Kansas Common Sense
Oct 21 2019
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Congratulating Astronaut Nick Hague
This week, it was great to speak with Astronaut Nick Hague after his return to Earth from a 203-day mission aboard the International Space Station. During our call, I told him how proud Kansans are of him and how often I get to brag about his accomplishments serving our country. Nick is a small-town kid from Kansas and I’m excited to have him share his story to students across Kansas and the country. Nick is an amazing role model and there is no doubt he will inspire future generations of astronauts, scientists and engineers.
World Food Day
On Wednesday, I joined Senate colleagues in introducing a resolution to designate October 16 as “World Food Day.” The next day this resolution passed the Senate. The United States, and specifically my home state of Kansas, has a long tradition of demonstrating humanitarian concern for the hungry and malnourished people of the world. While much work remains to feed a hungry world, I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made in finding expedient, affordable and efficient ways to get food grown by Kansas farmers to those who need it most.
Our country's collective moral convictions make fighting hunger the right thing to do, and the benefits we receive as a nation from reducing global food insecurity make it the smart thing to do. In addition to helping farmers and ranchers, U.S. international food assistance programs strengthen our national security by promoting stability in areas of the world important to our national strategic interests. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture and State and Foreign Operations, and as co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I will continue working with my colleagues to find new and innovative ways to bolster food security and end hunger. Click here to read more on World Food Day and this measure.
Water Rights Issues at the Quivira NWR
On Thursday, I met with Aurelia Skipwith, the nominee to be the next Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and current Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior. During the meeting, I raised concerns regarding the water rights dispute surrounding the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). I explained the need for farmers and ranchers to be able to utilize groundwater in the basin and the importance of agriculture to the regional economy.
I am pleased that Ms. Skipwith committed to working with local stakeholders to find a voluntary solution to satisfy the Quivira water impairment before requesting that the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) move forward with an administrative order to regulate junior water rights. This solution should include augmentation of Rattlesnake Creek, voluntary water conservation efforts and maximizing use of the water the refuge currently receives. I look forward to continuing to work with Ms. Skipwith and Kansas stakeholders to pursue sensible solutions to this issue that will impact producers and local economies. Click here to see more on this issue that will impact Kansas producers and the local economy.
Supporting Military Servicemembers and their Families
This week, the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) held its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. I was pleased to meet with the Junction City and Manhattan AUSA Chapters, as well as the U.S. Army’s Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, both from Fort Leavenworth. We had productive conversations about a number of initiatives to improve community support for soldiers who call Kansas home. I am always encouraged by the energy and passion our community members have for taking care of our soldiers stationed with the Big Red One and other units across Kansas.
These efforts to care for our servicemembers do not go unnoticed as demonstrated by the attendance of Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff of the Army James McConville at the Fort Riley-Central Kansas AUSA Social held on Tuesday evening. These top Army leaders joined me in formally thanking our community members for all of their support. Additionally, they joined attendees in singing the 1st Infantry Division song alongside 1st Infantry Division Commanding General Major General John Kolasheski and Command Sergeant Major Craig Bishop as well as former Big Red One leaders to include General Paul Funk II, Lieutenant General Eric Wesley, and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston. I am pleased to see so many Army leaders who once called Kansas “home” continue to maintain a relationship with our community.
It was also an honor to spend time on Tuesday evening with Gary Sinise. Sinise may be best known for playing “Lieutenant Dan” in the movie Forrest Gump, but he has also been a long-time and steadfast supporter of our nation’s veterans, especially those who served in the Vietnam Conflict. He now serves as CEO of his non-profit, the Gary Sinise Foundation that works to honor and improve the quality of life for our veterans. His band, the Lt. Dan Band, played in a tribute concert on Tuesday to those in attendance. Thanks, Gary, for our conversation and for all you do to honor our heroes.
Suicide Within the National Guard
On Wednesday, I joined U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in leading a bipartisan group of Senators in calling on the Department of Defense (DoD) to address the increasing suicide rate among members of the National Guard. Recent suicide reports conducted by the DoD, the most recent of which was released last month, found that the suicide mortality rate per capita for the National Guard is consistently higher than that of Active Duty and Reserve members. In the letter, I requested that the DoD provide an analysis of the gaps in existing suicide prevention programs and the factors contributing to the discrepancy in National Guard suicide rates. Click here to read more on this measure.
Additionally, in March of this year, I joined Senator Tester (D-Mont.) to introduce the Care and Readiness Enhancement (CARE) for Reservists Act to improve Guardsmen and Reservists’ access to consistent mental health services, regardless of their deployment status. This legislation will remove existing barriers to care for National Guardsmen and Reservists by allowing them to access readjustment counseling at VA Medical Centers and through VA mental health services to go beyond the minimum of provided annual health assessments. The CARE for Reservists Act will be impactful in reducing National Guard and Reserve Suicide and I am actively urging my colleagues to cosponsor this bill so that we can employ the suicide prevention tools it provides.
Talking Technology at Pittsburg State
On Friday, I toured the Kansas Technology Center at Pittsburg State University. Established in 1994 as the Kansas Polymer Research Center, its mission was to create, deliver and promote industrially relevant advanced technologies in Polymers and Material Science. Now called the Kansas Technology Center, it continues to provide world-class fundamental research, in tandem with commercially viable technology development for the plastics and polymers industry. Led by an exceptional faculty and staff who combined hold fourteen PhDs and eight masters, the over 100 students majoring in the polymers, plastics and materials science programs are in great hands. Thank you to Dr. Robert Frisbee, Dr. Tim Dawsey and Shawn Naccarato for the tour of the facility and their productive conversation on how we can work together to support this research and development in Kansas and beyond.
Participating in the Pitt State Homecoming Parade and Firing the Kickoff Cannon
It was great to spend this weekend participating in the Pittsburg State University Homecoming parade and serving as the Honorary Cannoneer during kickoff. Thanks to everyone who helped organize the Homecoming events and to the many folks who visited with me prior to the game including former Pitt State President Tom Bryant and his wife Koeta and Watco President Rick Webb. Thank you also to Ken Brock for driving me in the parade. Go Gorillas!
Meeting with Kansas National Guard
This week, I hosted distinguished members of the Kansas National Guard in my Washington, D.C. office. The Adjutant General for the state of Kansas, Major General Lee Tafanelli, and I discussed issues that are vital to Kansans, such as balancing service with employment, mitigating flooding, economic development and education opportunities for our servicemembers. It is always a pleasure working with MG Tafanelli on behalf of our National Guard and Kansans.
I was also honored to meet Sergeant Enyse Pusch-Zuniga, the winner of the 2019 Kansas Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition. SGT Pusch-Zuniga’s accomplishments as an NCO in the 137th Transportation Company are a testament to his leadership and dedication to his fellow soldiers.
Hosting Additional Kansas Listening Tour Stops
On Monday, I held a Kansas Listening Tour stop in Anderson County. During this stop, I joined business leaders, community officials and local residents to discuss number of issues including my work to make healthcare more accessible for our nation’s veterans, rural healthcare delivery, broadband deployment and digital infrastructure, trade and the need to pass USMCA, as well as the importance of a profitable farm economy. Thanks to the many folks in Garnett for taking time to visit with me on a number of important issues.
Following the Pittsburg State University Homecoming Parade I joined folks for a Kansas Listening Tour stop. Our discussion featured a number of topics including the ongoing situation at the Turkey/Syria border and the importance of the U.S. remaining partners in the fight against ISIS, EPA regulations and the ability of Kansas farmers and ranchers to utilize their land, defense funding and support for our troops and the work before Congress to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for all Americans. Thanks to the many individuals who took time to visit with me and to Pittsburg Deputy City Manager Jay Byers for his productive conversation.
Now Accepting Spring 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 the spring 2020 session are due October 25. 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 and to apply.
Kansans in the Office
Debra Bush of Derby
Hannah Ritz of Pratt
Clara Wight of El Dorado
Dough White of El Dorado
American Heart Association
Kevin Harker of Leawood
Dalrona Harrison of Haysville
Richard Harrison of Haysville
Nancy Holland of Leawood
Jeff Willett of Wichita
AUSA Fort Leavenworth Delegation
SGT Joseph Cortereal of Fort Leavenworth
SPC Bryan Jacobo of Fort Leavenworth
AUSA Junction City Delegation
Keith Ascher of Junction City
Craig Bender of Junction City
Allen Dinkel of Junction City
Mickey Fornaro-Dean of Junction City
Pat Landes of Junction City
Leon Osborne of Junction City
Jeff Underhill of Junction City
AUSA Manhattan Delegation
John Armbrust of Manhattan
Christine Benne of Manhattan
Diane Gaede of Manhattan
Janet Nichols of Manhattan
Mike Shilling of Manhattan
Alanna Beare of Olathe
Kalia Beare of Olathe
Angelique Getscher of Park City
Gail Getscher of Park City
Joshua Harris of Topeka
Randall Hodgkinson of Topeka
Marlana Hodkinson of Topeka
Bradley Klaus of Hays
Jan Klaus of Hays
Cambre Leathers of Olathe
Dennis Lull of Manhattan
Joan Mann of Manhattan
Deanna Martin of Olathe
Donald Martin of Olathe
Daniel Meyerhoff of Hays
Rhonda Meyerhoff of Hays
Brian Reilly of Tonganoxie
Mary Reilly of Tonganoxie
Debra J. Rher of Overland Park
Camryn Vaughan of Spring Hill
Edwin Vaughan of Spring Hill
Grayden Vaughan of Spring Hill
Jocelyn Vaughan of Spring Hill
Lisa Vaughan of Spring Hill
Tyler Vaughan of Spring Hill
Meredith Krowles of Burlington
Bill McCord of Emporia
Joe Themes of Merriam
Goodwill Industries International
William Prescott of Osage City
Justin Rupert of Wichita
Chris Stanyer of Wichita
Kansas Committee to Protect Pensions
Quinta Schwarzenberger of Olathe
Tom Schwarzenberger of Olathe
Kansas National Guard
CMS Steven Harmon of Emporia
SGT Entyse Puschzuniga of Topeka
MG Lee Tafanelli of Topeka
Risk Management Society (RIMS)
Terence Milford of Lenexa
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.
Very truly yours,
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