Kansas Common Sense
Working to End the Government Shutdown
Government shutdowns negatively impact Kansans and Americans in numerous ways: federal employees and subcontractors are without paychecks and farmers across our state wait in uncertainty as crucial federal aid sits on the desks of furloughed employees. Congress and the administration need to come together to resolve this partial shutdown, and that discussion ought to include a sense of urgency. It is my hope that these negotiations result in a broader package on immigration and border security to accomplish our goal of a more secure border and to create a safe, fair and effective immigration system. I am working with my colleagues in the Senate to reopen the government and get back to the issues ahead of us in this new year.
Visiting Businesses in Wichita and Emporia
On Thursday and Friday, I was in Wichita and Emporia to visit with leadership and employees of four vital Kansas businesses where folks were interested in talking about trade and tariffs. Specifically, we discussed the negative affects that ongoing trade disputes have had on our nation’s economy, and how they’re harming Kansas businesses and the regional economy. While it’s important to rein in unfair trade practices, I have concerns with elevating a tit-for-tat trade battle that I’m not convinced anyone can win. Kansans’ ability to make a living depends on the opportunity to sell what we grow and produce, and I will continue to urge the administration in the direction of more trade, not less.
Touring Hopkins Manufacturing
On Thursday, I was in Emporia to tour Hopkins Manufacturing Corporation and visit with employees. Hopkins makes, sells and distributes class-leading automotive aftermarket products manufactured in Kansas and sold throughout the world. Hopkins began in Emporia as a family-owned business more than 50 years ago; today, the company employs more than 300 Kansans at their Emporia facility. During my tour, we discussed issues of importance to Hopkins and other Kansas manufacturers, including harmful import tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other commodities and inputs that are integral to Hopkins’ manufacturing processes.
Visiting New Cargill Protein Headquarters
Friday morning, I visited Cargill Protein’s new headquarters in Wichita – which includes all of Cargill’s North American beef, turkey, foodservice and food distribution businesses. This state-of-the art facility, which was officially opened just last month, is home to 750 employees with the potential to add an additional 200 people. Cargill has multiple offices and locations across Kansas, including a recently upgraded beef plant in Dodge City.
I enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many talented Cargill employees. Special thanks to Cargill Protein President Brian Sikes and his leadership team for an informative conversation focusing on how trade, environmental and regulatory policies affect Cargill’s ability to deliver wholesome, high-quality meat products to consumers. Thank you also to Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell and Greater Wichita Economic Development Partnership President Jeff Fluhr for taking part in the visit. Their leadership, along with other local and state officials, helped convince Cargill to recommit to Wichita. Congratulations to all involved with this successful partnership.
Touring Johnson Controls
My second stop in Wichita was at Johnson Controls, an international engineering and manufacturing company that employs 1,300 Kansans at its home furnace and air conditioning manufacturing plant in Wichita. Last month the firm announced that its Wichita facility will become the company’s first U.S. plant to operate with 100 percent wind-generated renewable energy. Clean energy delivery to the Wichita plant is scheduled for the end of 2019, with savings from the wind power agreement projected to be at least $2.7 million over the next 20 years.
It was a pleasure to meet many of the employees working hard to manufacture a superior product. As co-founder of the Senate Competitiveness Caucus, I will continue working to see that the United States remains a leader in innovation so that high-quality jobs like those at Johnson Controls are available for another generation of Kansans. Thank you to Mike Richardson, plant manager, and his leadership team for the enjoyable tour and conversation. Thank you also to Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce President Gary Plummer for joining us.
Spending Time at the Coleman Company
My final stop in Wichita was to the Coleman Company, an iconic American company founded in Wichita by William Coffin Coleman who began selling gasoline pressure lamps in 1900. Today, Coleman is owned by Newell Brands, with its Wichita facility specializing in outdoor recreation products, such as tents and outdoor stoves. Thank you to brand division manager Kate Weber for arranging my visit. Thank you also to director of operations Ron Cheyney for leading our tour and for the reminder of how trade and tariff policy affects business. Special thanks to Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell for taking part in the visit.
Thank You, Senator Roberts
Senator Pat Roberts, who recently announced his decision to retire at the end of his current term, has had an impressive tenure as a leader in both the House and the Senate, and has served Kansans honorably as chairman of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Ethics Committee.
Pat’s leadership, wit and ability to bring individuals on both sides of the aisle together, skills he honed in service to our nation as a U.S. Marine, will be missed in Congress. It's been an honor to work with the senior senator from Kansas on behalf of our state. Thank you, Pat, for your friendship and many years of service.
Meeting with LMH Hospital Leadership in Lawrence
On Wednesday, I toured and met with LMH CEO Russ Johnson and hospital leadership in Lawrence to receive updates on the hospital after its name change, and to hear more about the ways in which LMH plans to expand its reach to all of Douglas County. I respect LMH leadership’s dedication to partnering with other healthcare providers to deliver quality healthcare and mental healthcare to Kansans, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues to drive down healthcare and mental healthcare costs for Kansans.
Meeting with Overland Park City and Chamber Officials Regarding US-69
Following my meeting at LMH in Lawrence, I traveled to Overland Park to meet with OP City and Chamber officials to discuss expansion plans for US-69 Highway. As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I understand the economic and logistical purpose of quality surface infrastructure and transportation to expanding the workforce in our metropolitan areas. I will continue working with my colleagues and local leaders to advocate for more federal dollars to return to Kansas for infrastructure projects right here at home.
Hosting Kansas Listening Tour Stops
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of stopping by the Coffey County Hospital to join the local Rotary Club meeting. During this stop in Burlington, I discussed the importance of protecting our national security while remembering that we are a nation of immigrants. We also discussed VA efforts and ways to keep rural America thriving. Thank you to everyone who came out for our discussion. A special thanks to Coffey County Hospital CEO Leonard Hernandez and Rotary Club President Russ Stukey for hosting my visit.
On Monday, I visited Council Grove, and spoke with residents at the County Treasurer’s office, the Senior Citizen Center, Farmers & Drover’s Bank, USD 417 and Morris County Hospital. Thank you to the local residents who came out to talk with me during these stops. I appreciated hearing what was on your mind and will take your thoughts with me to Washington, D.C.
Conversation with Immigration Voice
Last week, I met with Sunayana Dumala and members of Immigration Voice about ways to bring highly skilled immigrants and their immediate family members to growing communities and businesses in Kansas. Sunayana’s advocacy began after her husband, Indian American engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was tragically murdered in Olathe in 2017.
Immigrants like Sunayana have waited decades for green cards due to arbitrary caps on the number of immigrants that can obtain permanent residency in the United States from an individual country. My bill from last Congress and important legislation that I plan to introduce again, the Startup Act, eliminates the per-country cap and creates a new visa category for immigrant entrepreneurs. These changes will encourage job growth and support those already contributing to our communities. Thank you, Sunayana, for inviting me into your home and for our productive conversation. I am inspired by your positivity and steadfast commitment to and advocacy for your community.
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.
Very truly yours,
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