Kansas Common Sense
Apr 05 2021
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.
Wishing You a Happy Easter
I hope you and your family celebrated a meaningful and happy Easter. Robba and I participated in a service at Manhattan’s First Presbyterian Church. I hope for brighter days ahead and was thankful for the moments of reflection this day of worship and prayer allowed.
Opposing Undermining of Private Property Rights
This week, I expressed my strong opposition to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland regarding any plan that would undermine private property rights under the Biden administration’s 30 by 30 initiative to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and 30 percent of U.S. waters by 2030. I called on Secretary Haaland to consider how this initiative could impact Kansans as recommendations are developed, and urged the Biden administration to provide Congress with additional details on how it plans to pursue the 30 by 30 initiative.
Kansans are rightfully alarmed about possible implications for private property owners of any federal mandate to set aside vast swaths of land in response to this executive order. In addition to being troubled about diminishing private property rights, I am concerned that taking farm and ranch land out of production will damage local and regional economies across Kansas. Agricultural and energy production is the most common use of private lands in Kansas, driving the state’s economy and providing jobs and economic opportunities in rural communities. It is critical for the Biden administration to uphold the integrity of private property rights and recognize the important economic contributions of agricultural and energy production on our lands. Since over 98 percent of land in Kansas is privately owned, private property rights are critical for our state and will continue to be a significant priority of mine in Congress.
Improving Local and Regional Airports
Hearing from Airport Leaders Regarding the Ongoing Impacts Caused by COVID-19
This week, I visited Hays Regional Airport to hear from Airport Manager Jamie Salter regarding the impact the pandemic has had on their operation and view the structures they have remodeled recently to protect their staff from COVID-19. I recently announced a $1 million FAA grant for this airport supported by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, which I voted for and was signed into law in December 2020. Airports across the nation have struggled as travel was limited during the pandemic, but I was pleased to hear additional flights returned to service in Hays at the beginning of the year.
Hays Regional airport is utilized by many local businesses for general aviation, and the airport is important for their continued success. I appreciated hearing from Alan Moore, Marty Patterson and Jason Staab with local businesses about how important general aviation is to the region and from Fix Based Operator Chris Springer.
It was also helpful to hear from Mayor Sandy Jacobs, Vice Mayor Mason Ruder, City Manager Toby Dougherty, Assistant City Manager Collin Bielser and City Commissioner Shaun Musil about the impact the airport has on the area and the initiatives they are focusing on in Hays. Thank you to each of them for sharing their experiences and thoughts with me.
Read more about my visit here in the Hays Daily News.
Visiting Garden City Regional Airport
I also visited Garden City Regional Airport (GCK) where I met with Director of Aviation Rachelle Powell to discuss how COVID-19 has affected their operations, flight schedules and passenger levels. Regional economies across Kansas rely on the aviation industry and airports like Garden City in order to connect Kansas communities across the state and nation.
Earlier this month, I introduced legislation to allow retired FAA controllers to work at federal contract towers without facing a financial penalty, and Garden City is among eight contract towers in Kansas this legislation would affect. Thank you to Airport Advisory Board members and frequent flyers Charlie Robinson and Aaron Anderson, Director of Public Utilities Mike Muirhead, Garden City Chamber of Commerce President Myca Bunch, County Commissioners Larry Jones, Lon Pishny, Manny Ortiz, Shannon Dick, local leaders Janene Radke and Cecelia Douglass, and Garden City Chief of Police Courtney Prewitt for joining me. Read more here from KSN.
Announcing $17 Million in Grants for Kansas Regional Airports
This week, I announced over $17 million in U.S. Department of Transportation grants for 28 Kansas regional airports for repairs and upgrades. These regular cycle grants are part of the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that the Department of Transportation awards annually, and they help local airports bring economic opportunities and critical resources to communities across Kansas.
- Abilene Municipal Airport: $80,000
- Amelia Earhart Airport: $600,000
- Anthony Municipal Airport: $150,000
- Atkinson Municipal Airport: $180,000
- Augusta Municipal Airport: $685,000
- Augusta Municipal Airport: $150,000
- Augusta Municipal Airport: $406,000
- Blosser Municipal Airport: $283,500
- Clay Center Municipal Airport: $328,500
- Coffeyville Municipal Airport: $600,000
- Elkhart-Morton County Airport: $526,500
- Garden City Regional Airport: $1,900,000
- Goodland Municipal Airport: $3,046,867 (Renner Field)
- Goodland Municipal Airport: $100,000 (Renner Field)
- Hays Regional Airport: $1,121,400
- Hays Regional Airport: $266,400
- Hill City Municipal Airport: $571,964
- Hutchinson Regional Airport: $247,500
- Independence Municipal Airport: $565,446
- Kansas Department of Transportation: $953,750
- Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport: $380,000
- Marysville Municipal Airport: $600,000
- McPherson Airport: $241,900
- Medicine Lodge Airport: $212,940
- Ness City Municipal Airport: $600,000
- Norton Municipal Airport: $477,000
- Osage City Municipal Airport: $275,000
- Ottawa Municipal Airport: $555,946
- Stanton County Municipal Airport: $180,000
- Strother Field Airport: $149,400
- Topeka Regional Airport: $842,700
- Tribune Municipal Airport: $450,000
It is vital for Kansans to have efficient ways to reach and connect with the rest of the world, and these grants are an investment into the future of our rural airports.
Meeting with Law Enforcement Officials
Announcing the Results of Operation Frontier Justice
I was in Topeka on Monday for a press conference to discuss the success of Operation Frontier Justice – a national initiative focused on reducing violent crime. Together, law enforcement helped address the rise in violent crimes that were occurring in the Topeka area, including more than 100 felony arrests and seizures of illegal narcotics. The operation was carried out in close collaboration with numerous government agencies including the United States Marshal Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Topeka Police Department, Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, Shawnee County District Attorney, Kansas Highway Patrol and the United States Attorney’s Office.
I want to especially thank U.S. Marshal Ron Miller, Shawnee County Sheriff Brian Hill and Topeka Police Chief Bryan Wheeles for their work in making this operation a success. I will continue to support law enforcement at the federal and local level to make certain they have the resources they need to keep our communities safe.
Read more about the success of this operation here in The Topeka Capital-Journal.
Meeting with New Police Chiefs Across Kansas
I was pleased to meet three new police chiefs across the state this week. I want to thank Great Bend Police Chief Steve Haulmark, Garden City Police Chief Courtney Prewitt and Olathe Police Chief Mike Butaud for taking the time to meet with me to discuss public safety within each of their communities. Each individual brings a diverse and important perspective to the communities they serve. As the lead Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Department of Justice, I have made it my priority to make certain that local police departments across Kansas have the resources they need to protect our communities. I look forward to continuing to meet with law enforcement officers across the state. I thank them for their service to their communities and all they do to keep their fellow Kansans safe.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Reinstates Full, Seven-Day Service
This week, I met with City Manager Matt Allen and city, county and economic development officials at the depot in Garden City to discuss passenger ridership and Amtrak’s move to reinstate full service to its Southwest Chief passenger line, which is anticipated for May 31. I have long been an advocate of the Southwest Chief and supporter of long-distance passenger rail. Since the onset of the pandemic, I have been in contact with Amtrak leaders regarding the company’s plan to ultimately restore daily long-distance passenger services knowing how valuable the Southwest Chief is to Kansans and will remain in contact with Amtrak as they move toward the May 31 date.
Our conversation provided a useful reminder of how essential long-distance passenger service routes like the Chief are for connecting rural Kansas communities to major cities and economic opportunities. Thank you to Matt Allen, Garden City officials, Finney County officials and the Garden City Chamber for the discussion. Read more about my visit to Garden City here in the Garden City Telegram.
Protecting Veterans from Disruptions to Telehealth Services
This week, I joined U.S. Representative Mike Bost, as ranking members of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees, in urging Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough to find a solution that will ensure veterans in California are not negatively impacted by California’s new law, the Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018. Currently, mobile carriers have agreements with the VA to provide VA Video Connect services to veterans at a reduced cost. These telehealth services provide care for veterans who are unable to receive VA health care in person. Under California’s new law, these sort of agreements between mobile careers and the VA could be prohibited, disrupting service to veterans.
Due to the complexities involved with a service that is not limited to state boundaries, this provision in California’s law has the potential to negatively impact the ability of mobile carriers to continue providing VA Video Connect services to veterans not only in that state but across the country. Click here to read the full letter.
Vaccine Production in Kansas
Visiting Pfizer’s McPherson Manufacturing Site
While in McPherson this week, I visited the Pfizer manufacturing site to tour the facility and meet with local leadership.
It is great to see the incredible work Kansans are doing to produce the COVID-19 vaccine for our country and the world. Thank you to Pfizer McPherson Site Leader Ian MacKellar for the tour and update, as well as McPherson Mayor Tom Brown for joining us.
Local Pharmacies Facilitate the Vaccination Process and Returning to Normal
Following my visit to Pfizer, I stopped by the local Walgreens in McPherson where the pharmacy was hosting a Health Equity COVID-19 clinic vaccinating Kansans with the Pfizer vaccine. It was great to speak with Walgreens Health Care Supervisor Brad Seiler and Store Manager Larry Showalter about their extended hours, increasing accessibility to the vaccine for local residents, as well as their rapid testing program. As we continue to focus on getting more shots in more arms, familiar and convenient access points like local pharmacies play a key role in helping us return to normal.
Meeting with Western Plains Medical in Dodge City
This week, I also visited Western Plains Medical Complex in Dodge City where hospital administrators updated me on their COVID-19 vaccination process at the hospital and across rural southwest Kansas. The facility was among the first to receive early Pfizer vaccine shipments in December 2020, and I was able to see how the facility has since set up its clinic to vaccinate Ford County residents. We also discussed my recent bill to vaccinate veterans and their spouses and the importance of accessible rural health care, especially as communities across Kansas continue their vaccine rollout.
Thank you to Assistant Administrator Jeremy Rabe, as well as Chamber President Anna Bjerken, Ford County Economic Development Director Joann Knight and Western Plains CFO Mark Murray for taking time to visit with me as they continue to work to get Kansans vaccinated.
Meeting with The University of Kansas Health System Leaders in Topeka
I met with leadership at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus in Topeka and toured their new Cancer Center and Emergency Department. Both the Cancer Center and Emergency Department were very impressive, especially the new Linear Accelerator which will be operational this spring. It was also great to see how they have adapted their emergency room so they can continue to safely see patients during the pandemic.
We also discussed the importance of telehealth, vaccine distribution and NIH research, and I’m pleased they are able to recruit some of the best doctors in the country to The University of Kansas Health System. Through their efficient vaccine program, they are working diligently to get shots administered while also taking the necessary precautions to keep the hospital safe for patients seeking routine care.
Thank you to Steve Anderson for the tour and to all the doctors and nurses who continue to go above and beyond to care for Kansans during the pandemic.
Salina’s Ashby House Aids and Empowers Homeless Individuals and Families
I visited the Ashby House in Salina this week, a non-profit founded in 1992 that assists homeless families and helps individuals get back on their feet. Ashby House is Salina’s only full time emergency shelter for women and families and accepts anyone in search of safe housing at any time of the day or night. Ashby House also offers onsite education courses, works with residents to reach personal goals and connects its residents to employment opportunities. In addition to the housing services the emergency shelter provides, Ashby House runs a sober living program to offer care to women addicted to drugs and alcohol and provides a stable living environment during their treatment.
Thank you to Ashby House Executive Director Andy Houltberg, Mayor of Salina Melissa Hodges and President Jessica Martin of Salina Greater Community Foundation for joining me to learn more about this organization’s work to empower those in need of shelter and treatment. Read more about my visit and the Ashby House’s programs here in the Salina Journal.
Discussing the Importance of Accessible Community College Education
While I was in Garden City this week, I visited with Garden City Community College (GCCC) President Dr. Ryan Ruda. We talked about the importance of an accessible community college education, and we also discussed Federal Pell Grants’ eligibility extension. I am impressed by the leadership Dr. Ruda provides to GCCC, especially as he has guided the college throughout the uncertainty of this last year, which has been difficult for all higher education institutions. GCCC is dedicated to providing an engaging learning experience for all of its students, and I thank Dr. Ruda for his commitment to GCCC and for speaking with me while I was in town.
Speaking with Sublette Rotary Club
I spent the afternoon in Sublette on Wednesday to speak with the local Rotary Club and members of the public about the issues important to southwest Kansas. I always find it helpful to hear about what is happening in local communities firsthand and these forums create productive discussion. I also provided an update on federal topics like H.R. 1, H.R. 5, gun control legislation, the filibuster, infrastructure and discussed the importance of veteran community care options.
Thank you to Janie Welsh for the invitation and Bob Moore for the kind introduction.
Honoring the Women of the Six-Triple-Eight
After returning home from WWII, members of the Six-Triple-Eight—the only all-African American, all-female battalion to serve overseas during WWII—went decades without recognition.
These brave women—including Elizabeth Barker Johnson (1920-2020), Indiana Hunt-Martin (1922-2020), Maybelle Rutland Campbell (1921-2021) and Deloris L. Ruddock (1921-2021)—should be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, legislation I introduced last month. Click here or below to listen to their story. I also encourage you to share this video with your friends and family so more people know their story and we can honor their service.
Remembering America’s Vietnam Veterans
On March 29, 1973, the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam disestablished, marking what is now Vietnam War Veterans Day. Join me in recognizing the service of the nine million men and women, more than six million of whom are living today, who served in active duty during the Vietnam War. I thank them and their families for their service and sacrifice.
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.
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