Kansas Common Sense
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Votes on Appropriations Bill, Watershed Amendment in Senate
This week, the Senate voted to “invoke cloture”, or end debate and move to a final vote, on an appropriations package that combines the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills. Prior to Friday’s early morning cloture vote, the senate held a lengthy series of votes on more than a dozen amendments to the funding bill. One of the amendments that passed was my amendment to help maintain watershed projects previously built with federal funding that are now in need of repair. My amendment responsibly funds repairs to watersheds at $8 million without increasing the deficit. The underlying appropriations package will be finalized and voted on by the Senate the week of October 31, 2011.
Our country has more than 11,000 watershed structures from coast to coast, of which 2,000 are currently eligible for the rehabilitation program. The federal government has partnered with state and local governments in the creation of many watersheds and should now help with those projects that are in need of repair. I am pleased my colleagues understand the importance of repairing watershed dams that pose a danger to public safety and property. Given this year’s flooding, this amendment will make a difference in communities across our nation. Click here to watch my floor speech on the importance of this amendment.
Visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial
On Sunday, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. After landing at the airport on Monday, I visited the memorial and found myself inspired by its powerful message and beautiful setting overlooking the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial. Inspirational messages from Dr. King’s sermons and speeches are etched into the stone of the monument. One quote in particular stood out to me: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Click here to watch the dedication ceremony and click here to see some photos taken during my visit.
General Aviation Caucus Roundtable with Harrison Ford
On Tuesday afternoon, I participated in a Senate General Aviation Caucus roundtable discussion with actor and general aviation advocate Harrison Ford. Mr. Ford, a pilot of 15 years, has used his high profile to advocate on behalf of the aviation industry. The actor also happens to be a Cessna aircraft owner, which makes him a loyal customer of our Wichita-based companies in the “Air Capital of the World.” The topics of discussion included the FAA Reauthorization Bill, the availability of aviation gasoline, the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, the President’s proposal of general aviation $100-per-flight fees, and the contribution of aviation to the economy. General aviation has a $150 billion impact on the national economy and supports 1.2 million American jobs.
I was pleased to be able to discuss the fact that Kansas is the number one general aviation exporter in the country, exporting more than $2 billion in aviation equipment per year. Kansas can be proud of our 47,000 general aviation workers who contribute significantly to the economy of the state and the nation. At the roundtable, we also discussed the important role aircraft and airports play in connecting Kansas communities with urban areas. General aviation helps rural communities acquire the resources and emergency services they need. I was happy to participate in this roundtable and have the opportunity to discuss the industry’s efforts to maintain good-paying, American jobs in Kansas and deliver world-class aviation products to the world. Click here to view a photo from the roundtable.
Recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month
In large and small communities across our country, too many Americans find themselves placed in danger by the very people who are supposed to love and protect them – their family. Each year, more than 2 million women are victims of domestic violence across our country. In Kansas, an estimated one in 10 adult women will suffer from domestic abuse this year. Domestic violence is not just a problem for women; children and men are all too often victims of abuse.
This week, I gave a speech on the Senate floor to give a voice to the hopeless – to those who are often too afraid to speak out for themselves. Throughout October, during Domestic Violence Awareness month, we are especially mindful of these victims and the urgent need to put an end to this cycle of violence. We must not only work to end this “silent crime,” but also care for those who have become victims. By volunteering at a local shelter, speaking out when you become aware of domestic violence, or making a donation to a local organization – every citizen can find a way to get involved and make a difference. This month and throughout the year, let us do our part to help break the cycle and bring hope to those who suffer. Click here to watch a video of my remarks in the Senate.
Visiting Fort Leavenworth’s Simons Center
On Tuesday, I spoke on the Senate floor about the important work being done at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Under the leadership of retired Colonel Bob Ulin, the College established the Arthur D. Simons Center for the Study of Interagency Cooperation. The Center is tasked with generating solutions to the challenges often encountered when multiple government agencies must work together. By drawing on real-world experience, the Simons Center is working to facilitate broad cooperation among agencies through its research, analysis and outreach. Click here to watch a clip from my remarks.
Not only is the Simon Center conducting research and analysis, it is also actively engaging Members of Congress to help achieve its mission. On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee – of which I’m a member – passed the Interagency Personnel Rotation Act. This bill will give security professionals the opportunity to work alongside their colleagues in other agencies. I was pleased to have the Simons Center’s Executive Director Ted Strickler in the audience to see this important legislation reported out of our committee.
On Friday, I traveled to Fort Leavenworth to visit the Simons Center and to speak with Colonel Ulin, Mr. Strickler and the numerous students at the College. Being back at Fort Leavenworth was a reminder of how great the men and women serving our nation really are. Click here to view a photo from the visit.
Establishment of Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area
On Wednesday, I joined U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to announce the establishment Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area. This conservation initiative is the latest addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s conservation system. To commemorate the establishment, a plank will be added to a boardwalk at Pelican Island, Florida, the nation’s first wildlife refuge.
The Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area, however, is not based on the wildlife refuge model. Instead it will be comprised of voluntary easements entered into with local landowners that will allow grazing and haying activities by Kansas ranchers, while restricting residential, commercial and industrial development in the Flint Hills region. This should help landowners meet mutual goals of preserving the largest contiguous tallgrass prairie ecosystem in North America, while allowing agricultural operations to meet the nutrition needs of a growing world population. Click here to view photos from the event.
Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment in 2012
On Wednesday, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that Social Security beneficiaries will see a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in January 2012 for the first time in two years. The SSA announced the 3.6 percent COLA increase following the release of inflation information from the U.S. Department of Labor. Due to low inflation, there was no COLA in 2010 or 2011 – the first two years without a COLA since the automatic increases were enacted in 1975. Over 60 million Social Security recipients, or one in five U.S. residents, will receive an average benefits increase of $516 annually.
While the announcement of a COLA for 2012 is welcome news for seniors – especially at this time of economic uncertainty – I am concerned that increases in Medicare premiums could erase the benefit that the COLA provides to seniors. As early as next week, Medicare is expected to announce 2012 premium amounts for the Part B program. These premiums cover doctor visits and are deducted automatically from monthly Social Security payments. Part B premiums have been frozen for 75 percent of beneficiaries since 2009 because there was no COLA during that period.
Social Security and Medicare represent promises that the federal government has made to Americans and it is critically important that these promises are kept. Congress needs to work together now to address the questions concerning the sustainability of these programs.
Spending the Day in Kansas City, Kansas
On Friday, I had the opportunity to spend the day in the Kansas City area, and attended three events focused on community development, public policy and helping children in need. In the morning, I attended a coffee hosted by Community Housing of Wyandotte County (CHWC), a non-profit community development corporation. For the past eight years, CHWC has revitalized neighborhoods in the urban core of Kansas City, Kansas by repairing blighted homes, providing affordable housing for low-income families, and educating homeowners on financial literacy. At the coffee, I enjoyed speaking with Kansas City Mayor Joe Reardon and other community leaders while learning about the significant public-private partnerships this organization has fostered with federal, state and local governments as well as private businesses and neighborhood development organizations. Special thanks to Executive Director Donny Smith for inviting me, and to Mayor Reardon for his strong support of CHWC’s work rebuilding communities. Click here to view a photo from the coffee.
Later in the day, I had the opportunity to attend the Kansas City Chamber’s Congressional Forum to hear Martin Hawver, author of the Hawver Report, speak. This group was started by Congressman Larry Winn, Jr., and has been meeting for 43 years to hear updates from Washington, D.C., and from other local leaders. After the forum, I enjoyed visiting with business and civic leaders from the community about the work we’re doing in Washington. Thank you to Cindy Cash, CEO and President of the Chamber for inviting me to take part in the forum.
On Friday evening, I attended the United for Kids Gala, the proceeds from which will benefit the children served at Kids TLC in Olathe, Kansas. Kids TLC provides shelter and social services to children and youth who are facing abuse, neglect or family disruption. The organization, which began in 1972 to provide emergency temporary shelter, provides a variety of services for children in need and their parents. I enjoyed the special program put on by the children. Thanks to Honorary Co-chairs Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City Chiefs punter, and his wife Christia along with Jeanne and Larry Gates for such a wonderful event. Special thanks to Dr. Bob Drummond, President and CEO of Kids TLC for being my host. Click here to view a photo.
KU v. K-State Football Game
Saturday morning Robba and I stopped by a pre-game reception hosted by Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Kansas State President Kirk Schulz at Spooner Hall on KU's campus. It was nice to other regents, state legislatures and old friends at the event and share some K-State/KU bipartisanship prior to the game. Despite the rivalry on the field, KU and K-State work together on many projects to benefit the state and educate Kansans. The main topic of conversation was the state of the Big 12 conference. Everyone is pleased the conference appears to be stable once again, due in no small part to the leadership of Chancellor Gray-Little and President Schulz. Click here to view a photo from the reception.
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.
Associated Wholesale Grocers
Jerry Garland of Kansas City
Evergreen Living Innovations
Mary Sloan of Overland Park
KJ Langlais of Lawrence
Linda Kettles of Osawatomie
Kansas National Education Association
Blake West of Overland Park
Communities In Schools (CIS) of Wichita/Sedgwick County
Ginger Pollock of Wichita
Terry Calloway of Wichita
March of Dimes Kansas Chapter
Diane Daldrup of Overland Park
Kansas City Heavy Constructors Association
Ed Desoigne of Olathe
Bridgette Williams of Kansas City
Kevin Farnam of Olathe
Wilson & Company, Inc., Engineers & Architects
Douglas Danaher of Overland Park
Scott Perkins and Overland Park
Many Kansans stopped by the office to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol including: Richard and Kathy Durst of Moundridge; David and daughter Victoria of Leavenworth; Lynnette Joe-Beck and grandson, Jacob Glanville of Derby; Elizabeth and Kaitlin Salyer of Wichita; Marc and Catherine Wilson of Manhattan; Charlie Bittel of Hays; Bruce and Natalie Hartig, and children, Nicholas and Aidan of Paola; Jerry and Lisa Ney of Overland Park; Dawn Conners and son, Drew of Olathe; Mr. and Mrs. Allen Leach of Olathe; Joshua Southard and Aubrey Banks of Wichita; Jonathan and Katherine Medlin and children, Kristen and Jacey of Olathe; Brett and Susan Bogan and son, Charles of Overland Park; Shari Alt of Olathe; Ray Cook of Valley Falls; and Anita Shaw of Agra. Verlena and Joyce Jackson of Chapman also stopped by the office to say hello while visiting Washington. Rachel Monger and Debra Zehr of Topeka, Dawn Veh of Hutchinson, Jean Bryant of Cimarron, Ray Vernon of Hutchinson, and Tom Williams of Newton stopped by the office on a Kansas Association of Homes and Services for the Aging delegation visit.
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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