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.

Kansas Company Receives FDA Approval for Rapid Testing

On Friday, a Kansas company received Emergency Use Authorization from the US. Food and Drug Administration for their saliva-based COVID-19 tests that can be completed at home. This just approved COVID-19 test will be utilized by our universities to widely test their student bodies in a manner that will allow them to safely reopen their campuses to students. After touring the Kansas testing facility, I worked with the FDA to quickly get this test approved in time for the scheduled reopening of our schools. This type of accurate, fast and easy-to-use testing is crucial not only for our universities, but also the safe reopening of all public spaces.

As their capacity increases, more Kansans will have access to fast and easy results, marking a huge step forward in being able to continue safely reopening our economy and returning to normal.

Read more here from KNSS Radio.

Introducing Toby Crouse to the Senate Judiciary Committee

On Wednesday, I had the honor of introducing Toby Crouse of Galva to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Toby was nominated by President Trump to serve as a federal judge for the United States Federal District Court for the District of Kansas.

A fellow graduate of the University of Kansas Law School, Toby Crouse is a talented lawyer and a well-qualified nominee for the U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Kansas. Toby has gained valuable experience in private practice as a clerk for Tenth Circuit Judge Mary Briscoe and as the State of Kansas Solicitor General where he assisted Attorney General Derek Schmidt in arguing three Supreme Court cases which all occurred in a 30-day time span. I am confident Toby understands and has a commitment to both the law and the people of Kansas, and I urged my colleagues to quickly move his nomination.

Condemning Destruction in Portland & Other Cities

Over the past several months, our nation has witnessed disturbing acts of destruction and lawlessness in cities such as Portland, Oregon that are far-flung from the peaceful protests our Constitution protects. I believe we must listen and learn from the Kansans and Americans who have or are still experiencing injustices to determine the right path forward and create a more perfect union. However, violent and destructive behavior is unacceptable and only undermines the ongoing efforts in this country to engage in important dialogue about social justice and police reform.

Speaking with Secretary Chao Regarding Investment in Kansas Infrastructure

On Thursday, I spoke with the Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao on the importance of BUILD grants to the state of Kansas. The BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grant program allows for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that have a significant local or regional impact. Particularly as our communities have been hit hard by COVID-19, these BUILD grants are vital to providing the resources needed for updating our local infrastructure. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Chao throughout this important process.

Discussing the Challenges and Opportunities of Telehealth

On Wednesday, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee conducted a hearing on the opportunities and limitations of VA telehealth, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. As the VA and our health systems have adapted to the needs of the moment and rapidly expanded the use of telemedicine, it is important that we evaluate what we have learned and take steps to map the way forward for the continued utilization of telehealth. While this flexible and time-saving modality can be very practical at times, it cannot entirely replace the need for face-to-face medical appointments, especially in rural areas of the country without sufficient broadband coverage. I was pleased to hear more about VA’s innovative partnerships to reach rural veterans, and I will continue to monitor the progress of these initiatives and how the VA integrates a more robust use of telehealth into how we care for our veterans. As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I look forward to continue working with the VA, industry and advocacy partners, and my colleagues in Congress to make certain that the option of high-quality care via telehealth, when effective and appropriate, is available to veterans in rural America and Indian Country.

Questioning Federal Officials Regarding Protecting Kansas Consumers

On Wednesday, I questioned the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Kathleen Kraninger about consumer data protection as it relates to financial technology (fintech) companies. Many of these companies aggregate significant amounts of data from financial service platforms, typically after receiving authorization from the consumer. The number of people using fintech companies has grown significantly over the years, and data privacy and security must be a high priority. In many instances, consumers have access to and the ability to leverage the data in their financial records, subject to CFPB rules and regulation. Last week, the CFPB announced they started the rulemaking process related to third-party access to consumers’ financial account data. I asked Director Kraninger about the goals of CFPB in this process to mitigate risks to consumers’ data, and what fintech companies are doing to mitigate these risks. I will continue to work with the CFPB and my Senate colleagues to ensure that Americans’ data is secure.

Announcing Several FAA Grants for Kansas Airports

Whether large or small, Kansas airports play an important role in the commerce and travel of our state. This week, I was pleased to announce that over $4.6 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration were awarded to the Manhattan Regional, Garnett Municipal, Newton City-County Airport and Lt. William M. Milliken Airports (details below). The grants will help upgrade the runways and surrounding areas to increase the airports’ efficiency and support Kansas’ aviation industry.

  • Manhattan Regional Airport received $3,190,862 to upgrade the runway.
  • Lt. William M. Milliken Airport in Eureka received $555,555 to upgrade the runway.
  • Newton-City-County Airport received $569,526 to rebuild the airport taxiway.
  • Garnett Municipal Airport received $326,000 to rebuild the airport apron.

Touring Newton City-County Airport

On Friday, I met with local officials at the Newton City-County Airport and announced an over $500,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help reconstruct the airport taxiway. With over $150 million dollars in annual economic impact, the Newton airport is one of the top producing air facilities in the state. In addition, it was great to see multiple construction projects in the industrial park which will result in nearly 200 new jobs. I appreciated the conversation with Airport Director Brian Palmer and Harvey County Commissioner Chip Westfall about their views of how the FAA could reduce red tape and better promote general aviation in Kansas. Thanks to Newton City Manager Kelly McElroy for coordinating my visit.

Read more about my visit here in the Newton Kansan.

Discussing Drug Trafficking in Kansas with the DEA

On Tuesday, I hosted a meeting with law enforcement officials from the DEA to discuss efforts to stop the flow of illegal drugs into our state. Far too many lives in Kansas have been lost or devastated by addiction and the violence associated with drug trafficking. I am pleased that the DEA has increased assistance to Kansas over the past several months with a particular focus on methamphetamine and investigative support for state and local law enforcement agencies across the state. We discussed their appropriations requests as I chair the committee which provides funding to the Department of Justice, and the meeting highlighted the importance of partnerships as we work together to make our communities safe, healthy and drug-free.

Participating in the USMA Board of Visitors Meeting

On Wednesday, I participated in the West Point Board of Visitors Summer session in my role as a member of the West Point Board of Visitors. The Board of Visitors consists of select Members of Congress and Presidential appointees who work with the institution to make certain that the cadets at West Point are receiving the education they need to lead our nation’s Army. 

Some of the topics we discussed included what the academy learned from conducting a graduation ceremony and welcoming the freshman class to campus under the pandemic conditions. We encouraged West Point to share these lessons more broadly with school systems around the country. We also discussed the Confederate symbols at West Point and learned how the academy plans to reconcile its history and monuments with its commitment to treating all cadets and soldiers with dignity and respect. I am impressed with the way that the faculty, staff and students at West Point are handling these turbulent times, and I am confident that West Point will lead the way in developing solutions for these difficult problems, as they have with many other issues that impact our society. I look forward to reviewing their progress when we meet again in the fall.

Visiting with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas

On Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting with both the leadership and board members of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas, as well as representatives of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. We discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their organization and how they are responding and adapting to a world with limited in-person contact. For nearly 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has played an important role in our communities by providing mentorship to youth who often face overwhelming adversity.

Each year, their one-on-one mentoring program provides thousands of young Kansans with positive role models and friends for them to lean on and learn from. These relationships are even more important during this pandemic. In a time when children are not in school and are staying home, a call from their Big is often the highlight of their day. As the nation continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, I remain committed to assisting Big Brothers Big Sisters and other youth serving organizations in their work to provide so many young Americans with positive influences and better opportunities. Thank you Big Brothers Big Sisters President and CEO Mary Shannon, former CEO Dan Soliday and board members Brandon Russell, Erika Turner, Steve Felimeier, Tom Gentile, James Nastars, Marty Cornejo and Joe Johnson for joining me, and all who are involved for your dedication to making a better life for so many.

If you are interested in getting involved in BBBS, please visit their website here.

Meeting with American AgCredit in Wichita

On Friday afternoon, I was invited to hear from staff at American AgCredit in northwest Wichita. It was emphasized that the agriculture industry has seen great change during the pandemic. They have experienced large hurdles like rural broadband connectivity and low commodity prices, but it was impressed upon me that our agriculture providers have quickly adapted and utilized technology to more effectively produce our food. It was clear to me that it is far too difficult for our farmers and ranchers to get credit, and I believe it is vital that our government not impair investments in our family farms. Thanks to American AgCredit Leadership for hosting me and providing insightful conversation.

Stopping by McCarthy’s Auto Group

On Thursday, I stopped by McCarthy’s Auto Group to speak with John McCarthy and his leadership team. I spoke with John several months ago as the COVID-19 pandemic had just started to impact our state. It was good to hear an update of how the federal relief packages have allowed him to keep his employees on the payroll and discuss the importance of safely reopening our economy. Thank you to John and his team for taking the time to speak with me.

Liftoff! NASA’s Perseverance Rover Heads to Mars

On Thursday, I stopped by McCarthy’s Auto Group to speak with John McCarthy and his leadership team. I spoke with John several months ago as the COVID-19 pandemic had just started to impact our state. It was good to hear an update of how the federal relief packages have allowed him to keep his employees on the payroll and discuss the importance of safely reopening our economy. Thank you to John and his team for taking the time to speak with me.

NASA and SpaceX also had an eventful weekend with the return of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken from the International Space Station. They splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday – the first U.S. splashdown in 45 years. Congratulations to NASA and SpaceX on a successful mission and welcome home to Astronauts Hurley and Behnken!

Celebrating Senators Bob and Elizabeth Dole’s Birthday
On Thursday, I joined a virtual event to celebrate the birthdays of Senators Bob and Elizabeth Dole. They both have contributed greatly to Kansas and exemplify the very best of our nation. Sen. Bob Dole served 27 years as a United States Senator for Kansas, over a decade as the Senate Majority Leader and later was a pivotal force in the creation the National World War II Memorial at which he (prior to coronavirus) regularly welcomes Honor Flights from Kansas. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, also served in the Senate and was a champion for many safety laws. She was the president of the Red Cross until 1999 and started the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to help care for military families. They are both great Americans, and I was pleased they could be celebrated for their great work by leaders from across our nation and their friends.

Recognizing my 2020 Summer Interns
This summer, eleven impressive young students dedicated their summer vacation to working on behalf of Kansans in my office. It was during my internship in Congress that I became interested in public service, and I appreciate these interns choosing to serve their fellow Kansans this summer. Our interns come from all over the Kansas and beyond and are some of the finest young people this country has to offer. I appreciate their hard work and ability to adapt to the unusual circumstances surrounding COVID-19, and I am proud to have them on my team this summer.

Thank you Emily of Overland Park, Tatum of Wamego, Bradly of Fort Hays and Osceola, Nebraska, Peter of Overland Park, Matt of Olathe, Trey of Stockton, Nick of Overland Park, Adam of Hutchison, Sarah of Paradise, Tim of Howard and Tel of Holton. I have appreciated the opportunity to get to know each of you this summer. For more information regarding my intern program, please click here.

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.

Newsletter Sign-up Form

Note: Fields marked with an * are required.