Kansas Common Sense

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Honoring Our Nation’s Veterans
Recognizing Veteran’s Day
As we come together as a nation to recognize Veterans Day, we honor the incredible sacrifices men and women in uniform have made on behalf of our nation and for our freedom. America has been made exceptional by the enduring courage and bravery of our troops, who have waged war against our adversaries so that our country and world could remain more peaceful. We also are called today to rededicate ourselves to make certain that veterans are treated with the care and respect they deserve following their service to our nation, and I hope we all take time to reflect on the profound impact of our servicemembers, past and present. To all those who have served our country: thank you, we respect you and we love you. To watch a video message to our nation’s veterans, click here.
Discussing our Work to Support Veterans at the Washington Post
I joined my colleague, Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), this week for a Washington Post Live event, Veterans in America. During the event, Sen. Tester and I discussed issues facing our nation’s veterans as we recognize their service this Veterans Day. We primarily discussed mental health, suicide prevention and the importance of providing access to timely and quality healthcare to our heroes who deserve the best our nation has to offer.
As Members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Tester and I introduced the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act to address the increasing demand for access to mental healthcare and various resources that can saves lives. Sen. Tester and I also discussed the merits of this legislation on the live panel, which is named after a decorated Navy SEAL who lost his battle to PTSD in 2018. Our legislation would expand access to care for rural veterans using telemedicine, invest in non-VA organizations and healthcare programs, offer non-traditional mental health treatments like agritherapy, make investments in gender-specific services, and ease the transition of servicemembers into civilian life.
We also discussed the VA MISSION Act and how implementation that follows the intent of Congress will help veterans across the country access care through the VA and in the community. This landmark legislation improves access to community care for veterans and streamlines the cumbersome requirements that previously limited community care and the ability of veterans to receive quality healthcare close to home. Allowing Kansan veterans, especially rural veterans across the country, to seek care in the comfort of their community will improve the physical and mental well-being of those who selflessly served our country.
Chairing a Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing
On Wednesday, I chaired a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing that considered two nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims. This Court was established in 1988 to review decisions made by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to make certain veterans receive the care and benefits they rightfully deserve. Just last year, the Court received 6,802 cases and decided 4,842 appeals. This caseload highlights the importance of the Court and the impact its decisions have on veterans across the country. The two nominees, Scott Laurer and Grant Jaquith, have accomplished legal and military careers and will serve veterans to the best of their ability once confirmed.
Recognizing Veterans Day at the Manhattan American Legion
On Monday I joined members of the Pearce-Keller Post No. 17 of the American Legion and the Luckey Assembly Knights of Columbus in Manhattan to recognize Veterans Day. During the breakfast, it was an honor to speak to so many veterans from the across Manhattan whose dedicated service to our nation lives on through their service to the American Legion and a number of community organizations. Thank you to all those who organized the breakfast and for their continued work to honor and support our nation’s heroes.
Announcing BUILD Grants for Infrastructure Improvements in Olathe and Ellis County
Earlier this week, I was pleased to announce that a total of $16.5 million in BUILD grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation were awarded to entities in Kansas. This funding will go toward two vitally important infrastructure projects in Ellis County and Olathe, Kansas.
Ellis County
Through the BUILD Grant program, $6.5 million was provided to Ellis County for new resources to improve the Northwest Business Corridor. The resources provided in this grant will allow for increased economic development in the region and help existing businesses expand through improved infrastructure. The current roadway that is the Northwest Business Corridor was not designed for the volume or type of traffic driven by recent private-sector investment, and improvements along the corridor will help promote economic activity now and long into the future. Additionally, it will improve safety for travelers who take the corridor and increase access to businesses along the route. Click here to read more on this award.
The $10 million in funding was provided to the City of Olathe for the expansion and improvement of the I-35 and 119th Street interchange, otherwise known as the Interstate 35 and 119th Street Interchange Reconfiguration Project. One of the highest traffic volume intersections in the state, this area serves as the spine for KC’s Gateway District and the completion of these improvements will allow residents and travelers to safely and more effectively access jobs, businesses and amenities in the area. Click here to read more on this award.
Speaking with Incoming Wichita State President Dr. Jay Golden
Ahead of his arrival to campus, I visited with Dr. Jay Golden. On Monday, Dr. Golden was named the next President of Wichita State University by the Kansas Board of Regents. Dr. Golden’s background in developing partnerships between higher education and the private sector, as well as his experience growing universities, will serve Wichita State, Wichita State students and the entire region well. I look forward to work in partnership with Dr. Golden and to continue making progress on important issues facing the community.
Speaking at the KU Cancer Center’s 2019 Research Symposium
I joined researchers from the University of Kansas Cancer Center for the Center’s 2019 Research Symposium, and had the opportunity to offer remarks in support of their work which carries significant life-saving potential. In my remarks I underscored the importance of the research conducted at the KU Cancer Center, and how their work fits into, and furthers, a larger collaborative effort to defeat cancer. My efforts to increase resources available for the National Institutes of Health through the Senate Appropriations Committee is driven in large part by the progress being made at the KU Cancer Center and similar academic research institutions across the country. During his remarks, Dr. Jensen presented me with the 2019 KU Cancer Center Director's Legislator of the Year award. Thanks, Dr. Jensen, for this special recognition and for our close partnership in our work to advance medical research in the region. Robba and I are grateful for your continued friendship.
I appreciate Dr. Roy Jensen, Director of the KU Cancer Center for inviting me to speak at the Symposium, and Dr. Christopher Austin, Director of NIH’s National Cancer Center for Advancing Translational Sciences for addressing the symposium. As Congress continues to attempt to work out disagreement over appropriations bills, I’ll continue to be a strong advocate for NIH to ensure that it, and its partners like the KU Cancer Center, receive the resources necessary to continue to make strides in cancer research in a timely manner.
Meeting with the Kansas Air National Guard
On Wednesday, I met with Airmen from the 190th Air Refueling Wing, a Kansas Air National Guard unit based out of Topeka, Kansas. These “Outstanding Airmen” were chosen by their chain of command to travel to our nation’s capital to attend leadership development training and meet with national security and defense policy leaders.
These Kansas Airmen shared their work promoting mental health and suicide prevention within their units. We discussed the importance of providing a support system for our friends and colleagues who might be dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression. Suicide, especially by veterans and servicemembers, has become a national crisis so I was pleased to hear that the 190th AWR used a drill weekend to bring its Airmen together to support one another.
Spending Time with Kansas City Area Aviation Leaders
FAA Air Route Traffic Control Center
On Friday, I spent time at the FAA Air Route Traffic Control Center in Olathe. During my time here, I heard about the operations of the facility and the work that the controllers do to get over 6,000 flights safely across our region every day. During our meeting, we discussed the detrimental impacts of a government shutdown on both the center’s operations, and on their work to train air traffic controllers. I was pleased to hear their support for my legislation, the Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2019, which would prevent future shutdowns from damaging this vital industry. Thanks to National Air Traffic Controllers Association local leaders Todd Mariani, Nathan Burch and Jami Davis for their informative tour, and to FAA Air Traffic Manager Christina Calvert for her leadership of the facility.
Collins Aerospace
Following my time at the FAA Air Route Traffic Control Center, I was in Lenexas to tour Collins Aerospace. Collins is engaged in designing, manufacturing and servicing a multitude of systems and components for commercial, business and military aircraft. The men and women of their Lenexa facility produce aircraft oxygen systems and in-air beverage products, serving as a critical link in the aviation supply chain. Thanks to the many employees for taking time of their day and for their productive conversation. Thank you also to Collins Aerospace General Manager JP Foulon and General Manager of Beverage Products Sabastian Ramus for their tour.
Meeting with Members of the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce
On Thursday evening, following my return from Washington, D.C., I was in Lenexa to attend the Chamber of Commerce’s ‘After Hours’ event that brings members together informally on a regular basis. During the event, I was pleased to visit with folks and discuss our work in the Senate, as well as recent developments happening in Lenexa and across Johnson County.
Kansans in the Office
190th Air Refueling Wing, Kansas Air National Guard, Topeka
SrA Erika Essman of Topeka
SrA Matthew Ferguson of Eudora
TSgt Tyler Wilson of Topeka
American College of Cardiology
Mohammad-Ali Jazayeri of Kansas City
Steven Owens of Wichita
Association of Molecular Pathology
Sam Caughorn of Kansas City
Capitol Tour
Amy Billquist of Shawnee
Michael Billquist of Shawnee
Greg Dietz of Wichita
Helen Kovac of Junction City
John Kovac of Junction City
Close Up Foundation: Topeka Seaman High School 
Sophie Billings of Topeka
Randy Crone of Topeka
Katie Dehn of Topeka
Emma Dowd of Topeka
Lillian Fletchall of Topeka
Jace Reed of Topeka
Rachel Wilson of Topeka
Carol Webb of Overland Park
Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association
Edward Cross of Silver Lake
KU Vice Chancellor for Research
Simon Atkinson of Lawrence
Jack Cline of Lawrence
National Society of Professional Engineers
Tim Austin of Wichita
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,

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