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.

Authoring Legislation to Boost Innovation and Encourage Entrepreneurship
Leading a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues, I reintroduced the Startup Act this week in an effort to encourage job creation, grow entrepreneurial activity, increase innovation and advance economic development. This legislation would accelerate the commercialization of university research and creative inquiry that can lead to new ventures, review and improve the regulatory processes at the federal, state and local levels, and modernize a critical Economic Development Administration (EDA) program to spur economic growth and promote innovation.

America continues to fall behind in new business development and struggles to retain top talent that could grow our U.S. economy. With a renewed sense of urgency, Congress must prioritize policies that will help recruit and retain highly-skilled students and innovators, bolster a pro-growth environment and enable entrepreneurs to transform ideas and research into companies and products, thereby creating meaningful, good-paying jobs in the process. I am pleased to sponsor this important legislation to help make certain America remains the best place in the world to bring an idea to market and grow a business.

Read more about my Startup Act, cosponsored by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) here.

Supporting the Promotion of Senator Bob Dole to the Rank of Colonel
I introduced legislation to authorize a well-deserved honorary promotion to the rank of Colonel in the United States Army to my friend and mentor, Sen. Bob Dole. A native of Russell, Kansas, Sen. Dole was a student at the University of Kansas when he joined the U.S. Army just as the country entered the throes of World War II. As an infantry lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division, Sen. Dole deployed to Italy where he sustained serious wounds from combat and earned the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for valor for his heroic actions on the battlefield, and achieved the rank of Captain in the course of his service. Following his military service, Sen. Dole answered a call to serve our country in a different capacity – by representing Kansans in both the Kansas Legislature and in Congress.

As a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives, and finally, a Senator in the United States Senate, Sen. Dole is a longtime champion for veterans and has been a great advocate for the hungry and disabled. Sen. Dole is a true model of public service for Kansans and all Americans, and I believe we can learn a lot from him and his contributions through military and public service. Sen. Dole exemplifies the attribute of selfless service expected of a high ranking military officer and I’m proud to call him a friend, mentor and fellow Kansan.


Introducing the Kelsey Smith Act
On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Deb Fisher (R-Neb.) in introducing the Kelsey Smith Act. This legislation will assist law enforcement efforts to save lives by requiring wireless communication providers to provide call location information to law enforcement officials when responding to a call for emergency service or in an emergency situation that involves the risk of death or serious physical harm. This legislation will make certain first responders have the tools they need to locate children who have been abducted and I urge my colleagues to support this sensible bill to help save children’s lives.

This important legislation is named after Kelsey Smith, who was abducted in broad daylight from an Overland Park department store and murdered in 2007. The abduction was captured on the store’s security camera, leaving little doubt of the emergency nature of the circumstances. Four days after she disappeared, authorities were able to locate Kelsey’s body after her wireless provider released the “ping” or “call location” information from her cell phone. Providing this information as fast as possible is critical to ensuring law enforcement officials can rescue victims in imminent danger of death or serious harm when every second counts. Kelsey Smith’s tragic abduction sent shockwaves that continue to reverberate through our state, and I continue to be inspired by the Smith family’s resilience and leadership as we work toward gaining additional support for the Kelsey Smith Act. Read more about this legislation here.

Joining Maria Bartiromo on Fox News to Discuss Trade
On Sunday morning, I joined Maria Bartiromo with Fox News on "Sunday Morning Futures" and shared with her a photo I took in Kensington that shows a pile of grain so tall you can barely see the elevator behind it. We need more trade, not less, because unfortunately, stockpiles like this are far too often a common sight for our farmers in Kansas and across the country. During the interview, I also discussed the ongoing trade negotiations with China. These important negotiations ought to result in increased market access for our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers and changed behavior from China. To view my interview, click here.


Encouraging Investment in Our Short Line Railroads
I recently introduced the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy (BRACE) Act to make permanent a critical tax credit used to repair and upgrade short line railroads. Short line railroads connect rural and regional economies across our state and provide communities with access to national and global markets. The BRACE Act would make certain that short line railroads and the communities who depend on them can stay up-to-date on critical maintenance and track improvements.

I first proposed this tax credit in 2004 as a way to encourage railroads, railroad customers and suppliers to invest directly in maintaining the more than 2,000 miles of short line rails in Kansas and this bipartisan legislation would mark significant progress as we work to make critical, much-needed investments in our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Located in the center of America’s heartland, Kansas is one of the leading rail and distribution centers in our country and plays an integral role connecting farmers and factories with communities around the globe. Making this tax credit permanent will bring certainty to the industry and allow for more investment in our nation’s rail system.

Reflecting on the Anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger’s Heartbreaking Disaster
This week marked the 38th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger’s heartbreaking disaster, when the Challenger space shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff in Cape Canaveral. After the accident, President Ronald Reagan left Americans with this message: “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, which maintains funding jurisdiction over NASA, and member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, I’m committed to making certain we continue to support our astronauts and engineers, and that we don’t forget those explorers who paved the way for continued innovation.


Meeting with Sorghum Producers and Receiving their 2019 Congressional Award
On Tuesday, I met with the National Sorghum Producers (NSP) and was honored to receive their 2019 Congressional Award. As Kansas farmers continue to face low prices, I have worked to find and develop new markets for sorghum and other crops. This includes working with the EPA to approve the sorghum oil pathway under the Renewable Fuel Standard and successfully urging the administration to resolve the anti-dumping and countervailing duty case China brought against sorghum producers.

During the meeting, I showed the group a photo I took and delivered to President Trump of sorghum piled on the ground in Kensington, Kansas waiting to be sold into foreign markets. NSP is a great partner in making certain Washington, D.C. understands the importance of having access to more markets for our sorghum growers. I look forward to continuing to work with them to represent Kansas sorghum farmers.


Fighting for the Sovereign Rights of Tribal Governments
Early last week, I introduced the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, legislation that would correct a decade-old error made by the National Labor Relations Board and once again allow tribal governments, elected by their members, to possess the right to make informed decisions on behalf of those they represent. My sensible and narrow bill amends the National Labor Relations Act to exempt tribal-owned entities operated on tribal-owned lands from the NLRB and is supported by more than 160 Indian tribes and tribal corporations. The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act would rightfully restore the sovereign status of tribal governments and I will continue working with my colleagues to get this bill to the president’s desk. Click here to read more on this bill.

Spending Time with Members of Immigration Voice
On Monday, I visited with members of Immigration Voice, an advocacy group seeking to solve problems faced by high-skilled immigrants to the United States. I reiterated my support for legislative efforts that remove per-country limits on visas and ease access to green cards for legal immigrants’ family members. I met with a number of individuals who immigrated to Kansas, seeking to expand our local economy while raising a family in our state. I will continue working to pass immigration solutions that benefit Kansans.


Meeting with Kansas Association of School Boards
I met with the Kansas Association of School Boards this week, where we discussed the importance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, initiatives in Kansas to teach students the skills they need to succeed in the workplace, and the continued importance of early childhood education. We also discussed opportunities during the Appropriations process to fight for funding for our Kansas classrooms. Thanks to the Kansas Association of School Boards for the productive conversation and for all the work they do on behalf of students and teachers.


Visiting KU’s Integrated Science Building
I was on KU’s campus in Lawrence to tour their recently-completed Integrated Science Building. This new state-of the-art facility is home to several KU departments and a number of research labs, helping contribute to the advanced education of students from across our state and world.

During my visit, I discussed a number of issues with the group, including the importance of research and the National Science Foundation, as well as how I support both of those through my Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship. We are striving toward a common goal: for Kansas to be a place where students from every corner of the world interested in science, technology, engineering and math can receive a quality education and fulfil their career dreams right here at home. Thank you to Department of Physics and Astronomy Chair Dr. Hume Heldman and Professors of Physics Dr. Judy Wu and Dr. Christophe Royon for leading the tour and to KU Vice Chancellor Reggie Robinson for joining us.

Speaking at the Manhattan Eagle Scout Ceremony
On Sunday, I spoke at the Eagle Scout Ceremony in Manhattan. During my remarks to Troop 75, I discussed the Scout Law and the meaning that it carries to Scouts past and present. Congratulations to new Troop 75 Eagle Scout Will Bannister, and thank you to his parents Stephanie and Grant for inviting me to be a part of this important day.


Hosting Kansas Listening Tour Stops Across the State
Doniphan County
I continued my Kansas Listening Tour this week with a stop in Doniphan County on Wednesday, where I visited with Elwood residents about the flooding in the area, levy concerns and the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the importance of rural infrastructure and broadband development. Thank you to those who braved the cold to have a conversation with me.


Thomas County
On Thursday, I hosted a Listening Tour stop in Colby in conjunction with the Colby Kiwanis Club. We discussed presidential authority, rural telecommunications, mental health issues and recent trade negotiations. Thank you to Colby Kiwanis Secretary-Treasurer Kenton Krehbiel and Kiwanis Governor Rick Dickman for allowing me to join their meeting.

Kearny County
I was in Kearny County to visit with residents at FlashBacks Diner, where we discussed a wide variety of issues including the damaging impacts of government shutdowns, the importance of the VA, the need for an accurate 2020 census, postal issues, rural broadband, healthcare and the need to lower prescription drug prices, and the importance of good trade deals to Kansans. Thank you to Ralph Goodnight and Rebecca Matthews for helping facilitate.


Finney County
We had a large turnout in Garden City for a meeting at St. Catherine's Hospital on Friday morning. We discussed the importance of the Southwest Chief, the return of DEA officers to the area, the importance of helping veterans, the recent government shutdown, immigration reform and the value of good local leadership to help grow communities. Thank you to Chamber President Myca Bunch and Hospital Community Relations Coordinator Shawna Deal for helping organizing event. Thank also to the many local elected officials who attended.


Grant County
My last stop was at the Grant County Senior Center on Friday where I visited with locals over the lunch hour. We discussed a wide range of issues, including steps to improve the VA, border security, immigration and the importance of trade, the farm bill, tariffs, and the legalization of marijuana in some states. Thank you to LaVonne Michael for helping set up the town hall. 


Visiting with Kansas High School Students
Oakley High School
I stopped at Oakley High School this week to hear from student leaders about their semester, to tour the facility and to visit several classrooms. I was especially impressed by the emphasis placed on technical and vocational education. Thank you to Principal Kristy Eberle and Superintendent Ken Bockwinkel for accommodating my visit and a special thank you to Aiden Stevenson, Jamie Kuhlman, Jordyn Lowrie and Bryce Fortin for highlighting the great things going on at Oakley High.


Ulysses High School
I enjoyed visiting Ulysses High School, where I visited with students about my role in the United States Senate in Chase Rietcheck's senior government class. We also discussed the government shutdown and DACA. During a student-led tour, we discussed entrepreneurship, technical education and college. I also had the honor to meet future Harvard graduate 16-year-old Braxton Moral. A big thanks to my Student Council tour guides, Cindy Nolasco, Slater Heglin and Enrique Garcia. Thank you to Principal Mark Paul for allowing me to visit. 


Meeting with Hiawatha Community Hospital Leadership
I visited Hiawatha Community Hospital (HCH), a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital that serves Northeast Kansas and Southeast Nebraska. HCH offers acute and swing bed services, obstetric services, surgical services, diagnostic and rehabilitation services and a 24-hour emergency department.

Among the issues I discussed with administrators and staff were rural hospitals’ need for reasonable flexibility from federal regulations to provide a full range of health services to their communities. If regulations fail to account for the realities of delivering healthcare in rural parts of the country, then patient access to care is jeopardized. Meeting with Kansas hospital administrators, physicians, nurses and other staff always provides me with useful insight on the challenges they face in caring for patients. Thanks again to HCH CEO Jeff Shelton and Chief of Staff Dr. Julie Rosa for hosting my visit.


Now Accepting Summer 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 summer 2019 session are due March 1. 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
Amy Carey of Wichita
Elisa Chavez of Russell
Stacey Foskett of Kansas City
Jules Glanzer of Hillsboro
Alysha Nichols if Kansas City
Kim Sill of Olathe
Terrie VanZandt Travis of Overland Park

Capitol Tour
Clinton Strahm of Bern
Kristi Strahm of Bern

Ducks Unlimited
Mike Bulk of Seneca
David Paul of Kingman
Mark Schlegel of Kingman

Kansas Association of School Boards
Keaton Blake of Assaria
Keith Blake of Assaria
Lori Blake of Assaria
LeEtta Felter of Olathe
Leah Fliter of Manhattan
Cooper McGowan of Ellsworth
Gina McGowan of Ellsworth
Heather Ousley of Merriam
Sabina Perry of Lawrence
Thea Perry of Lawrence
Rod Stewart of Washington
Ryan Stewart of Washington

Kansas Bankers Association
Chris Donnelly of Olathe
Kurt Knutson of Overland Park
Doug Wareham of Topeka

Kansas Chapter of the United Postal Managers of America
Albert Bacastow of Arkansas City
Deborah Dressman of Alta Vista
Bob Mikulecky of Manhattan
Vicki Mikulecky of Manhattan
Debbie Wright of Council Grove

Kansas County and District Attorney’s Association
Marc Bennett of Sedgwick County
Charles Branson of Douglas County
Steve Howe of Johnson County
Mike Kagay of Shawnee County
Todd Thompson of Leavenworth County

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Americans/KSU
Trisha Gott of Manhattan
Mary Tolar of Manhattan
Brandon Kliewer of Manhattan
Kaitlin Long of Manhattan

National Federation of the Blind
Tom Anderson of Overland Park
Rosa Bonnecarrere of Lawrence
Renee Morgan of Lawrence
Ashley Neybert of Overland Park
Tom Page of Wichita
Nicole Taylor of Wichita

National Sorghum Producers
Dan Atkisson of Stockton
John Bergkamp of Garden Plain
Jon Berning of Scott City
Matthew Davis of Manhattan
Jaden Devore of Cheney
Amy France of Marienthal
Jace Gibbs of Dighton
Larry Kendig of Osborne
Cole Rohr of Quinter
Lance Russel of Hays
Devin Schierling of Moundridge
Jim Sipes of Manter
Jesse McCurry of Colwich
Craig Meeker of Wellington
Tony Watson of Healy
Kent Winter of Mount Hope

US Canola Association
Tyson Good of Dodge City
Mike Stamm of Manhattan

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,

Newsletter Sign-up Form

Note: Fields marked with an * are required.