituents if I’ve personally listened to your questions and concerns. Since being elected to Congress, it has been a top priority to return home each weekend to visit with the folks who sent me to Washington.

On Monday, I kicked off another round of my “Kansas Listening Tour” stops in Leavenworth for the first visit to each of our state’s 105 counties to hear directly from Kansans. There were more than 100 folks in attendance at the Riverfront Community Center, and we discussed a number of issues of importance to Kansas and the nation including veterans' affairs, Iran and the Farm Bill.

Personally visiting with Kansans like those who came out in Leavenworth reinforces my long-held belief in the strength and spirit of our communities and the values that make Kansas a great place to live, work and raise a family. I truly believe our state will continue to thrive thanks to the work ethic, concern and kindness of its people – but it’s vital that Congress to be an ally of the people, not an adversary. Thanks again to Leavenworth/Lansing Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Daly for hosting the event.

Kansas Listening Tour in Rice County
I continued my listening tour with a stop in Rice County this afternoon. Thanks to the more than 50 Rice County residents and Sterling College students who came to visit with me in Sterling. The conversations ranged from veterans’ issues and trade to the national debt. Special thanks to Caitie Stineman for arranging the town hall, as well as Sterling College President Scott Rich for hosting the meeting in historic Cooper Hall.

Senate Continues Debate of Nuclear Deal Review Legislation
This week the Senate continued to debate the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, legislation that would require the president to submit to Congress the details of any deal his administration strikes with Iran while also providing Congress an opportunity to disapprove of a bad deal.

Over the weekend, I spoke about this legislation on the Sunday Morning Futures program on Fox News and reaffirmed the need for Congressional oversight over whatever comes of the Obama Administration's negotiations with Iran. President Obama's efforts to ignore the concerns of Congress amid increasingly troubling reports emerging from the diplomatic talks underscore the need for Congressional review of any deal.

If or when Congress does evaluate any potential nuclear deal, we must prioritize American national security above partisan politics. The health of our democracy depends on the Congress asserting its constitutional checks on presidential powers, regardless of which party happens to occupy the White House. I encourage you to watch a clip of the discussion by clicking below.

Hearing on the National Guard and Reserve Components
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, I questioned National Guard Bureau (NGB) Chief General Frank Grass and Air National Guard (ANG) Director Lieutenant General Stanley Clarke during a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing with the Reserve Components on Wednesday. I raised several defense and national security issues that are crucial to Kansas such as cyber defense capabilities in the Kansas National Guard, the impressive Kansas Intelligence Fusion Center, and the importance of transitioning the 931st Refueling Group out of McConnell Air Force Base to the status of a Wing. 

A few weeks ago I visited the Kansas Intelligence Fusion Center in Topeka and wanted to hear Gen. Grass’ perspective given his support for their incredible operation. I was pleased to hear Gen. Grass recognize the real value of the Kansas fusion center as a model for the future across the nation because of the partnerships and information sharing abilities with federal, state, and public and private entities. 

I reminded Lt. Gen. Jackson about a letter I wrote to the Air Force Chief of Staff General Welsh in August 2013 regarding the potential for the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base to be designated as a wing, particularly given the arrival of the KC-46A tankers and increase in personnel. The Air Force Reserve continues to consider this transition for the 931st a top priority, and I will continue to work with Lt. Gen. Jackson on the current plan for wing structure by FY17 or FY18, if not sooner. 

For more than two years, I have been working with the Department of Defense (DoD) and NGB to make certain the cyber personnel and capabilities in the Kansas National Guard are not reduced or diminished – and we’ve had success in halting these potential reductions through mandates in the FY14 and FY15 National Defense Authorization Acts, as well as in the FY15 Defense Appropriations. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has made it abundantly clear that DoD is recruiting cyber talent and going to great lengths to retain the cyber capabilities the Department currently possesses. My questions to Gen. Grass and Lt. Gen. Clarke were to make certain the Air National Guard formalizes their plan to not only abandon efforts to reduce the cyber capacity in the Kansas National Guard, but also to grow cyber defense units in Kansas. I’m pleased that Gen. Grass and Lt. Gen. Clarke took immediate action and signed a memorandum that codifies the cyber defense plan and future of cyber capabilities in the Kansas National Guard.

SHARP Academy
Before I flew back to Washington last Monday, I met with Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Academy Director Colonel Geoff Catlett in Leavenworth. The United States Army Combined Arms Center was selected to command the SHARP Academy, a natural fit with Fort Leavenworth as the Intellectual Center of the Army. SHARP exists to provide world-class instruction and foster a climate that not only prevents assaults, but also instills response principles as habitual and inherent characteristics across the force. This is accomplished by training personnel to serve as sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates. The program’s mission is an important one – to eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military.

Visiting Rush County Memorial Hospital
On Friday, I traveled to La Crosse to visit with medical staff at Rush County Memorial Hospital (RCMH). RCMH is a 16-bed Critical Access Hospital (CAH) that provides a wide range of services. A few years ago, RCMH underwent a significant renovation to improve and modernize patient care delivery. 

During my tour, we visited about concerns regarding Obama Administration proposals that would cut reimbursements to CAHs and eliminate hospitals from the CAH program. These proposals would come at a huge cost to rural patients and their communities. They would eliminate CAH designation for hospitals based entirely on a strict mileage requirement, rather than an evaluation of their ability to deliver vital services within their community and their community’s need for such services. Not only do CAHs maintain access to care in rural areas, they are often one of the largest employers in their communities. CAHs and other rural health care facilities comprise a significant component of rural America’s health care safety net, and they are essential to the survival and success of many rural communities. I will continue to oppose this fundamentally flawed and short-sighted proposal that disproportionately impacts access to essential health care services in our state. Thanks to RCHM CEO Brenda Legleiter for hosting my visit.

Letter Carriers State Convention
On Saturday, I attended and spoke at the Kansas State Association of Letter Carriers Annual Convention. It was a great opportunity to speak at the convention once again. When I travel across Kansas, one of the most common questions I hear from rural constituents is, “What can I do to save my Post Office?” The Post Office is often as much a staple of a community as a school or a grocery store. The USPS is under financial pressure due to mandated prefunding payments into the USPS employee retirement system. As a result, USPS is seeking ways to cut costs that could lead to Post Office closures, slowing the timeliness of delivery, or decreasing frequency of delivery. I will continue to work in Congress to push for commonsense improvements to the USPS that enable it to maintain healthy finances while providing high quality service to people across our state and country. It was an honor to have the National Association of Letter Carriers Executive Vice President Tim O’Malley in attendance as well. Thank you to President-Emeritus Rod Holub for inviting me to participate and for his years of service to the Kansas State Association of Letter Carriers.

Stewardship of NIH Research Resources
On Thursday, I participated in a Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee hearing on the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This Subcommittee has jurisdiction over funding for NIH, the focal point of our nation’s health research infrastructure. I asked NIH Director Francis Collins to discuss how NIH stewards the resources it has been given by the American public to advance the medical research to save and improve lives, reduce health care costs, spur innovation, and strengthen our country’s global leadership in biomedical research. Dr. Collins explained that this research prioritization includes advanced methods of portfolio analysis to identify the most compelling scientific opportunities within each Institute and Center. Additionally, NIH fosters collaborations among its Centers and is partnering with other agencies and drug-makers to develop the next generation of drug targets for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancers, lupus, and other conditions. Dr. Collins also discussed how NIH is developing an overarching strategic plan to support this focus on priority setting. Click here to see video of my discussion with Dr. Collins.

Visiting Legg Company in Halstead
On Friday afternoon I toured LEGG Company in Halstead. With a legacy that dates back to 1939, LEGG specializes in manufacturing industrial, agricultural and specialty conveyor belts. LEGG Vice President Steve Chartier discussed the advantage of headquartering a company in Halstead – a strong workforce with a good work ethic, as well as a central location for shipping. Special thanks to Mayor William Ewert and City Administrator JR Hatfield for joining me on the tour.

Spirit Aerosystems
Friday evening, I attended Spirit Aerosystems’ 10-year anniversary Community Partner Reception in Wichita. Spirit is extremely proud of all the time, talent and money they have given back to the community over the past 10 years. Spirit and its employees have donated more than $20 million to United Way of the Plains. Last year, Spirit and its employees donated $4.5 million to charitable organizations in the Wichita area, as well as contribute 7,500 hours of community service. Thanks for your commitment to the Wichita community!

Iola Kiwanis Club
This week I had the opportunity to meet with the Iola Kiwanis Club. I learned of the Club’s partnership with Mommies of Miracles (MOM) to build an inclusive playground in Iola. This playground will serve children of all needs in Iola for many years to come. The Iola Kiwanis Club is part of Kiwanis International which supports local communities through a variety of service projects. Thanks to Mike and Nancy Ford for your efforts on this project!

Kansans in the Office
Joseph Hansen of Atchison 

OxFam America
Jim French of Partridge 

Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Phyllis Tesluk of Victoria 

Kansas City District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
John Grothaus of Kansas City
Jennifer Switzer of Kansas City
Amy Blair of Kansas City 

Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association
Jason Watkins of Wichita
Bill Goodlatte of Wichita
Brad Demo of El Dorado
Michael Morgan of Arkansas City
John Bogner of Dodge City
Steve Mos of Kansas City 

XCOR Aerospace
Jay Gibson of Wichita 

Kansas Dental Association
Kevin Robertson of Topeka
Wayne Thompson of Shawnee
Hal Hale of Wichita
Brett Roufs of Newton 

Saint Francis Community Services
Robert Smith of Salina
Kevin Carrico of Salina
Brian Dempsey of Lawrence 

Quality Construction Alliance
Stacey Smyly of Bonner Springs 

Community Bankers Association of Kansas
Paul Boedig of Seneca
Marilyn Boedig of Seneca
Roger Brown of Cheney
Calvin Coady of Wichita
Dan Coup of Hope
Steven Handke of Everest
Blake Heid of Paola
Tanner Johnson of Courtland
Jay Kennedy of Frankfort
Patrick Kerschen of Harper
Gregg Lewis of Osawatomie
Stuart Little of Topeka
Irv Mitchell of Wilson
Jaret Moyer of Woodbine
Galen Pelton of Ulysses
Brad Yaeger of Wichita
Ernie Yake of Salina
Shawn Mitchell of Topeka 

AARP Kansas
Judy Bellome of Lawrence
Maren Turner of Topeka 

National Pawnbrokers Association
Dave Crume of Lenexa
Blaine Crume of Lenexa 

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
Brandon Beck of Emporia
Terry David of Lyons
John Hultgren of Junction City
Dave Johnston of Sedgwick

Online Lenders Association
Landon Roth of Kansas City 

Fraternal Government Relations Coalition
Rachel Haley of Baldwin
Alec Khoury of Manhattan 

Global Business Travel Association
Mark Champagne of Gardner 

Kiwanis International
Michael Ford of Iola
Nancy Ford of Iola
Chris Stevens of Iola 

Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
Tom Marten of Wichita 

Wichita Metro Chamber
Walter Berry of Wichita
Jaime Dupy of Wichita
Dan Flynn of Wichita
Steve Hieger of Wichita
Michael Monteferrante of Wichita
Dave Mosby of Wichita
Gary Plummer of Wichita
John Potts of Wichita
Jon Rosell of Wichita
Sam Sackett of Wichita
Scott Schwindaman of Wichita
Kathy Sexton of Derby
Don Sherman of Wichita
Jamie Taulbee of Wichita 

University of Kansas
Cody Christensen of Topeka
Aaron Larson of Lawrence
Zac Shields of Belle Plaine 

National Association of Wheat Growers
Paul Penner of Hillsboro
David Schemm of Sharon Springs 

National Association of Social Workers
Sky Westerlund of Lawrence
Cynthia Schendel of Overland Park 

Kansas National Education Association
Ruth Goff of Spring Hill
Kimberley Lindeman of Kansas City
Sandra Walker of Topeka
Mark Farr of Nickerson 

National Association of Federally Impacted Schools
Keith Mispagel of Leavenworth 

Edward Jones
Jeff Seibel of Hays 

American College of Gastroenterology
Stanley Brand of Overland Park 

Kansas Orthopaedic Society
Neal Lintecum of Lawrence
Jennifer Ale-Ebrahim of Wichita 

High Plains Journal
Larry Dreiling of Hays 

Kansas Ag Network/WIBW
Greg Akagi of Topeka 

Trenton Agri Products
Charlie Wilson of Wichita 

Kansas Rural Center
Natalie Fullerton of Great Bend
Bill Rogers of Kansas City 

Capitol Tour
Michael Grein of Olathe
Heather Walton of Lenexa
Tawne Walton of Lenexa
Maci Walton of Lenexa
Brent Howard of Overland Park
Nathan Howard of Overland Park
Cynthia Kunze of Olathe
Madison Kunze of Olathe
Nancy Johns of Overland Park
Melinda Johns of Overland Park
Jess Jabben of Overland Park
Ed Hammond of Hays
Janie Marples of Lawrence
Rebecca May of Lawrence
Kelsey Kohn of Merriam
Michael Ford of Iola
Nancy Ford of Iola
Chris Stevens of Iola
Duane Nisly of Hutchinson
Cathy Nisly of Hutchinson
Jerrod Shafer of Wichita
Nicholas Patton of Olathe 

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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