Kansas Common Sense
Sep 05 2023
Wishing Kansans a Happy Labor Day
Kansas is home to hard workers and major industries that support agriculture, aviation, health, science and more across our nation and the world. Thank you to all who contribute to make Kansas a great state to work, live and raise a family.
Miles Across Kansas
While traveling across Kansas during the August Work Period, I added almost 6600 miles to my truck. Thank you to all the Kansans I met with during my time back home.
Hosting the Secretary of the Army in Kansas
On Wednesday, I had the honor of hosting Army Secretary Christine Wormuth at Fort Riley. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and the co-chair of the Senate Army Caucus, I invited Secretary Wormuth to Fort Riley to tour the newly renovated barracks and see firsthand the incredible work being done by our soldiers and community leaders.
Helicopter Tour of Fort Riley
We started at Forbes Field in Topeka where we took a helicopter to view the 90,000 acres of readily available training land at Fort Riley. This was an opportunity for Major General Meyer and I highlighted the vast training capability of Fort Riley to the Secretary.
Lunch with NCOs
The Secretary and I then had a lunch meeting with several senior NCOs at Fort Riley. The conversation was enlightening and timely, especially given that we are in the Year of the NCO. We heard first-hand from senior NCOs about their challenges due to the current force structure crisis. These include a high operational tempo, maintenance and manning backlog, and grade-mix challenges due to the high rate of NCO promotions to fill needed positions. I'm grateful to the NCOs for their candid insights and for sharing not just a meal, but invaluable experiences that will help guide our future efforts.
SHARP Fusion Center
After lunch we had the opportunity to visit the SHARP Fusion Center at Fort Riley. Fort Riley is just one of seven installations involved in this valuable pilot program, which kicked off on April of 2022 with a victim-centric model. The center is strategically located to be accessible and co-located with resources and support services. Its comprehensive approach integrates medical, investigative, legal, and support services in a central location, independent of the victim's immediate command.
The main focus of our visit to Fort Riley was to tour the newly renovated barracks and learn more about the plans for additional construction and renovations. I was very impressed with the configuration and the initiative by Fort Riley to ensure the quality of life of its soldiers is not forgotten. The renovation of the existing barracks to increase connectivity within the post's units exemplifies how U.S. soldiers should be supported to the rest of the country. In FY2023, I helped secured $15.9 million to begin planning and designing for more unaccompanied barracks at Fort Riley, maintaining this same quality and safety standard. When complete, these new barracks will complement the existing ones and support future missions at Fort Riley.
Training with Estonian Soldiers
Secretary Wormuth and I also visited with Estonian soldiers training at Fort Riley. The First Infantry Division is central to the United States' European mission including training Estonian soldiers. This mission fosters relationships with our international partners and assures our partners and allies of continued U.S. commitment to global security.
Reception with Community Leaders
A critical factor that makes Fort Riley one of the best posts in the country is the support from the local community and the Secretary’s visit ended with a reception highlighting the Fort Riley community. The incredible showing of support for the Secretary sends a clear message to the Army – Fort Riley soldiers and their families are supported and will receive whatever support is needed from the surrounding community.
I want to thank Secretary Wormuth for her willingness to visit Fort Riley and meet the leaders, soldiers and community members that make it a special location in the Army. I would also like to thank Major General Meyer and the Fort Riley team for their hospitality and continued service to our great nation.
Finding Common Ground over Quivira Water Rights
This week, I wrote an op-ed for the Great Bend Tribune addressing the growing uncertainty and significant impact the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge has on rural Kansas communities and the agricultural economy.
If FWS moves ahead to secure water rights, their action could retire critical junior water rights in the Rattlesnake Basin. This means nearly 800 water rights may be shut off by FWS’s action. Farm income modeling indicates the loss of irrigation will result in significant damage to the Kansas economy. Using corn grown in Pratt as an example, and knowing agricultural production has a 1.72 multiplier effect on economic output, even a 60 percent reduction in planted irrigated acres of corn will result in over $41 million in lost economic activity. Extrapolating these numbers among commodity and livestock production in all eight GMD5 counties would mean the potential loss of hundreds, if not a billion dollars in lost economic activity. That drop in economic activity also erodes the tax base, lowers school enrollment and harms local businesses.
FWS’s actions will have a negative impact on not just the eight counties making up the Big Bend Groundwater Management District 5 (GMD5) but on the greater agricultural economy, the backbone of our state’s economic activity.
The state of Kansas recently put a significant amount of resources behind showing businesses like Panasonic, Integra, and Hilmar the benefits of building in Kansas. For as important as it was for the state to support the estimated $2.5 billion in economic impact derived from the Panasonic project, state leadership cannot ignore the significant contribution to the Kansas economy generated by farmers and ranchers in GMD5.
Given the significant impact to farmers, ranchers, local communities and the state economy, it is critical FWS withdraw its request for water and adhere to the Memorandum of Agreement established in 2020. I will continue working with local stakeholders and state leaders to find a solution that works for everyone.
Read my full op-ed in the Great Bend Tribune, here.
EPA’s WOTUS Ruling
The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in May was a victory for our farmers, ranchers and landowners. However, EPA refused to consider public input, and propagated a revised WOTUS rule which fails to address certain property rights issues related to the Clean Water Act raised by the court. The Biden administration’s overreach and failure to follow the court’s direction only causes more years of uncertainty for Americans.
Groundbreaking Ceremony for Secure Semiconductor Manufacturing Ceremony in Burlington
On Friday, I was the keynote speaker for the groundbreaking ceremony for Secure Semiconductor Manufacturing in Coffey County. Secure Semiconductor Manufacturing, or SSM, is a Kentucky-based semiconductor company that will be locating in Coffey County as part of EMP Shield-anchored semiconductor cluster. SSM’s 30,000 sq. ft. facility at the Coffey County Airport will primarily supply components to EMP Shield.
Friday’s event highlighted the importance of bringing semiconductor supply chains back to America for both our economic and national security. Semiconductors are critical components of a vast number of consumer and military products, and the U.S. must not rely on countries like China for a universally important resource. This is one of the reasons I supported the CHIPS and Science Act last Congress, a bill which will help restore our semiconductor manufacturing capacity and increase federal research and development spending in Kansas and similar states across the country. As the lead Republican on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to make certain federal agencies are implementing the CHIPS and Science Act appropriately and look forward to continuing my support of Coffey County’s semiconductor efforts.
Thank you to Coffey County Economic Development Director Bobby Skipper for the invitation to speak at this event and to Kansas Senator Michael Fagg and Representative Eric Smith for joining me in welcoming Secure Semiconductor Manufacturing to Kansas.
Touring FHSU Farm and Indoor Rodeo Arena
On Monday, I was at Fort Hays State University and toured the Riegel Animal Science Laboratory and the indoor rodeo arena. At the lab I received an update on the planned renovation of the facility, which includes a dedicated classroom space. At the indoor rodeo arena, I saw firsthand the needs of the facility and their efforts to make it a safer environment for both the rodeo team and their animals. It was great to hear more about FHSU’s goals to serve students and expose them to hands on learning so they are career ready and can immediately thrive after graduation. I was also pleased to see how FHSU both the farm and rodeo facilities will benefit the local and regional communities. Thank you to Dr. Grady Dixon, Dr. Sophie Ano and Jason Williby for the tour and update on both the lab and the rodeo arena.
Recognizing D-J Engineering as a NASA Artemis Supplier
Kansas manufacturers play a critical role in space exploration, and on Tuesday I was able to recognize D-J Engineering – one of the 16 Kansas companies that help supply parts for NASA and contributed to the successful launch of Artemis I. I was pleased to host Jim Free, the lead of NASA’s Artemis missions, in Kansas so he could see the great work being done at D-J Engineering and personally thank the men and women responsible for manufacturing the necessary components.
It takes a team to successfully launch a rocket, and every member in the supply chain, including those in Kansas, is a part of the Artemis team. As the lead Republican on the Appropriation Subcommittee that provides resources to NASA, I look forward to continuing to support the Artemis Mission and Kansas companies like D-J Engineering. Thank you to D-J Engineering and Boeing for helping host NASA leaders in Kansas.
Announcing Federal Investment for Hutchinson Community College
On Thursday, I announced a $3 million federal investment for expansion of Hutchinson Community College’s (HCC) Nursing Program. The funding will allow HCC to train and graduate up to 20 additional nursing students per year to address the critical shortage of health care workers in south central Kansas. A special thanks to President Carter File and his HCC team for their leadership in making certain students receive a quality education to prepare them for a successful future while at the same time identifying workforce needs in the community and filling those gaps.
Thank you also to Hutchinson Regional Medical Center Interim CEO Nick Baldetti and his team for hosting our announcement and partnering with HCC on this project. I appreciate Reno County Commissioner John Whitesell, Reno County Administrator Randy Partington, and Hutchinson Interim City Manager Mary Grace Clements for joining us to celebrate this important occasion.
Visiting Victoria High School
This week I received a tour of Victoria High School led by six outstanding students: Seth Schwien, Brody Brungardt, Gracie Sterling, Brinly Lichter, Shelby Dorzweiler, and Emma Dinkel. During the tour, these students shared their appreciation for the diverse class choices available to them and they emphasized how the school's access to technology empowered them to explore courses and subjects that fit their their individual interests. One of the highlights of the tour was a conversation with Mr. Ken Schoenrock, a teacher at Victoria High School. Mr. Schoenrock told me about the opportunities students have to learn about web design and cyber security. A special thanks to Principal Kim Woolf and all the faculty, staff, and students at Victoria High School for the opportunity to stop by for a visit.
Touring Flint Hills Technical College
On Friday I stopped in Emporia for a tour of the Flint Hills Technical College (FHTC) Campus with President Dr. Caron Daugherty. Before the tour, I had the opportunity to visit with local industry leaders who hire FHTC graduates. Joey LeMay, Senior Director of Operations for Simmons Foods and an alumni of FHTC, shared how Simmons works with FHTC to develop the college’s manufacturing engineering program to better adapt to the needs of employers like Simmons so graduates leave FHTC prepared to work with the most cutting edge technology in the industry. Jelinda Watts, Director of Customer Care for ValueNet Fiber shared with me how a recent FHTC graduate has saved her organization thousands of dollars by providing in-house technical troubleshooting as opposed to having to hire an outside technician. Chuck Scott, President of the Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas spoke about his experience with potential business developments in the region. Dan and Jan Smoots of Fanestil Meats have been hiring FHTC graduates at their business for years and they shared how much they appreciate the work ethic and respect from FHTC grads. Thank you to all of these local industry leaders for taking time out of their day to share with me their experience working with FHTC and the quality education that they provide to students and members of the workforce in the Emporia area.
Meeting the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team
While touring the FHTC campus with Dr. Daugherty, we had the good fortune of catching the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team during their meeting on campus. The 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year, Brian Skinner and the Regional Teachers of the Year, Jessica Gazzano, Pamela Munoz, Jaimie Swindler, Erica Huggard, Kendal Norberg, Carly Torres and ?Mallory Keefe allowed me the interrupt their meeting to say thank you for the extremely important work that they do each and every day. Lives are changed one person at a time and in no other profession is that more apparent than in teaching.
My tour at FHTC reminded me of the importance of education at all levels and how vital technical colleges like FHTC are for communities like Emporia. Thank you to Dr. Daugherty for the tour and to all of the individuals who took time out of their day to visit with me in Emporia.
Now Accepting 2023 Service Academy Applications
Applications are now open for students to apply to a United States Service Academy for the Class of 2028. One of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator is appointing Kansans to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.
For the list of requirements and to apply, you can visit my website here. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by Friday, September 1, 2023. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board
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.
Very truly yours,
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