Kansas Common Sense
Jan 26 2015
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State of the Union Address
The President previously indicated that the elections last November were a referendum on his policies. Yet, rather than outlining a change of direction in the State of the Union Address on Tuesday, he continued to be more interested in higher taxes, overregulation and irresponsible spending than in working with Congress to grow the economy, create jobs and support the middle class. The goal of our economic policies should not be increased reliance on government aid. Rather, the goal should be fostering an environment that allows individuals to find jobs that can support their families.
There is a real desire among Americans to see Congress and the President work together on concrete solutions to the significant challenges we face. Unfortunately, what we heard was not problem solving, and I do not believe there is any real expectation by the President that his proposals will actually foster cooperation between Capitol Hill at the White House. Let’s find common ground and try to solve our country’s problems. Click here to view what I hoped to hear on Tuesday.
Participating in Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Broadband Regulation
On Wednesday, I participated in my first Senate Commerce Committee hearing titled “Protecting the Internet and Consumers through Congressional Action.” The discussion focused on how Congress can develop rules related to how companies manage their broadband networks. Next month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to approve network management rules that would regulate broadband like other heavily-regulated utilities despite Congress never granting them the authority to do so. The new rules will likely face legal challenges that could last years, as well as increase regulatory uncertainty for broadband providers and consumers. I have real concerns that the FCC’s unilateral actions could impact millions of Americans and rural providers who are working to expand broadband access to Kansans. My questions at the hearing were related to making certain Kansans don’t lose access to broadband, as well as ensuring the next great Internet entrepreneur is not stifled by an uncertain regulatory environment. I look forward to working with my colleagues to approve a legislative solution that protects consumers, promotes broadband expansion, and broadband adoption so that more Americans may realize the many benefits of digital economy. To watch the hearing on this important topic, please click here.
Amendment to Delist the Lesser Prairie Chicken
I offered an amendment this week to remove the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) from the threatened species list under the Endangered Species Act. The amendment is considered pending to S.1, the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, and votes on pending amendments are expected to continue next week.
The LPC was listed at a time when much of Kansas was in a severe and prolonged drought. In fact, during the 2013 annual aerial survey used to assess the LPC population, every Kansas County that includes habitat was experiencing a D3-Extreme or D4-Exceptional drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. As the bird’s habitat area has recently received more rain and snow fall, its population has surged 20 percent. This is one of the reasons that I believe the bird should not have been listed in the first place. However, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instead moved forward with the listing last spring, and now rural Kansas is beginning to suffer the consequences.
Increased regulations due to the listing will continue to threaten the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, disrupt oil and gas exploration and wind energy projects, and hurt the economies of many small towns scattered across our state. The threatened listing of the LPC is one of the most consistent items I hear about in Southwest Kansas. While the fate of this particular amendment is uncertain, it has allowed me to raise the profile of this important issue as a means to educate my fellow Senators. As I told my colleagues, I’m convinced there are ways to conserve the species without infringing on private property rights and hindering economic opportunity in rural Kansas. I don’t believe listing the LPC as threatened is the solution, and I will continue to fight to reverse the government’s misguided decision. Click here to see my remarks on the U.S. Senate Floor.
Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act Passes Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee
This week, during the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s first official meeting for the 114th Congress, committee members passed legislation intended to improve mental health care and increase suicide prevention resources for American service members—the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.
The invisible wounds of war plague thousands of veterans across our country, and unfortunately some feel the only choice to deal with their wounds is to take their own life. The average suicide rate among veterans is a staggering 22 deaths each day. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act would be instrumental in developing a VA system capable of offering first-rate mental health care services, as well as utilizing the expertise of outside organizations to provide support for those struggling with the invisible wounds of war. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act passed the House of Representatives on Jan. 12, 2015, and will now proceed to the full Senate for consideration.
The VA Must Use Common Sense to Help Veterans
On Wednesday, I introduced the Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015 (S. 207) to require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to utilize its current authority – granted through the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA) that passed Congress last July – to offer health care to veterans who are unable to receive the services they need from a VA medical facility within 40 miles of where they live. Unfortunately, the VA continues to overlook rural veterans as they implement VACAA by defining a VA medical facility as any facility – a medical center or a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) – even if a facility within 40 miles of where a veteran lives doesn’t provide the service that the veteran needs.
On Thursday, I spoke on United States Senate Floor wanting to know why the VA is not bending over backwards to take care of our nation’s veterans. The agency that was created to serve veterans has the authority to avoid this problem, yet remains unwilling to do what is in the best interest of the veteran. In the absence of action by the VA to resolve these failings, I am working on behalf of Kansas veterans and veterans across the country by urging by colleagues in Congress to pass this legislation. Click here to see my remarks. Click here to see KAKE News’ reporting on this issue.
Supporting Military Families with the Military Spouses Job Continuity Act
I introduced the Military Spouses Job Continuity Act this week, which would help military spouses more easily re-enter the workforce by offering a $500 tax credit to renew or transfer a professional license due to a military Change of Station order. I led this bipartisan legislation in the 113th Congress and am hopeful it will once again receive significant support in the United States Senate.
Military spouses face various challenges when moving their families to different installations across the country. With the frequency of Change of Station orders, most military spouses experience difficulties in pursuing their career of choice and are limited to career paths that allow them to follow their spouse. These issues are exacerbated when a spouse works in a field that requires a person to reapply for a professional license when moving from one state to another. Approximately 85 percent of military spouses either work, or desire to work, outside the home and nearly 35 percent of these require licenses or certification. I will continue to work on easing unnecessary challenges placed on military families because our men and women in uniform are only as strong as the families who support them.
March for Life
Every year on January 22, thousands of Americans come to Washington to participate in the March for Life, held on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Once again, hundreds of Kansans made the 48-hour round-trip bus ride to walk in support of the inalienable right to life. Every life matters, from conception to natural death, and I look forward to Congress acting in defense of the unborn. I was pleased to greet students from St. John Catholic School in Lawrence who came to my office prior to the march.
Applications Available for Summer 2015 Internships
I am currently accepting internship applications for my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for summer 2015. An internship, either legislative or communications, provides a unique opportunity to work closely with Senate staff on behalf of the state of Kansas. Legislative interns in Washington, D.C., will gain a better understanding of the legislative process in the U.S. Congress, and develop knowledge and professional skills valuable to future career pursuits. Interns based in Kansas will focus on constituent services.
The application deadline is Friday, March 6, 2015. Application forms are available under the ‘Services’ section of my website. Applicants should submit a completed application form, resume, academic transcript, two letters of recommendation and a cover letter explaining the applicant’s interest in public service and goals of serving as an intern. Please submit required materials to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atchison Chamber of Commerce
On Saturday evening, I attended the Atchison Chamber of Commerce 96th Annual Banquet where I had the honor of recognizing Karen Seaberg. Karen – MGP Ingredients Chairman and executive travel agent with Atchison Travel Center – was inducted in the Atchison Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. She is involved in many community and civic activities and plays a vital role in the Amelia Earhart Festival, which she has chaired since its conception in 1997. Karen’s induction is a well-deserved honor. Her commitment and dedication to her community have made a positive and lasting impact on the citizens of Atchison. Thanks to Chamber President Jacque Pregont for the invitation to attend and speak.
Kansans in the Office
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City
Mike Cook of Wichita
Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas
Keith Lawing of Wichita
Saint John’s Catholic School
Anna DeWitt of Lawrence
Seth Thompson of Lawrence
Sammy Williams of Lawrence
Erika Nissen of McLouth
Ashlynn Dekat of Lawrence
Taylor Morstorf of Lawrence
Braden Augustine of Eudora
Elise Graves of Lawrence
Tammy Buckner of Lawrence
Taylor Reith of Lawrence
Torri Kempf of De Soto
Megan Fairchild of Chanute
Aaron Reed of Lawrence
Kansas State University
Jürgen Richt of Manhattan
Johnson County Sheriff’s Office
Major Daryl Reece of Olathe
Captain Tom Sybesma of Olathe
Captain Rick Newson of Olathe
Cindy Newson of Olathe
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.
Very truly yours,
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