Kansas Common Sense
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USPS Will Not Close Kansas Post Offices
On Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced it will not close any of the 134 post offices in Kansas that were being considered for closure or consolidation, nor will it close the more than 3,600 post offices nationwide that were included in USPS’ Expanded Access study. This news is a win for communities across Kansas.
For the last year, we have been asking the Postal Service what Kansans need to do to save their post offices – and USPS listened. I am pleased we were able to work with the Postmaster General to find a solution that will help return USPS to financial viability, while keeping our post offices open and preserving the services vital to all Americans.
Instead of closing the post offices that were under study, USPS will adjust hours of operation to match customer use at post offices across the country, resulting in an estimated savings of half a billion dollars annually. Decisions on new service hours will be based on community preferences and needs. USPS is considering options including allowing local businesses to sell stamps and other postal services outside of post office hours. Even with reduced hours, access to retail lobbies and post office boxes will remain unchanged and Saturday delivery will not be affected.
In April, language I originally proposed to require USPS to consider alternatives to closure prior to closing any post office passed the Senate as part of S. 1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012. These options included reducing the number of hours the post office is open, or procuring a contract to provide retail postal services in an alternative establishment such as the local hardware store or grocery store. My successful language also required USPS to set minimum standards of service that must be considered prior to closing any post office.
The cash-strapped Postal Service awaits passage of S. 1789 in the House of Representatives in order to survive past the end of summer, and it is promising news that USPS’ new strategy to preserve the nation’s smallest post offices will save $500 million a year. Their closure would have had little benefit to the USPS’ bottom line while bringing much hardship to rural America. Smart reforms are needed in order to save the Postal Service from becoming a tax-payer liability, and to prevent further loss of revenue and mail volume.
America Must Win the Global Battle for Talent
Many Kansas students will walk across the graduation stage to receive their diplomas this May, and while this is usually a time of congratulations, recent headlines suggest that one in two college graduates will be underemployed or worse – unemployed. Our nation’s graduates must be able to put their hard-earned skills to work, but Congress is not doing enough to address the sluggish economy.
One vital aspect of a successful strategy to turn our economy around is the creation and growth of new businesses. According to analysis conducted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation out of Kansas City, companies less than 5 years old accounted for nearly all net job creation in the United States between 1980 and 2005. In fact, new firms create on average approximately 3 million jobs each year. Research also shows that more than a quarter of the technology and engineering companies formed in the United States between 1995 and 2005 had at least one key founder who was foreign-born.
To help America win the global battle for talent, I introduced the Startup Act, which creates an Entrepreneur’s Visa for foreign entrepreneurs who register a business and employ Americans in the United States. My proposal will also create a new STEM visa for foreign students who graduate from an accredited U.S. university with a Master’s or Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Americans benefit not only when these highly-skilled individuals produce product and services in the United States, we especially benefit when those individuals use their entrepreneurial skills to start new companies and hire American workers.
On Wednesday, I spoke to on the Senate floor to urge their support for the Startup Act and to explain why our country’s future economic competitiveness depends on America winning the global battle for talent. To view a video of my remarks, please click here.
Violence Against Women Act
Domestic violence brings fear, hopelessness and depression into the lives of every victim, and it is unfortunate that such an important issue has become politicized during this election year. I am currently a co-sponsor of S.2338, which would reauthorize Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The bill strengthens and updates VAWA in several important ways that can be supported by both Republicans and Democrats.
For example, the bill increases the percentage of STOP grants that are targeted to sexual assaults to 30 percent, while the version of VAWA that I voted against only required 20 percent of these grants to be targeted to sexual assault victims. Another example is the creation of a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime of aggravated sexual assault. The version I voted against did not contain such a provision. Finally, the bill would create a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for cases of domestic violence that results in the death of the victim, which was not contained in the bill that I voted against.
Regrettably, these differences were not permitted to be discussed prior to the vote last week. I have consistently fought to ensure domestic violence victims have a voice, that criminal penalties are strengthened, and to shore up problems the DOJ’s oversight of VAWA programs.
Speaking at Community Pharmacists’ Annual Conference
On Tuesday, I spoke at the National Community Pharmacists Association’s annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C. One of the reasons I enjoy speaking at this conference is because there is always a large contingent of Kansas pharmacists in the group. I spoke about the importance of pharmacists – especially in Kansas and other parts of rural America – and the role they play in their communities as both a health care provider and local business. In rural America, pharmacists are often the most accessible health care provider in a community and they help patients maintain and improve their health by providing medications and managing their safe use, administering immunizations, and working collaboratively with physicians and other providers to improve care and reduce costs.
I also told the group about the Senate Community Pharmacy Caucus, which I founded last year with Senator Jon Tester from Montana, to advocate for community pharmacy issues and serve as a clearinghouse for ideas and information about the role pharmacists play in delivering health care. Finally, I advocated for S. 1058, the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act, legislation I helped introduce to increase pharmacy choice and cost savings for patients in Kansas and across the country. This bill would increase the transparency and accountability of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) – companies that administer drug benefit programs for employers, health insurance plans and millions of patients. PBMs process prescription drug claims and update drug formularies that determine which medications are covered under insurance plans and the amount owed by patients. Click here to see a photo of me and Kansas pharmacists that attended this conference.
Congratulating 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Award Winners
On Tuesday, I met with Gracie Schram, 13, of Leawood and Saajan Bhakta, 17, of Wichita, to congratulate them on receiving the 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Award for their outstanding community service. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the country’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. They were selected from a field of more than 26,000 youth volunteers across the country, and Gracie was named as one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2012.
Gracie, an eighth-grader at Leawood Middle School, was inspired to action three years ago when her pastor returned from a mission trip to Africa with videos and photos of children who had lost their parents to AIDS. She has been singing and writing music since her early childhood, so she decided to record and sell a CD of her own music and raised more than $20,000 to help families overseas. Because of her efforts, two villages in South Africa and Malawi now have a sustainable food and revenue source, and orphans in a small Haitian town near Port au Prince have a roof over their heads.
Saajan, a senior at Northwest High School, founded a nonprofit organization called “PovSolve” to increase awareness of poverty in India and to raise money to alleviate the suffering of the poor in both India and Wichita. Sajaan was inspired to take action while on a trip to India, and upon his return to Wichita, he hosted information seminars in his community about world poverty and raised more than $9,000. On a recent trip to India, Sajaan personally delivered more than 500 blankets and other necessities to the poor and arranged for PovSolve to sponsor feeding sessions for more than 700 hungry Indians.
Congratulations to Gracie and Saajan on being named as Kansas’ top youth volunteers. This is an outstanding recognition and they should be very proud of their achievements and selfless contributions. It is important that young people work to make a positive difference in their towns and neighborhoods, and to inspire others to think about how they might contribute to their communities. I commend Gracie and Saajan for making a difference in the lives of Kansans in their own community and in communities across the world. Click here to see a photos of me visiting with Gracie and Saajan.
Senate Confirms Kansan as FCC Commissioner
This week, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ajit Pai of Parsons, KS as a Commissioner to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Ajit is only the second Kansan ever to serve on the FCC, and the first since Bob Wells served on the Commission from 1969 to 1971. The FCC is directed by five Commissioners, which are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for 5-year terms.
Ajit brings a unique understanding of the challenges facing rural America at a time when many important decisions about the future of telecommunications are being discussed at the Commission. From how we manage and promote more efficient use of our spectrum resources, to crafting policies that will expand broadband access to more Americans and connect more schools, libraries and hospitals, the FCC’s decisions will help define how we encourage competition, promote innovation, create jobs and drive our economy into the future.
I congratulate Ajit on his confirmation and look forward to working with him in his new role. Click here to learn more.
Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing with FCC Chairman Genachowski
On Wednesday, the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on Appropriations, of which I am the Ranking Member, conducted a hearing with Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski. This is the first time since 2002 that the Appropriations Committee hosted the FCC Chairman, and many develops in technology and telecommunications have occurred since that time. The hearing was an opportunity to discuss many important issues currently before the FCC, including implementation of spectrum auction legislation which was authorized by Congress earlier this year. We also discussed the FCC’s decision to modify the Universal Service Fund (USF) and Intercarrier Compensation (ICC) models.
I focused on ensuring that, as we transition the USF to a broadband fund, Kansans do not lose access to broadband and the FCC process is open, transparent and takes into consideration the significant investments that rural telecommunications companies have made in Kansas and other rural areas in America. I will continue my work to make certain Kansas communities have access to affordable, quality telecommunications services, which play a critical role for our future. To view a webcast of the hearing, please click here.
Making Tough Choices Today for America’s Future Prosperity
This week, I was honored to accept the ACU Conservative Award from Chairman Al Cardenas of The American Conservative Union (ACU). Founded in 1964, ACU represents the views of Americans who support reduced government spending and lower taxes to spur economic growth, and the issues of liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values and national security.
Congress has the responsibility to create an environment where the free market can succeed, yet this Administration and Congress have been spending and borrowing at an alarming rate – undermining our economic recovery and threatening the prosperity of the next generation. I remain committed to making the tough decisions necessary today, so our economy can recover, jobs can be created and our children and grandchildren can have the opportunity to dream big and pursue their dreams. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Visiting International Paper and Interconnect Devices in Kansas City
On Monday before returning to Washington, I visited two manufacturing facilities in Kansas City with along with Mayor Joe Reardon. International Paper (IP) recently acquired a plant in Kansas City, KS, where they manufacture corrugated boxes for the protein, beverage and consumer products industry. The raw materials are delivered from IP plants in the southeast and half of their products manufactured are delivered to businesses in Kansas. I would like to congratulate the employees for achieving 502 days without an accident the day I toured. Thanks to Mark Morand, Complex General Manager, for an informative tour and for doing business in Kansas.
Our second stop was the Interconnect Devices, Inc. (IDI) headquarters where they manufacture specialized electronic and radio frequency products for medical, military, aerospace, industrial and communication companies. I met with the employees in a town hall meeting and their questions centered on job creation. I believe the government needs to reduce regulations and allow the business environment to succeed to grow jobs, which is why I introduced the Startup Act. Thank you to IDI President Gabriel Guglielmi for the tour and for reinvesting in their facility.
McPherson “All Schools Day” Parade
On Friday, I was pleased to join local residents for the 99th annual McPherson All Schools Day Celebration parade. The tradition began in 1914 as a way to celebrate 8th grade graduates. Since then, it has grown into a week-long annual Kansas event honoring graduates from eighth grade, high school and college with hundreds of participants. It was great to spend time visiting with folks who attended and see many old friends. A special thanks to Scott Werth, my driver in the parade, and to the 2012 chairperson, Megan Anderson, and her committee for putting together this terrific community event. Click here to view photos from the parade.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
John Gillcrist of Kansas City
General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Jodi Noah of Wichita
Gordon Thomas of Wichita
Nelson Poultry Farms Inc.
Greg Nelson of Manhattan
American Society of Landscape Architects
Tod Hueser of Prairie Village
Rick Howell of Prairie Village
Continental Tool and Manufacturing
Dick Schwind of Lenexa
Rick Schwind of Overland Park
Bart Miller of Leawood
Jean Cullan of Leawood
The Brain Aneurysm Foundation
Barry Holmes of Overland Park
National Brian Tumor Society
Amanda Haddock of Wichita
Via Christi Health
Jeff Korsmo of Wichita
Prudential Spirit of Community Award Winners
Saajan Bhakta of Wichita
Rajani Bhakta of Wichita
Grace Schram of Leawood
Jill Schram of Leawood
John Schram of Leawood
Kansas Hospital Association
Chad Austin of Topeka
Tom Bell of Topeka
David Bradley of Junction City
John Broberg of Manhattan
Craig Concannon of Beloit
Bob Driewer of Emporia
Amy Fluke of Topeka
Vicki Hahn of Leoti
Leonard Hernandez of Elkhart
Kathy Howell of Overland Park
John Jeter of Hays
Fred Lucky of Lenexa
Greg Lundstrom of Lindsborg
Mark Miller of Abilene
Genny Nicholas of Kansas City
Maynard Oliverius of Topeka
Randy Peterson of Topeka
Jim Reagan of Council Grove
Cindy Samuelson of Topeka
Janet Stanek of Topeka
George Stover of Lyons
Tim Van Zandt of Kansas City
Kansas Pharmacists Association
Mike Larkin of Topeka
Sam Boyajian of Gardner
Aram Boyajian of Gardner
Brian Caswell of Baxter Springs
James Coast of Cimarron
Van Coble of Winfield
Dared Price of Winfield
Kansas Dental Association
Hal Hale of Wichita
Wayne and Joyce Thompson of Shawnee
College of American Pathologists
Richard Gomez of Topeka
Kathi Emling of Burlington
Sharon Pruett of Burlington
Marcia Dvorak of Lawrence
Daryel Garrison of Kansas City was also a large group)
Trina Green of Kansas City
JoAnn Blevins of Great Bend
Elaine Johannes of Manhattan
Angela Henry of Iola
Claudia Conner of Lawrence
Jan Voss of Arkansas City
Amy Jones of Arkansas City
Melisa Norton of Hugoton
Kevyn Gero of Lawrence
College of American Pathologists
Richard Gomez of Topeka
One Voice Against Cancer
Molly Johnson of Wichita
American Academy of Pediatrics
Kourtney Bettinger of Wichita
Thuylinh N. Phan of Kansas City
Keri Hubbard of Overland Park
Financial Services Institute
Whitney Westgate of Leawood
Karen Panter of Athol
Deborah Lewis of Larned
Shawn Herrick of Topeka
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including:
Erik Hansen of Atchison
Joseph Hansen of Atchison
Erin Hansen of Atchison
Vicki Hahn of Leoti
Brett Pfanenstiel of Leoti
Scott Palecki of Wichita
Zachary Palecki of Wichita
Dennis Ziegler of Lenexa
Betty Ziegler of Lenexa
Steven Jensen of Paola
Bonnie Jensen of Paola
Christian Jensen of Paola
Michael Jensen of Paola
Brian Jensen of Paola
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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