Kansas Common Sense

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U.S. Department of Transportation Delayed Closure of FAA Control Towers
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it will delay the closing of 149 airport control towers until June 15, 2013 due to the multiple legal challenges to the decision. The first 24 closures had been scheduled for Sunday, April 7, 2013. While airports and air travelers across the country are breathing a sigh of relief, the DOT’s decision to delay the closing of air traffic control towers is not a solution. In order to protect air traffic control towers and preserve aviation safety across America, Sen. Blumenthal will join me this week in introducing legislation that will prohibit the DOT from closing any air traffic control towers – including those that are FAA-operated.

Though my initial amendment to stop the control towers closures was blocked from a vote, it brought together a bipartisan coalition of Senators who demonstrated that there are more responsible ways to cut spending than by compromising safety. Closing control towers is equivalent to removing stop lights and stop signs from our roads, and there is no reason they should be disproportionately targeted for an arbitrary and unfair 75 percent cut. It’s vital that we seize this opportunity to put politics aside and work toward a common-sense solution. Click here to read more about my upcoming bill.

United Nations Arms Trade Treaty Update
Last month, the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) failed to reach consensus on treaty text; however, last week with the support of the United States delegation, the U.N. General Assembly passed the ATT by majority vote. By agreeing to the hasty process that sent the treaty to the General Assembly for a majority vote, the Administration abandoned its previous insistence on consensus and sets a dangerous precedent. Consensus is a vital tool for defending U.S. interests in multilateral negotiations, and served as the basis on which the Administration defended its participation in the ATT negotiations. The passage of a treaty that Iran, Syria and North Korea objected to, and China, India and Russia abstained from supporting, makes clear that the only nations who will be held accountable are law-abiding democracies like the United States.

On March 13, 2013, I introduced a bipartisan resolution making clear that an Arms Trade Treaty that undermines the Constitutional freedoms of American gun owners will not be ratified by the U.S. Senate. Despite 35 Senators united in strong opposition to a treaty that puts us on level ground with dictatorships who abuse human rights and arms terrorists, there is real concern that the Administration feels pressured to sign a treaty that violates our Constitutional rights. On June 3, the treaty is expected to be open for signatures from U.N. countries, so in the coming weeks I will continue working with my colleagues in the Senate to make clear that any treaty that violates our Second Amendment freedoms will be an absolute nonstarter for ratification by the U.S. Senate.

Visiting Southeast Kansas Elementary Schools and Ottawa Campus of Neosho County Community College
It was great to accept the invitations to visit Marshall Elementary School in Eureka and Garnett Elementary School in Garnett last week. Last year, Marshall was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education — the only elementary school in Kansas to receive this honor. The National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ academic achievement. Garnett Elementary is enjoying a new facility this school year, which I enjoyed touring.

I am committed to doing everything I can back in Washington to make certain every Kansas student has the opportunity to receive a quality education. Congress must be careful not to pass federal mandates that restrict ingenuity, responsiveness, and development in education at the local and state levels. Since parents and teachers best understand the educational needs of their children and students, Congress should allow local school districts to determine how to best use education resources. As ranking member of the Senate Appropriations education subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for all accounts at the U.S. Department of Education, it is important I stay up-to-date with what is going on in classrooms across our state to help make sure that Kansas teachers, administrators, and school boards have the flexibility to effectively meet the unique needs of their students. Click here to see photos from my time at the two schools.

While in Ottawa, I also had the opportunity to visit Neosho County Community College’s (NCCC) Ottawa campus, which has experienced tremendous growth over the last several years. In fact, the college is currently ranked 19th in the United States in enrollment growth among like-sized institutions. NCCC provides a variety of educational opportunities in high-skilled fields such as health information technology, occupational therapy assistant, surgical technology, energy management, and forensic science.

During my visit, I toured NCCC’s state-of-the-art Simulated Hospital training facility. The facility is a key feature of NCCC’s health programs and central to its effort to meet the growing demand for skilled health care professionals in Kansas. Its patient care rooms are complete with patients whose vital statistics, aches and pains, and other symptoms can be simulated for students by their instructor. Training sessions can also be recorded so that students can critique their own performance. I appreciated the opportunity to try my hand at performing a simulated surgery with the assistance of Kelly Warren, Director of the Surgical Technology program. I also enjoyed visiting with Peggy Carman, Instructor, and Barb Flett, Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, who showed their training area and explained how they train Occupational Therapy Assistants. Thanks to NCCC President Brian Inbody, Ottawa Campus Dean Dale Ernst, and Assistant Dean for Outreach and Workforce Development Tony Brown for leading my campus visit and providing me with valuable insight on NCCC’s efforts to produce a skilled workforce equipped to meet the current and future needs of the Kansas economy.

Visiting the Ericsson Network Operations Center in Overland Park
On Wednesday, I met with executives from Ericsson and Sprint to discuss the partnership between the two companies. Ericsson is the world’s largest maker of equipment for building mobile communication networks. During my visit, I toured Ericsson’s Network Operations Center located within the Sprint Campus in Overland Park to learn about how the Sprint network operates and to better understand the technology that allows Americans to utilize mobile technology. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I serve on the Subcommittee with jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Committee, the federal agency responsible for regulation of the telecommunications sector.

During my tour, employees demonstrated how they maintain the Sprint network across America and how the facility is responsible for responding to natural disasters so that those affected have adequate mobile service. My visit coincided with the 40th anniversary of the first call made from a handheld cell phone, and it was fascinating to see how technology keeps us all connected, improves our safety, and provides opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation. Thank you to Brian Jones from Ericsson for inviting me and arranging my visit.

Anthony Hospital Foundation Annual Meeting Address
On Monday evening, I spoke at the Anthony Hospital Foundation Annual Meeting. Based on results of a community survey, the foundation is soliciting funds to renovate and expand the emergency room at Anthony Medical Center. In less than a year, the foundation secured more than one-third of the $600,000 needed to complete the project — with more than $14,000 in pledges from hospital employees. Anthony Medical Center and other rural hospitals across the country deliver health care to more than 60 million Americans and are the health and economic backbone for communities across our nation. These facilities are often the sole source of comprehensive health care in their areas, and are typically the largest employer and an economic engine in the communities they serve. I was pleased to offer words of congratulations and encouragement to the citizens of Anthony for working to improve access to health care, and in the process help keep Anthony a place where current residents and future generations can call home. Thanks to Mitchell Hall for the kind introduction and to Anthony Hospital Foundation Executive Director Tami Greve and Anthony Hospital CEO Bryant Anderson for their leadership.

Speaking at Ribbon Cutting for Children’s Mercy Clinic in Wichita
On Monday afternoon, I spoke at the dedication of Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics first permanent location in Wichita. Children’s Mercy provides more than 40 pediatric specialty services to patients, has the area’s highest and most comprehensive level of neonatal intensive care, the region’s only Level I pediatric trauma center, and boasts nationally recognized pediatric specialists, surgeons, and nurses. For 20 years, Children’s Mercy has provided outreach services in Wichita; however, last year alone, more than 4,500 patients from Sedgwick County traveled to the Children’s Mercy facility in Kansas City for treatment. With a clinic now conveniently located inside Wesley Medical Center, families in Wichita and south central Kansas will have access to life-saving care much closer to home. Thank you to the following individuals at Children’s Mercy for including me in this special occasion: Randall O’Donnell, President and CEO; Marshaun Butler, Vice President of Regional Medical Practices; Michael Artman, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Director of Research Strategy; and Dallas Polen, Chief of Public Policy Strategy. Click here to see a photo from the visit.

Emphasizing the Importance of the Manufacturing Industry in Kansas and in the United States
Last week, I met with representatives from Carlisle Trans Power Products in Fort Scott. Carlisle is a leading producer of a wide variety of industrial belts, specialty tires and wheels for many types of equipment. During my tour with plant manager Gary Richards, I learned several jobs were recently moved from China back to the United States. The move highlights the company’s commitment to Kansas and their desire to grow domestically. Last month, Carlisle was recognized by the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce as Business of the Year. Thank you to Gary for the tour and to Fort Scott Mayor Jim Adams, City Manager Dave Martin, and Chamber Director Lindsay Madison for joining me.

Representing a state that is home to nearly 3,200 aviation and manufacturing businesses, I understand the importance of investing in jobs and manufacturing right here in the United States. Exports are vital to the Kansas economy and Kansas jobs, and our state must continue to build quality products to stay competitive in the global marketplace.

I was also honored to be presented with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence by President of YRC Freight Jeff Rogers in Overland Park. Thank you to the associates of YRC Worldwide for hosting the event and Mike Kelley coordinating it.

Visiting COF Training Services in Ottawa
Last week, it was great visiting COF Training Services in Ottawa. COF is a not-for-profit social services organization that empowers individuals with disabilities. “COF” stands for Coffey, Osage, Franklin, which are the three counties served by the organization. During my visit, clients carefully assembled oxygen masks that are designed to drop from the overhead compartment of airplanes in the event of a loss of cabin pressure. Each COF client has a tailored plan allowing them access to the services and support they need to foster greater independence. It was also good to meet the Friends of COF who are volunteers that assist COF clients in numerous ways. During my visit, I was honored to receive a beautiful drawing from COF community member and artist Steven Terry. Click here to see a photo from my visit.

Speaking at Iola Rotary Club
Last week, I joined the Iola Rotary Club for their weekly meeting. I had the opportunity to speak with my fellow Rotarians about local, state, and national issues such as Iola’s new Allen County Hospital, education, Medicaid, and our national debt. Also during the meeting, we honored Gary McIntosh as Rotarian of the Day. Gary and the rest of the Iola Rotarians clearly live their lives by Four-Way Test and are committed to doing whatever they can to better their community and our world.

Small Businesses Rate Kansas and Kansas City Metro Among Most Business Friendly
A study published by the Kauffman Foundation last week confirmed something I’ve known for a long time, Kansas is a great place to start a business. A 2013 survey of nearly 8,000 small businesses across the country showed that Kansas is one of America’s friendliest states for small business. Kansas received an ‘A’ grade, placing it in the top eight nationwide. The study cites Kansas’ ease of business formation and favorable tax and regulatory environment as factors in its exceptional ranking. The Kansas City metro area also received high marks, earning an A- grade. As small businesses form and thrive across our state, Kansans will have better access to products and services, more job opportunities, and increased economic growth. Click here to view an interactive map with more information from this study.

Pittsburg Cake Shop Honored with Emerging Business of the Year
While in Pittsburg, I stopped by the Sweet Designs Cakery to meet with owners Heather and Roger Horton. Heather and her mother started the business in 2003 as a hobby, but now the husband and wife duo are busy creating sweets and cakes year-round for all occasions. Recently, they were honored with the Emerging Business of the Year Award from the Kansas Small Business Development Center. I enjoyed my visit and a sweet treat! Click here to see a photo from my visit.

Addressing Pittsburg YMCA at the Annual Dinner
On Wednesday evening, I spoke at the YMCA annual dinner in Pittsburg. With more than 10,000 members and a wonderful facility, the YMCA is focused on promoting healthy lifestyles and playing a positive role in community development. In 2012, the Pittsburg YMCA provided 3,956 memberships to those in the community who could not afford to join. I appreciate the value organizations like these add to our Kansas communities. Thanks to board president Mark Werner for his warm welcome and to director Jack Bache for his hospitality. Congratulations to Judy Westhoff and Joe Hart on their induction into the Hall of Fame. Click here to see a photo from the event.

Wichita State University Shockers
The excitement of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this year was amplified with Wichita State’s run to the Final Four in Atlanta. On my way back to Washington, I was joined by my wife, Robba, in Atlanta to root on the Shockers as they faced the Louisville Cardinals. The turnout of black and gold was great, and the team and fans represented their school and our state so well. Robba and I had a memorable experience, and we are proud of Coach Gregg Marshall and his team. Congratulations on a fantastic season!

In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:

National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
Marti Macchi of Topeka

Huntington’s Disease Society of America
Judi Bruning of Robinson

Capitol Tours
Madison Biondo of Lenexa
Warren and Jane Kohtz of Hays
John and Kelly Cotter of Overland Park
Ryan Cotter of Overland Park
Megan Cotter of Overland Park
Steve and Laura White of Council Grove
Evelyn White of Council Grove
Leo White of Council Grove
Karen Zimbelman of Wichita
Josh and Katie Eicholtz of Olathe
Brian and Marcella Stevens of Paola
Diana Feuerborn of Lane
Debra Bearden of Buffalo
Keli Baird of Overland Park
Kenna Gates of Lawrence 

Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. In recent weeks, I’ve been listening to Kansans calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the debt crisis and big issues our country faces. Whether your thoughts are in the form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, please know that I am listening and I appreciate messages from Kansans who wish to make their voice heard. 

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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