Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks 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.

Chairing a Hearing to Examine Consumer Scams
As Chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee, I convened the subcommittee’s first hearing of the year to examine the harmful impacts of scams on American consumers and our economy. The hearing focused on state and federal law enforcement efforts to combat consumer scams, and the implementation of consumer outreach and education programs. Witnesses included both current Commissioners from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine; consultant and former scam artist Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., who was portrayed in the movie Catch Me If You Can; and Wichita-based KWCH-12 Eyewitness News Reporter Mike Schwanke.

I invited Mr. Schwanke to testify and share with the subcommittee examples of common scams affecting Kansas consumers. Three examples were frequently cited: ‘grandparent scams,’ when a scammer calls claiming that a consumer’s grandchild is in danger and needs immediate financial assistance; IRS scams, in which consumers receive a phone call from a scammer claiming to represent the IRS and threatening jail time for failure to pay taxes; and most recently, a scam taking advantage of those impacted by our state’s devastating wildfires, in which Kansans received phone calls offering assistance in the form of government grants in exchange for an application fee.

I appreciate the important work Mr. Schwanke does to inform Kansans about the variety and technological complexity of new scams used by criminals. Consumer education is one of the most effective tools we have to combat these increasingly pervasive criminal activities, and his investigative reporting has been invaluable in that effort. Click here to read more from this hearing.

Announcing USDA Wildlife Recovery Funding
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $6 million targeted toward helping those impacted by the devastating fires in Kansas and surrounding states. The funding is being made available through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which is a voluntary program designed to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who are working to rebuild their facilities and restore their land. In addition to EQIP, producers impacted by the fires are eligible for USDA disaster assistance programs including the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). Through LIP, USDA will cover up to 75 percent of the market value of livestock lost in the fire for eligible producers. USDA will also provide cost-share assistance on the replacement of fences and other eligible structures critical to conservation under the ECP. I have asked USDA to provide maximum flexibility in administering the federal assistance programs in response to the disaster, and will continue to make clear the urgent need for more immediate assistance to those impacted. The recovery effort for the fires will take years. While producers impacted will never be made whole, I’m committed to making sure we provide as much assistance as possible to rebuild from the ashes. To learn more and apply for disaster relief programs, contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) and NRCS office, which you can find here.

Hearing from the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee received testimony on Wednesday from Defense Secretary Retired General Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford regarding a budget amendment request to increase defense spending for the fiscal year. Our nation continues to face ever-changing threats from across the globe, and I want to make certain this request for additional funding prioritizes the readiness of our troops and prepares our Armed Forces for the challenges that lie ahead. I had the opportunity to question the secretary and chairman regarding the influence of Russia in war-torn Syria and its impact on our national security, particularly with the recent deployment of several hundred U.S. Marines and more troops pre-positioning to assist in the fight against ISIS. Secretary Mattis assured me that the Pentagon would soon deliver to Congress their plan to defeat ISIS and I appreciate his commitment to making certain our servicemembers are trained, ready and equipped to execute that plan.

Confirming America’s Ambassador to Israel
The Senate confirmed David Friedman on Thursday to be our nation’s ambassador to Israel. This demonstrated the value we place on our nation’s bilateral relationship with Israel by prioritizing Ambassador Friedman’s nomination as the first one considered. With so many grave and immediate foreign policy challenges facing the United States and our partners in the Middle East, it is imperative that we reaffirm and strengthen our strategic alliance with Israel. When I met with Mr. Friedman, he shared his support for Israel and his eagerness to serve our country.

Encouraging Our Next Generation of Farmers
We celebrated National Agriculture Day this Tuesday by honoring farmers and ranchers for the food, fiber and fuel they tirelessly work every day to provide. Our ag producers are as productive as ever, and we can demonstrate pride also in our future farmers and ranchers by investing in the next generation. According to the latest agricultural census, the average age of the American farmer is 58 years old, and it is trending upward. I recently introduced S. 671, the Agriculture Students Encourage, Acknowledge, Reward, Nurture (EARN) Act. This bill would create a tax exemption for the first $5,000 of income students 18 years of age or younger earn from projects completed through 4-H or FFA. This would enable students to invest their modest incomes for future projects, deposit them in savings or put the funds toward a college education. Recognizing the value of these groups and the education they provide, I have authored this legislation to incentivize more students to begin and continue participation in programs such as 4-H and FFA. In a struggling ag economy, more can and must be done if we are to meet the challenges ahead for young agricultural producers. The ideals we want our kids to learn – hard work, perseverance and cooperation with others – are exemplified in American children growing up on farms across the country, and I will continue to advocate for policies that enable young people to continue their farming traditions. If you’d like to read the op-ed I wrote along with Senator Ernst of Iowa and Congressman McCaul of Texas on this topic, please click here.

Kansas Judge Testifies at Gorsuch Hearing
One of Kansas’ best legal minds, Judge Deanell Reece Tacha, testified this week in Washington, D.C., during the Senate confirmation hearing of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Now retired, Judge Tacha was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. In that capacity, she served as Chief Judge and worked with her fellow Tenth Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch. In the hearing, she shared her experiences working with Judge Gorsuch, her assessment of him as a potential Supreme Court Justice, and her support for his confirmation. On behalf of all Kansans, I thank Judge Tacha for her past and continued service to our nation’s judicial branch.

An Update on Our Next Ag Secretary
Former Governor Sonny Perdue testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee this week as part of the confirmation process to be the next Secretary of Agriculture. As I told Governor Perdue when I met with him, Kansas farmers and ranchers are looking for someone with their finger on the pulse of rural America, including volatile commodity prices and challenging weather conditions. The ag secretary ought to have a deep knowledge of production agriculture and an appreciation for the policies that provide a safety net and risk management tools for producers. Not only does the ag secretary lead the implementation of policies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but they must also be willing to go to bat for rural America in all other areas of the administration. This includes voicing the significance of agricultural exports to the U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Commerce and the need for commonsense environmental regulations to the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. I look forward to the full Senate confirming Governor Perdue so we may work to advance our shared goal of defending and improving the lives of people in rural America.

Welcoming Bob Dole Back to the Senate
It was an honor to have Senator Bob Dole in my office to speak with my staff this week. What a Kansas inspiration for us all!

Meeting with TRIO Students and Directors
On Wednesday morning, I met with students and directors involved with the Kansas TRIO program during their policy seminar in Washington. It was special to hear from one of my interns, Eugene, who is a veteran and TRIO program participant and spoke to the group about his experiences. TRIO programs provide educational opportunities for young people including first-generation college students, disabled Americans and low-income individuals – they make a difference in helping Kansas students succeed. The programs also serve thousands of veterans across the country as they work to meet their educational goals. Thank you to all of the directors that make this program possible for Kansas students.

Touring Wichita VA Medical Center, Envision Research Center
Back in Kansas for the weekend, I was pleased to visit Dole VA Medical Center this week to tour the facility’s new primary care expansion, which is set to open this summer, and meet with new Director Rick Ament for an update on the center’s care for Kansas veterans. I appreciated the conversation with Director Ament about the Choice Program and the VA’s work with providers in the Wichita area to improve mental health care services. I then visited the Gigi & Carl Allen Envision Research Center to hear about the important work they are doing to help young people who are vision-impaired live more normal lives.

Recognizing World Down Syndrome Day
Tuesday marked World Down Syndrome Day. As co-chair of the Senate Down Syndrome Caucus, I join the community of Down syndrome advocates to promote awareness, medical care, research, education, work opportunities and independent living. Everyone should have the opportunity to realize his or her dreams and be equipped with the tools to do so.

Kansans in the Office

Kevin McDermed of Atchison 

Pharma Manufacturers
Mark Rude of Garden City
Andrew Scott of Ulysses
Clay Scott of Ulysses
Randy Hayzlett of Lakin
Jason Borguest of Garden City 

Kansas Association of Colleges of Nursing
Monica Scheibmeir of Topeka
Geri Tyrell of Newton
Abbey Elliott of Winfield
Monica Scheibmeir of Topeka
Cheryl Giefer of Girard
Nikki White of McLouth
Jamie King of McLouth
Jake King of McLouth 

Bill Barloon of Overland Park 

National Wheat Improvement Committee
David Shemm of Sharon Springs 

Agriculture Future of America
Topanga McBride of Manhattan 

Christi Health
Mike Mullins of Wichita
Bruce Witt of Wichita 

Commissioner of Education
Jim Porter of Fredonia
Brad Neuenswander of Ozawkie
Jim McNeere of Wichita
Randy Watson of McPherson 

Paramount Landscaping
Karl Schottler of Shawnee 

Northwest Kansas Planning and Development Commission
Randall Hrabe of Plainville
Diane Hrabe of Plainville 

End TB
Zee Pinkerton of Olathe 

Kansas Corn Growers Association
Randy Small of Neodesha
Greg Krissek of Manhattan
Stacy Mayo of Manhattan 

Kansas Bankers Association
Robert Leftwich of Wellington
John Boger of Kingman
Craig Meader of Waverly
Payton Meader of Waverly
Jim Hoskins of Baxter Springs
Ron Johnson of Seneca
Fran Suellentrop of Colwich
Steven Suellentrop of Wichita
Kyle Campbell of Abilene
Cayne Hoops of Scandia
Mark Larrabee of Shawnee Mission
Chuck Stones of Topeka 

Mid-American Orthopedics
Jon Morgan of Wichita
Mark Landry of Overland Park
Kristin Kratt of Arkansas City
Corin Wilde of Pittsburg
Bob Totten of Topeka

Clinical Laboratory Management Association
Eric Rosa of Prairie Village 

The Kansas Alliance for the Arts in Education
Barbara Warady of Overland Park
Ryan Pangracs of Leavenworth
Ken Adams of Bonner Springs
Carle Ries of Topeka
Anneca Wooten of Lawrence 

American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
Linda Hickok of Belle Plaine
Carol Shearer of Manhattan 

Miss Augusta
Cari Anne Cashon of Wichita 

Flint Hills Job Corps
Johnny Taylor of Manhattan 

Midland Care PACE
Karren Weichert of Topeka
Heidi Pickerell of Topeka
Sam Allred of Topeka 

International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers
Troy Nicks of Rose Hill 

National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Leah Bond of Lenexa
Mary Reed Spencer of Lake Wabaunsee
Mav Doner of Wichita
Kari Rinker of Wichita 

Lonnie Baker of Manhattan
Jean Bryant of Cimarron
Nathan Glendening of Phillipsburg
Rachel Monger of Topeka
Crystal Packard of Ellsworth
Patricia Raasch of Horton
Ed Strahm of Sabetha
Rodney Whittington of Olathe
Debra Zehr of Topeka
Shelby Shaw of Moundridge
Jenna Lehnman of Moundridge
Kathleen May of Cheney
Kristina McConnaughy of Cheney
Teresa Achilles of Cheney
Holly Noble of Attica
Amy Hoch Altwegg of Abilene 

Kansas Council on Developmental Disability
Steve Gieber of Topeka 

Livestock Marketing Association
Lindsay Graber Runft of Kansas City
Keith Mills of Overland Park
Tyler Martin of Fort Scott 

National Grange
Mandy Bostwick of Ozawkie 

Children’s Mercy Hospital
Dallas Polen of Overland Park 

Water Environment Association
Joe Foster of Olathe
Lorrie Hill of Olathe 

Flint Hills Writing Project
Roger Caswell of Emporia
Heather Caswell of Emporia
Dawn Murphy of Clay Center 

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services
Tim Keck of Topeka
Adam Nordstrom of Topeka 

Carol Whitehair of Abilene 

Capitol Tour
Scott McGinn of Sedgwick
Beth McGinn of Sedgwick
Drew McGinn of Sedgwick
Cole McGinn of Sedgwick
Jon Birky of Russell
Ryan Birky of Russell
Cole Birky of Russell
James Cooper of Louisburg
Rita Cooper of Louisburg
R.J. Harms of Topeka
Pam Harms of Topeka
Eric Harms of Topeka
Jacob Harms of Topeka
Robert Gleason of Kechi
Melinda Gleason of Kechi
Samantha Gleason of Kechi
Annette Allen of Leavenworth
Chuck Allen of Leavenworth
Chase Allen of Leavenworth
Drake Allen of Leavenworth
Brooke Waters of Manhattan
Jacob Brown of Topeka
Cheryl Brown of Topeka
Richard James of Wichita
Rachel James of Wichita
Abigail James of Wichita
Jackson James of Wichita
Bill Bahr of Manhattan
Rachel Bahr of Manhattan
Ella Bahr of Manhattan
Ava Bahr of Manhattan
Lily Bahr of Manhattan
Katie Canata of Manhattan
Ken Sterbenz of El Dorado
Bessie Sterbenz of El Dorado
Joe Sterbenz of El Dorado
Krystal Sterbenz of El Dorado
Julie Sterbenz of El Dorado
Anna Hand of Ellsworth
Emily Brandt of Beloit
Susie Hill of Wichita
Sarah Baum of Shawnee Mission
Meredith Baum of Shawnee Mission
Gregory Ultzsch of Wichita
Jane Ultzsch of Wichita
Isabel Ultzsch of Wichita
Alexander Ultzsch of Wichita
Kyle Ultzsch of Wichita
Gary Boyer of Lawrence
Lavenna Boyer of Lawrence
Andrei Lefort of Lawrence
Sofia Lefort of Lawrence
Greg Maring of Salina
Jennifer Maring of Salina
Makenzie Maring of Salina
Kelly Karl of Manhattan
Micah Karl of Manhattan
Wyatt Karl of Manhattan
Ryder Karl of Manhattan
Tyson Karl of Manhattan
Carol Shearer of Manhattan
Larry Bartel of Hesston
Alyce Bartel of Hesston
Sam Bartel of Hesston
Will Bartel of Hesston
Justin Tadtman of Manhattan
Katie Tadtman of Manhattan
Colton Tadtman of Manhattan
Aubrey Tadtman of Manhattan
Claire Tadtman of Manhattan
Jason Wiltshire of Pratt
Charlotte Spitznes of Pratt
William Wiltshire of Pratt
Gail Wiltshire of Pratt
Caden Patterson of Pratt
Hallee Burgard of Pratt
Matthew Giles of Pratt
Sheldon Milw of Pratt
Madison Tyler of Pratt
Justin Hampel of Pratt
Jared Shriver of Pratt
Andrew Withers of Pratt
Judy Hampel of Pratt
Evelyn Keopke of Basehor
Vicki Murphy of Kansas City
Katelynn Keopke of Basehor
Caroline Kabus of Topeka
Madison Hopfinger of Overland Park
Carl Whitmer of Overland Park
Melissa Huerter of Lenexa
Angie Penner of Wichita
Bree Penner of Wichita
Ethan Penner 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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