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.

Questioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions
On Wednesday, Attorney General Sessions testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to field questions on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) FY 2019 budget request. In my inaugural hearing as chairman, I stressed to the Attorney General the extraordinary responsibility the DOJ has to keep Americans safe and uphold the rule of law. I cited the success of partnerships among state, local and federal law enforcement in thwarting the Garden City terrorism threat last year – these partnerships must continue to be prioritized by the department.

I am encouraged to hear the DOJ’s plans to prioritize important safety initiatives such as updating the federal firearms background check system and funding school safety grant programs. Additionally, the Attorney General made clear the department’s commitment to addressing the ongoing opioid crisis. I look forward to working with Attorney General Sessions and my colleagues on the subcommittee to adequately and appropriately fund our nation’s law enforcement efforts. Please click here to view my opening statement.

The Future of the VA
The person who becomes our next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs will have a direct impact on the well-being of nearly 200,000 Kansans and millions of veterans across the country. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I met with Rear Admiral Jackson, the president’s nominee, this week and appreciated the discussion I had with him regarding his vision for the department. However, I respect his decision to withdraw from consideration, and this critical position must be filled promptly.

This is a tough job, and the VA needs strong leadership. The VA must be singularly focused on veterans and upholding an unquestionable commitment to service and providing quality care, and with the VA’s assistance Congress needs to move quickly to pass Choice reform. I will be seeking the same commitment to our veterans from a future nominee.

I spoke with Fox News on Thursday about this topic and the confirmation of Secretary Mike Pompeo. Please click here to watch more.

Confirming Kansan Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State
Maintaining strong relationships with our allies while countering our adversaries in a diplomatic fashion is essential to advancing America’s security and economic interests. The president’s trust in Secretary Pompeo is evident and will be instrumental to our nation’s diplomatic engagement – Sec. Pompeo will be an effective advocate for our country as other countries can know he speaks for the president. Kansans are proud to have Mike Pompeo serve as Secretary of State, and I look forward to working with him to advance America’s interests around the globe.

Meeting with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper
I appreciated Secretary of the Army Mark Esper's invitation to join him for breakfast in the Pentagon on Wednesday to discuss his priorities for the Army, as well as the Army’s important presence in Kansas, our Reserve and Guard Component, on Fort Leavenworth and at Fort Riley. I'm pleased the Secretary understands the important role Fort Leavenworth fulfills as the Intellectual Center of the Army, educating and shaping soldiers to lead the Army for years to come. We also discussed the Army's force stationing decision and the merits of Fort Riley as “the best place to live, train, deploy from, come home to and retire at.” This is not just a motto, but a recognition of the unique attributes of the Manhattan and Junction City area, which contribute to the readiness of Army units at Fort Riley and the experience of servicemembers and their families.

During our conversation, I also conveyed that when making strategic stationing decisions, the Army needs to consider the total lifecycle cost of their choices. I believe that near-term cost avoidance when standing up a force should be considered against long-term cost savings to make the best decision. I recently sent a letter to both Secretary Esper and General Milley encouraging them to consider these issues when making force structure decisions and highlighting the value of Fort Riley. It is important to take into account numerous attributes regarding efficiencies and cost savings on base and in our communities, which in turn support the quality of life that soldiers and their families enjoy in our state.  

Speaking with Department of Defense Leaders About Kansas Projects
This week, I spoke with Department of Defense leaders about important Kansas projects in Leavenworth and Johnson County during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs hearing. I asked Mr. Lucian Niemeyer, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment, and Lieutenant General Gwendolyn Bingham, the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, to take an interest in seeing the timely and efficient construction of the Army National Guard’s 35th Infantry Division Readiness center in Leavenworth. In FY2017, 31 million was appropriated for this project, and it is now in the contracting process.

Through the newly established Army University and as the base for our 35th Infantry Division in the Army National Guard, Fort Leavenworth is vital to our national security through education, training and development of future military leaders. The Kansas Army National Guard, Guardsmen from across the country and the Leavenworth community will benefit from this investment in Kansas.

I also took time with Mr. Niemeyer and LTG Bingham to express my continued insistence in seeing the cleanup and remediation efforts of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant near De Soto in Johnson County. I remain concerned that this site is a health and environmental risk, and its disposition and return to Johnson County must be properly managed. I have spoken with Mr. Nieymeyer about this concern before and am confident he has the expertise to see this project through. I also invited LTG Bingham to visit Sunflower.

Please click here to watch our exchanges during the hearing.

Update on the Lesser Prairie-Chicken
I led a letter with Rep. Roger Marshall and colleagues urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) not to relist the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) under the Endangered Species Act. The LPC was listed as a threatened species in 2014 following a multi-year drought that plagued the habitat area and reduced population numbers. That listing was vacated by a district court because the FWS failed to consider the impact of voluntary conservation efforts to preserve the bird’s habitat area. The FWS withdrew its appeal of the court decision, instead electing to move forward with a new Species Status Assessment. The FWS will ultimately issue a 12-month finding on a petition to list the species.

Kansans are committed to preserving the bird and its habitat area. By investing millions of private and public dollars into habitat preservation, we’ve seen significant progress made in improving the bird’s population and securing its future. While the voluntary initiatives currently in effect can and should be improved, it is notable the population has increased by approximately 71 percent since the peak of the drought in 2013 without ESA regulations in place, due to increased rainfall and on-the-ground conservation measures. The FWS should not undermine these voluntary conservation efforts by relisting the species and forcing heavy-handed regulations onto Kansas landowners.

Meeting with USDA Rural Development in Topeka
I stopped by the Kansas USDA Rural Development office this week to visit with State Director Lynne Hinrichsen and her staff about the importance of fighting for rural America and the communities so many Kansans call home. We discussed the role USDA Rural Development plays in helping to provide affordable housing and support or access to healthcare in rural communities, access to broadband to all Kansans and in the fight against our nation's opioid epidemic. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to work to secure funding for Rural Development programs that provide needed resources to Kansas communities. I appreciate Director Hinrichsen and her staff meeting with me and for the work they do for Kansans.

Touring Rossville Junior/Senior High School
I toured Rossville Junior/Senior High School on Friday after returning from Washington, D.C., along with Principal Brad Anderson and  impressive student leaders: senior Maura Buhler, senior Ashley Douglas, junior Jordan Bittner, sophomore Kody Davoren and freshman Kaiden Brown. We discussed the importance of music and arts education, the value of vocational and technical education, the use of college credit in high school to reduce the cost of higher education and how to encourage more students to pursue STEM education. Thank you to the students and teachers for visiting with me today and sharing more about the important things happening at Rossville.

On my way out of town I stopped by Sugar Creek Country Store, a local family-owned business that was founded in St. Mary’s in 1992. I enjoyed the sandwich made by their employee, Henry, at their NY-style deli.

Video Conferencing with Fourth Grade Students from Andover
Mr. Todd Flory, a teacher at Wheatland Elementary School in Andover, stopped by my D.C. office on Thursday and together we video conferenced with his fourth grade class. The class recently learned about the three branches of government, and they had great questions for me about how our government functions and bills I’m working on in Washington. We also discussed how important it is to keep reading and learning and how Kansans can engage in their government to help their communities. Thanks to Mr. Flory for this creative idea and to the students for the conversation.

Now Accepting Fall Internship Applications
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works. I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today, where I have interns year-round working closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans.

Applications for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for fall 2018 are due Friday, June 15. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information.

Kansans in the Office

AARP of Kansas
Glenda DuBoise of Topeka
Maren Turner of Topeka

American Society of Landscape Architects
David Contag of Overland Park
Rachel Rankin of Manhattan
Brian Roth of Overland Park

Association of American Cancer Institutes
Roy Jensen of Gardner

Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas
Brenda Brown of Hutchinson
Randy Callstrom of Kansas City
Ed Cullumber of Topeka
Linnea Cullumber of Kansas City
Heather Elliott of Topeka
Nathan Fawson of Iola
Carol Heckenberry of Kansas City
Tracy Kihm of Lawrence
Kyle Kessler of Topeka
Kathy Mosher of Salina
Ken Netiling of Kansas City
Joah Tammany of Wichita
Colin Thomasset of Topeka
Shantel Westbrook of Wichita

Black and Veatch
Carrie Sherer of Overland Park
Paul Weida of Overland Park

Ecumenical Advocacy Days
Emily DeVore of Kansas City
Vicki Enjsz of Leawood
Jim Enjsz of Leawood
Joy Lenz of Winfield
Jay McKell of Overland Park
Orlando Parra of Kansas City
Jon Ratliff of Prairie Village

Eisenhower Women's Leadership Group
Tory Arnberger of Great Bend
Shonda Atwater of Tonganoxie
Karen Bailey of Cheney
Renee Erickson of Walton
Brenda Estell of Shawnee
Chelsea Goode of Leawood
Ginger Harper of Topeka
Kathleen Hein of Topeka
Cheryl Helmer of Mulvane
Sue Huff of Lenexa
Stephanie James of Olathe
Joann Knight of Dodge City
Michele Lockwood of Olathe
Samantha Moore of Lenexa
Sally Nelson of Fairway
Kathryn Paul of Olathe
Jan Peters of Great Bend
Kari Presley of Topeka
Mary Sabatini of Manhattan
Victoria Snitsar of Lawrence

Fraternal Government Relations Coalition
Matthew Mindrup of Manhattan
Moira Pyle of McPherson

Harcros Chemicals
Lynne Bukovic of Kansas City

Kansas Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Larry Finley of Emporia
Matthew Fray of Prairie Village
Jeff Glasgow of Lawrence
Paul Hertel of Shawnee
Kayla Krueger of Olpe
Phillip Kwetey of Overland Park
Samantha McDonald of Stilwell
Shelby Mollenkamp of Quinter
Michael Patridge of Shawnee
Danielle Stenger of Milford
Amber Tiberio of Leawood
Samantha Train of Andover
Nancy Whitson of Dodge City

Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association
Nick Albrecht of Wichita
Steve Beykirch of Pittsburg
John Bogner of Dodge City
Ann Bust of Hutchinson
David Flemming of Wichita
Berry Schwan of Wichita
Mallory Schwan of Wichita
Colton Strathmm of Topeka
Matt Strathmm of Topeka
Jason Watkins of Topeka
Kristina Willis of Pittsburg
Larry Willis of Pittsburg

Kansas City District US Army Corps of Engineers
John Grothaus of Kansas City
Douglas Guttormsen of Kansas City
Rex Ostrander of Kansas City

Kansas Council on Developmental Disability
Jason Barrett of Topeka
Nicole Heiman of Baileyville
Allision Nauertc of Lawrence
Rocky Nichols of Topeka

Kansas Optometric Association
Todd Fleischer of Topeka
Wayne Gilmore of Parsons
Clifford Holt of Shawnee
Jeff Janasek of Wichita
Julie Toon of Wichita
Seth Thibault of Pratt

Mortgage Bankers Association
Rick Monley of Overland Park
A.W. Pickel of Olathe

National Association of Professional Insurance Agents
Trina Ceballos of Topeka
Vonda Copeland of Manhattan
Sue Peachey of Pratt
Bob Shields of Oswego

National Funeral Directors Association
Deyna Smith of Derby
Justin Smith of Derby
Sam Steiner of Junction City

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Lesley Gilger of Emporia
Marsha Kent of Topeka
Sandy Kuhlman of Athol
Adrianne Meyer of Topeka
Sherri Meyer of Emporia
Jesse Ramirez of Topeka
Karri Schenker of Cottonwood Falls
Kareen Weichert of Topeka

National Plant Diagnostic Network
Jim Stack of Manhattan

National Wildlife Foundation
Chaston Hoeme of Scott City

Polo Custom Products
Jennifer Fennell of Topeka

US Hemp Roundtable
Brandon Carnes of Olathe
Francis Kalaiwaa of Overland Park
Vince Sanders of Mission
Jeff Zimmerman of Topeka

Wheatland Elementary School
Todd Flory of Andover

We Are Golf
Mark Johnson of Topeka
Matthew Gourlay of Manhattan
Dick Stuntz of Lawrence
Jeff White of Olathe

Capitol Tour
Terry Chaput of Salina
Kayleen Chaput of Salina
Andrew Cook of Andover
Faith Cook of Andover
Kyrita Cook of Andover
Paul Cook of Andover
Phil Cook of Andover
Ivey Cooper of Wichita
Kevin Cooper of Wichita
Vickie Damm of Overland Park
Nathan Fawson of Iola
Robyn Fawson of Iola
Elijah Fawson of Iola
Keira Fawson of Iola
Mosiah Fawson of Iola
Allan Foster of Topeka
Mary Galligan of Topeka
Trent Holman of Meriden
Shayna Holman of Meriden
Beverly Levine of Overland Park
Joel Levine of Overland Park
William Old of Yates Center
Linda Old of Yates Center
Raymond Salzwedel of Humboldt 
Donna Salzwedel of Humboldt
Dan Skoda of Topeka
Samantha Skoda of Topeka
Ashish Verma of Overland Park

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 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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