Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” This week, the Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, legislation that will provide long-term stability to an industry struggling in today’s economy. Additionally, the Senate voted to begin debate on S. 1813, the highway reauthorization bill. This procedural vote allows the Senate to proceed to consideration of the bill this week.
Senate and House conferees continue to work on the two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday and federal unemployment insurance which expires on February 29th. 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.
Religious Liberty Essential to our Nation
Americans should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs or face penalties if they refuse to do so. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has exercised its authority under the health care reform law to require that most employer-provided health insurance plans cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. This new mandate contains a “religious employer” exemption, but the exemption is so narrow that many religiously-affiliated hospitals, educational institutions, and charities do not meet the criteria. If this mandate stands, many non-profit hospitals, soup kitchens, family shelters, and schools in Kansas will have to cover services they consider immoral, face an ongoing series of fines for not complying, or limit the services they provide in their communities.
After releasing this rule, HHS heard from hundreds of thousands of Americans who were opposed to the regulation and the narrow scope of its exemption. I echoed these concerns in October 2011, when I contacted HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to express my opposition to this regulation. Unfortunately, despite the concerns of so many, HHS announced on January 20, 2012, that it would not change the mandate for non-profit religious employers, but only extend to next year the deadline for compliance.
Targeting religious beliefs in this manner erodes the principle of religious liberty upon which our country is founded. In response to HHS’ failure to protect religious liberty, I sponsored both S. 1467, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, and S. 2043, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. S. 2043 would specifically address the threats to religious liberty contained in this HHS mandate, while S. 1467 would preserve the rights of employers, doctors, nurses, and other health care stakeholders to provide health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.
This Friday, after continued outcry from Americans, President Obama held a press conference to announce a “compromise.” The mandate will now force religious employers to facilitate access to contraception and other controversial services rather than pay for the products themselves. The President’s repackaging of the HHS mandate may be politically expedient, but there is no place for politics when dealing with a violation of our citizens’ constitutional rights. The fundamental problem remains: this mandate violates our country's foundational principle of religious freedom.
The Administration’s willingness to subject Americans’ constitutional rights to the political agenda of those in power is symptomatic of a belief system in Washington that government – not the individual – knows best. This unprecedented overreach by the federal government should be of concern for all Americans, whether or not they ascribe to a particular faith. One group’s beliefs are being trampled today; another’s might be tomorrow.
Our nation’s constitutional rights are essential to who we are as Americans, and our commitment to these rights must be protected at every turn. I will continue the fight to make certain this mandate is fully repealed. Click here to read a column I wrote this week for National Review Online on the HHS mandate and the threat to Americans’ religious liberty.
Giving Aviation Sector Long-Term Stability
Kansas is home to nearly 3,200 aviation and manufacturing businesses, including Cessna, Hawker-Beechcraft, Bombardier-Learjet, Spirit AeroSystems, Garmin and Honeywell. This week, the Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, legislation that will provide long-term stability to the aviation industry, which continues to struggle in today’s economy. In Kansas, air transportation is essential for business attraction and retention. This multi-year reauthorization will help make air travel safer and faster by modernizing the aviation industry. In passing this long-term reauthorization, I am pleased Congress once again rejected the user fee proposal, which would have been damaging to the aviation community and our economy in Kansas. Click here to read more about this legislation.
A Bipartisan Plan for Job Creation
The national unemployment rate has been above eight percent for 36 consecutive months and the Economic Policy Institute reported this month that the U.S. labor market began 2012 with fewer jobs than existed 11 years ago in January 2001. Too many Americans are without work and have been jobless for too long.
To put people back to work, Washington needs to create an environment in which entrepreneurs can start a business and create jobs. That is why Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) and I introduced S. 1965, the Startup Act, in December. This legislation is built on research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, which shows that companies less than five years old accounted for nearly all net job creation in our economy over the past three decades. In fact, new businesses have historically created about 3 million new jobs each year.
This week, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial I wrote with Senator Warner about the Startup Act, which you can read here. The proposals in the Startup Act are bipartisan and deserve serious consideration in Congress. In fact, many of the provisions of the bill have the support of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Senator Warner and I are working together to build support for this commonsense legislation to create jobs in America. We hope that more senators will put politics aside and work with us for the good of the country.
2012 Service Academy Application Now Available
My application for the 2012 Service Academy nominations process is now available via my website. This application is for students wishing to enter a U.S. Service Academy in the summer of 2013. I consider making appointments to the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy one of my most privileged responsibilities as a U.S. Senator.
Eligible applicants must be: unmarried citizens of the United States with no dependents; at least 17 years old but not past their 23rd birthday on the first of July of the year they wish to be admitted and; a resident of Kansas. You, or your parents, must claim Kansas as your primary state of residence.
You may download the application via my website or contact my office in Olathe to request an application. All documents must be received by my Olathe office by October 1, 2012. All qualified applicants will be required to appear before my Academy Screening Board. You will be notified of the date of this appearance sometime after October 1st. Click here to download the application.
Quest Diagnostics Tour
On Monday I toured Quest Diagnostics in Lenexa where I enjoyed learning more about the important diagnostic testing the company provides for 1,400 Kansas physicians and 140 Kansas hospitals, so they are better equipped to provide the highest quality care for their patients. I was also impressed by the remarkable facility in Lenexa and by the fact that the facility serves 92,000 patients each month. By operating three major labs across our state and employing more than 1,500 Kansans, Quest is making a difference in the lives of thousands of Kansas patients and enhancing our state’s economy. Thanks to the entire Quest Diagnostics team for the warm welcome during my visit. Click here to view a photo.
Olathe Chamber Coffee
This week I also stopped by the Olathe Chamber Coffee hosted at Premier Global, Inc., which provides web conferencing around the world. The Chamber members shared with me stories about the effect federal government policies and regulations have on their businesses. I also had the opportunity to talk about jobs and the economy with representatives from Executive Airshare and KC Southern. It was great to also visit with Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland and Tim McKee, CEO of the Olathe Chamber. Thanks to the Dana Campbell with Premier Global for hosting the event and to the chamber members for sharing their time with me. Click here to view a photo.
Visiting with the Salina Chamber
On my return to Kansas, I attended the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce Annual banquet at the Bicentennial Center. We heard from Frank Abagnale, whose early life was portrayed in the movie “Catch Me If You Can” starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. Frank Abagnale recounted his many life experiences, but ultimately reminded us all that the best things in this life are our family and loved ones. Congratulations to Linnea King, who was recognized as “Chamber Ambassador of the Year,” and the members of Sculpture Tour Salina, who were awarded “Volunteer of the Year” for their creativity, hard work and commitment.
Joining Members of Topeka Rotary
I also had the opportunity to visit the Topeka Downtown Rotary club this week. Kelly Matthews, the Executive Director of Cornerstone of Topeka, Inc. gave a great presentation on how this non-profit organization is making a tangible difference in people’s lives. Founded in 1985, Cornerstone has been working for nearly three decades to help solve homelessness in Topeka by providing safe and affordable housing to low-income households. Their efforts are a powerful reminder that we can all make a difference in life, one person at a time. Thank you to President Anita Wolgast for hosting me and to Past-President Gordon Lansford for welcoming me as his guest. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Kansas Army National Guard Deployment Ceremony
On Sunday, I traveled to Salina to attend the deployment ceremony for the Kansas Army National Guard 170th Maintenance Company of Norton. The company will soon embark on a 12 month deployment to Kuwait under the able leadership of Captain Scott Weber of Wamego and First Sergeant Scott Williamson of Minneapolis. This will be the company’s first overseas deployment since Operation Desert Storm.
The Kansas Army National Guard has a long and proud history of contributing to our nation’s critical missions both at home and abroad. I take pride and comfort in knowing that as Kansans and Americans we can count on this professional group of citizen soldiers, our friends and neighbors, to answer our country’s call to service. We owe our thanks to the men and women of the 170th Maintenance Company and all of the Kansas Army National Guard who voluntarily put their lives on hold to ensure that we can live in the safest and freest country in the world. Thanks to Major General Lee Tafanelli, Adjutant General of Kansas, for inviting me to join him in sending off the 170th Maintenance Company of Norton. Click here to view photos from the event.
Following the deployment ceremony in Salina, I traveled north to Ottawa County on Sunday afternoon to attend the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting at the Blue Store Emporium and John Henry Center. During the meeting I had the privilege of speaking to local business and community leaders about a range of issues, including proposed rules by the Department of Labor that will fundamentally alter the future of agriculture, the President’s upcoming budget request and the need for Congress to focus more on growing the economy. Kansans understand that key to a robust economic recovery will be a reinvestment in our nation’s true job creators: our country’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. I recently introduced legislation called the Startup Act to spur economic growth through the creation and growth of small businesses. The American economy can and will recover when we give American entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Thanks to Sandy Clanton, Chamber President, as well as Gary Kaye and all the members of the Chamber for welcoming me and hosting the event.
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:
Women Construction Owners and Executives
Shelia Ohrenberg of Olathe
Flint Hills Job Corps
Gary Vesta of Manhattan
Mario Morales of Manhattan
Jessie Middleton of Wichita
Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers
Nancy Mellard of Leawood
National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
Richard Wallace of Shawnee
Enlisted Association of the National Guard
Barbara DiPoli of Topeka
Larry Sevier of Lenora
Rhonda Goddard of Wichita
Dennis Doyle of Wichita
National Federation of the Blind of Kansas
Donna Wood of Wichita
Diane Fleming of Wichita
Rob Tabor of Lawrence
Kansas Association of School Boards
Dennis Depew of Neodesha
Frank Henderson of Topeka
Curt Herrman of Manhattan
Judy Lair of Woodson
Fred Patton of Topeka
Daren Reese of Arkansas City
Don Shimkus of Oxford
Jim Edwards of Topeka
Kansas State University
Kirk Schulz of Manhattan
Sue Peterson of Manhattan
Ron Trewyn of Manhattan
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas
Sunee Mickle of Topeka
Kansas State University College of Engineering
John English of Manhattan
University of Kansas School of Engineering
Stuart Bell of Lawrence
Wichita State University College of Engineering
Zulma Toro-Ramos of Wichita
Kansas School Counselor Association
Lori Mitchell-Kandt of Herington
Gene and Barbara Burnett Burn Center at the University of Kansas Hospital
Dhaval Bhavsar of Kansas City
Sidonie Moses of Kansas City
Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Barbara Nelson of Kansas City
National Education Association
Kim Howard of Wichita
Bob Thesman of Overland Park
University of Kansas
Jeffrey Vitter of Lawrence
National District Attorneys Association
Amy Hanley of Topeka
Kim Parker of Topeka
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America Conference
Margarita LaFarelle Hunt of Wichita
Emily Stephens of Wichita
Edith Johnson of Iola
Rachel Harrington of Iola
Jamie Katz of Johnson
Susan Matson of Johnson
Central Kansas Foundation Prevention Services
Brenda Haaga of Abilene
Misty Lewis of Salina
Kansans stopping by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including Pat Ozburn of Overland Park and Chuck Westin of Belleville.
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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