Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you 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.
Getting our Economy Back on Track
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation called “Cut, Cap and Balance” – a responsible solution to the debt ceiling crisis, which I sponsored in the Senate. This proposal would have cut spending, capped the percentage of spending relative to gross national product, and required a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution – to force Congress to live within its means. On Friday, the Senate voted on this proposal, and I was disappointed the bill failed by a party-line vote of 51 to 46.
In addition to the principles outlined in “Cut, Cap and Balance” – I also believe there is a fourth component to getting our country back on track – which is “grow.” The government is not a creator of jobs, but Congress and the Obama Administration can create an environment where businesses can grow and start hiring again. This means reining in burdensome government regulations; replacing our convoluted tax code with one that is fair, simple and certain; opening foreign markets for American manufactured goods and agricultural products; and developing a comprehensive energy policy. Yet none of these things are being done. If Washington pursues policies focused on Cut, Cap, Balance and Grow, our country will get back on the right track and every American will have the opportunity to pursue the American dream. Click here to watch a video of my comments on the Senate floor this week on this topic.
Dodd-Frank Act: One Year Later
This week marked the one-year anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Act – a 2,300 page re-write of our financial system with 400 new regulations and mandates, whose supporters promised it would bring about tough Wall Street reform. But the legislation’s aim has missed its mark and landed squarely on Main Street, impacting community banks, business and consumers across America.
On Thursday, I attended a hearing to examine the state of the financial system on one year later. While much of the Dodd-Frank Act has yet to be finalized, uncertainty has taken hold of community banks and credit unions. A small-town banker put it plainly at a recent Senate hearing on Dodd-Frank’s impact on lending when he said: “the Act will add an additional enormous burden; it has stimulated an environment of uncertainty, and has added new risks that will inevitably translate into fewer loans.”
In Kansas, that means fewer loans to small businesses that want to expand and fewer loans to farmers and ranchers who need to fund operations through harvest. Fewer loans mean fewer jobs. It’s that simple.
Community banks are in wait-and-see mode. They know the full implementation of Dodd-Frank will be an enormous burden for them to bear. According to a survey of the Federal Register, complying with just the 10 percent of the Dodd-Frank rules already issued will require an estimated 2.2 million hours each year. 10,000 Americans would have to work all year, every year to complete all the work the rules require.
Until banks are willing and able to make prudent loans to hometown customers, jobs will not be created and our economic recovery will continue to lag. Community banks and their customers are critical to our economic recovery and I will continue to use my position on the Senate Banking Committee to make sure the law’s implementation is done carefully. Click here to watch a video of my comments about this anniversary on the Senate floor this week.
Protecting Consumers: Our Shared Goal
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – one of the key components of the Dodd-Frank Act – marked the bill’s anniversary by opening its doors for business last week. Also last week, President Obama nominated an individual, Richard Cordray, to head the Bureau. But there are real concerns the CFPB’s reach will negatively impact the daily lives of Americans, and given the Bureau’s flawed structure and lack of checks and balances, consumers will have no recourse. From debit cards to auto loans, overregulation by the CFPB would increase costs and restrict access to credit for consumers and small businesses – the very entities the agency is charged with protecting.
Two months ago, 44 senators joined me in calling for the Bureau’s leadership structure to be strengthened prior to consideration of any nominee. We asked for three specific changes: First, we asked that the single Director be replaced with a board or commission – similar to the leadership structure of most government agencies charged with financial oversight. Second, we asked that the CFPB be subject to the annual appropriations process like most federal agencies, rather than allow the Director to set their own budget. Finally, we asked that banking regulators – who oversee the safety and soundness of financial institutions – be given meaningful input into the Bureau’s operations, which would help prevent unnecessary restrictions in the availability of credit to consumers. Click here to read an opinion piece I wrote for USA Today on the importance of getting financial reform right.
Discussing Missouri River Release Schedules with the Unites States Army Corps of Engineers
On Saturday, I discussed the Missouri River release schedule with Brigadier General John McMahon who commands the Northwest Division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). General McMahon provided me with an update on the USACE’s plans regarding the elevated water levels currently being experienced along the Missouri River Basin. The lower water levels upstream in Montana and North and South Dakota are encouraging signs that communities along the river may see some relief in the coming weeks. I updated General McMahon on Kansas’ flood fight and reiterated the need to make certain that these communities continue to receive the technical and logistical support necessary to protect their homes and businesses. As the water levels along the Missouri River Basin begin to recede over the course of the next month, I remain committed to ensuring that flood protection and control remain the top priority of the USACE when managing the Missouri River. I have called upon the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to convene a hearing on the management of the river so that we can make certain that Kansas homes and businesses are afforded every protection from flooding available to the USACE.
Discussing Kansas Education Priorities With Secretary Duncan
On Thursday, I met with U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to visit about education policies affecting Kansas and our nation. During our meeting, we discussed our concerns with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) – the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education – which expired four years ago, and the prospects for reauthorizing this law. With the likelihood diminishing that Congress can overhaul the law this year, Secretary Duncan said that he may look at issuing conditional waivers from certain NCLB requirements to states. I expressed my interest in learning what specific changes Kansas and other states would have to make to their education systems in order to obtain these waivers.
As a member of the House, I opposed passage of NCLB in 2002 because I believe a “one-size-fits-all” federally-mandated approach to education is not the best approach for Kansas students, teachers or taxpayers. I explained to Secretary Duncan that Kansas schools have no problem being held accountable; they simply ask that the federal government afford them sufficient flexibility to tailor education plans to the unique needs of Kansas students.
I also updated the Secretary on some of the positive things going on with education in our state, including McPherson Unified School District 418’s efforts to implement a locally-designed innovative plan to focus on preparing students for careers and higher education. I also told him about the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) in Overland Park, which partners private industry with public education to produce personalized learning experiences for students. Click here to view a photo from my meeting with Secretary Duncan. +
LearningExpress Library Available to Kansans
In these difficult economic times, it is especially important that Kansans are aware of the wide range of educational and job/career assistance resources available to them. One of these resources is called “LearningExpress Library,” which is available through our Kansas libraries. LearningExpress Library is an extensive online educational resource that includes occupational and scholastic practice tests, skill-building courses, as well as extensive job and career assistance tools. Library users can access the LearningExpress Library by clicking on the Explore Our Resources link found at www.kslib.info and then clicking on Learning Express. Thanks to our Kansas libraries for offering Kansans this important resource.
Upcoming Listening Tour Stops
This month and next, I am continuing my statewide listening tour. Please find more information about my upcoming town hall meetings below. If you’re nearby, I encourage you to stop by and share your thoughts.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Cowley County, Arkansas City
Address: 125 North Summit
Time: 11:30 a.m.-12: 30 p.m.
Chautauqua County, Sedan
Location: Chautauqua County Farm Bureau
Address: 230 E. Main
Time: 1:45-2:45 p.m.
Montgomery County, Coffeyville
Location: Coffeyville Community College Technical Campus
Address: 600 Roosevelt
Time: 4:00-5:00 p.m.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office from across the state, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits.
Humane Society of the United States
Midge Grinstead of Lawrence
Mark Grinstead of Lawrence
Kelsey Brennaman of Shawnee
Kansas Association of Conservation Districts
Ron Brown of Fort Scott
Bevin Law of Longford
Eric Banks of Salina
Pat Lehman of Lawrence
State Association of Kansas Watersheds
Herb Graves of Chapman
Kansas Area Agencies on Aging
Craig Kaberline of Topeka
Julie Govert Walter of Manhattan
Emergency Nurses Association
Mitch Jewett of Halstead
Fort Scott Community College
Lynne Wheeler of Fort Scott
Santos Manrique of Fort Scott
Kansas State University
Bob Fanning of Manhattan
Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas
Michael Hammond of Topeka
Stuart Little of Topeka
Shannon Bell of Topeka
Colin Thomasset of Topeka
Drug Court Coordinators – Third Judicial District of Kansas
Jared Harsin of Topeka
Heartland Community Bankers Association
Jim Turner of Lyons
Kevin McClure of Lyons
John Boyer of Kingman
Earl McVicker of Hutchinson
Craig Meader of Burlington
Jeannette Richardson of Hutchinson
Chuck Stones of Topeka
Christians United for Israel
Linda Umbarger of Overland Park
Janelle Warren of Hutchinson
Susi Entz of Newton
Brett Smith of Sterling
Justine Gruen of Leawood
Jenny Loewen of Lawrence
Case New Holland
Todd Seeley of Wichita
Andrea Carter of Kansas City
National Newspaper Association
Steve Haynes of Oberlin
Larry Sevier of Lenora
Rhonda Goddard of Wichita
Jeff Wick of Hays
Luke Brull of Hays
Kyle Baker of Overland Park
Many Kansans stopped by this week for a tour of the United States Capitol including Mercie Reyelts of Paola; Lacey Elmore of Lawrence; Sydney Scheckel of Richmond; Jim and Jayme Muehlberger and children, Alexandra and Maximillian of Leawood; Kenny and Janice Palmer of Wichita; Bryan and Sara Griffin and children, Allison, Ashlyn and Abbey of Overland Park; and Gregory and Julie Delort and children, Aletheia, Adam and Andreas of Manhattan. Kansans visiting from Hutchinson include: Roger and Donna Basinger; and Shawn and Judith Teichmann along with children, Casey and Cody. Kansans visiting from Emporia include: Kent and Amy Weiser and children; and Jeffery and Amy Larson and children, Hilary and Abby. Kansans visiting from Belleville include: Steven and Kathy Anderson and daughter, Abby; and John and Jackie Eyer. Kansans visiting from Topeka include: Judi Stork and daughter, Erin; Abby Beuerlein; Sergeant Michael Money; and Phillip and Carrie Money and children, Reagan and Gavin.
Several Kansans stopped by the office to say hello including Mark and Lisa Rohrbaugh and children, Nick and Ben of Olathe, and Zachary Lee of Roeland Park.
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click 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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