Kansas Common Sense

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day
Happy Father's Day to all the dads who celebrated this weekend! Being a father to my two daughters is one of the greatest joys I have experienced and being a grandfather is pretty great too!


Recognizing Juneteenth
This Juneteenth, we celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans at the end of the Civil War. On June 19, 1865, news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation finally brought long-awaited freedom to enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, marking the end of slavery in the United States. Kansas is known as the “state where slavery began to die.” Over the years, Kansas has had a rich history of working to end slavery and fighting for civil rights for all Americans. May we continue to strive for a more perfect union.

Update on FAA Reauthorization
On Thursday, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was scheduled to markup the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023. As the lead Republican of the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation and co-author of this bill, I was eager to amend and pass this important legislation with my committee colleagues. Unfortunately, the committee was unable to hold the markup due to concerns Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has with the bill, despite him not being a member of the committee.

Members of this committee have been negotiating in good faith for months to produce a strong bipartisan product. This is a first step in the process, and it is imperative we move the FAA Reauthorization Act through committee. It is crucial we provide certainty and a long-term reauthorization to the FAA to address and prepare for the current and future state of aviation. The FAA is at an important juncture as it navigates an evolving environment and challenges. When traveling by air, Americans expect to arrive to their destination safely, with minimal delays and without spending all their savings on a plane ticket. It is these expectations that have been at the forefront of our discussions as we drafted this legislation. Work to improve the FAA Reauthorization Act will be ongoing, and I urge the Majority Leader to address those issues on the Senate floor and allow the committee to move this package forward. Our aviation system should not be subject to last minute political whims.

Highlighting the Importance of Broadband for Rural Communities
Broadband access is correlated with more jobs, greater economic growth, better health care outcomes and increased academic performance. On Wednesday, I spoke on the Senate floor about the importance of high-quality broadband access for rural communities and small towns in Kansas. A recent study by the University of Kansas found that up to a million Kansans live in regions that lack access to high-speed broadband services. Often, these areas are rural parts of the state. When millions are without access to high quality broadband, we limit our potential as a nation.

I have long supported rural broadband expansion, including working to make certain we have maps that accurately show where quality broadband has been deployed to ensure federal investments go where they are most needed. Congress has allocated significant resources to connecting Americans currently without access to broadband, and we must make certain those funds efficiently bring connectivity to those in need.

You can watch my full floor speech here.


Calling for Information on Chinese Spy Balloon
As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I joined my Republican colleagues on the committee and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee in sending a letter to President Biden calling for more information on the Chinese spy balloon that flew over the United States in February. Four months have passed, and we still know very little about the balloon’s capabilities or what information it might have been collecting. The FBI has promised to release the results of its investigation, but Congress and the American people are kept waiting. We called on the President to hold the Chinese government accountable for this violation of our sovereignty and for other Chinese activities that threaten the interests of the United States. The letter was also sent to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and FBI Director Christopher Wray, and we should receive a prompt response on this important matter.

You can read more from Fox News here.

SIGNED INTO LAW: Veterans' Cost-of-Living Increase
This week, legislation I introduced with Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2023, was signed into law by the President. This bill passed the U.S. Senate in March and the U.S. House of Representatives in May.

We continue to see the devastating impacts of inflation across the nation, and this law will make certain that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) compensation benefits, which Kansas veterans and millions of veterans and their survivors rely on nationwide, keep pace with these rising costs. Benefits positively impacted by this law include veteran disability and dependent compensation benefits, clothing allowances and certain benefits for surviving military spouses and children. This adjustment will go into effect on December 1, 2023, after the new rates are released by the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration bases their annual COLA adjustment on the Consumer Price Index, as determined each December by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With the passage and signing of this bill into law, we are making certain that there is no uncertainty or delays in adjustments to veterans and military survivor benefits at the end of the year.

You can read more from WIBW here.


Meeting with Kansans
Kansas Farm Bureau
On Tuesday afternoon, I met with representatives from the Kansas Farm Bureau to discuss the biggest issues currently affecting farmers in our state, including high interest rates, crop insurance and access to labor. It is always important to me to hear from Kansas farmers firsthand about the challenges they face. We also spoke about their priorities for the upcoming Farm Bill and what would be most helpful to include in this legislation, which will be completed this year, in order to address these issues.

Thank you to Joe Newland of Neodesha; Jeff Grossenbacher of Bern; Glenn Brunkow of Wamego; Darrin Jacobs of Waterville; Bryan Zesinger of Lawrence; Ivy Tatum of Winfield and Ryan Flickner of Manhattan for their insight.


Clean Fuels Alliance America
This week, members of the Clean Fuels Alliance America met with me to discuss their Farm Bill and FAA Reauthorization priorities. We also discussed the critical need for regulatory certainty for clean and sustainable fuels. Current EPA regulations will undercut the industry's potential growth, ultimately undermining crop values and posing an unnecessary risk for jobs and economic opportunity in Kansas. Thank you to the Kansas Soybean commissioners who joined this meeting for updating me on these critical issues so I can inform my colleagues about the challenges Kansas growers and producers face.


Kansas FFA
It was great to visit with students from Kansas FFA chapters across the state with the Kansas Congressional delegation during their visit to our nation’s capital. I enjoyed hearing from students about their interests, goals and future career paths. Today’s agriculture education students will be the leaders and innovators of tomorrow’s agriculture industry.


France Family
On Monday, I welcomed Amy France and her children Laney, Calli and Jury to my Washington, D.C., office and arranged a tour of the U. S. Capitol for her family. Amy's family owns and operates France Family Farms in western Kansas, where they raise cattle and grow wheat, milo, corn, soybeans and sorghum. Amy also serves as Vice Chair of the National Sorghum Producers. In this capacity, she is teaching her children the importance of American agriculture and how family farms feed the world. Thank you to the France family for all you do and for visiting me in our nation's capital.


Capitol Tours
This week, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with many Kansans during their trips to our nation’s capital for tours of the U.S. Capitol building. Thank you to each of these Kansans for taking the time to speak with me during their visits.

If you are interested in touring the U.S. Capitol or other federal buildings in Washington, D.C., click here.


U.S Navy & U.S. Marine Corps Emblem Presentation
This week, I was honored to be presented with the Department of the Navy and Department of the Marines emblems. Each emblem, steeped in history and tradition, tells a story of valor, discipline and unyielding commitment to our nation's defense. These emblems, much like the institutions they represent, serve as unwavering symbols of commitment, bravery and service above self. As we salute the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, we acknowledge the weight these emblems carry and the dedication they inspire. To all those who have served under these emblems, we extend our deepest gratitude for your unwavering service to our great nation.

In my roles as a member of the Defense Subcommittee on Appropriations and the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I will continue working to make certain all servicemembers and their families are supported during and after their service to our nation.


VA Committee Hearing on Care for Rural Veterans
This week, as the lead Republican on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I chaired a hearing to examine barriers to care facing veterans – particularly those who live in rural areas – who are in need of inpatient, residential or intensive outpatient care for mental health or substance use disorder. Instead of working with high-quality treatment facilities in the community to provide veterans with immediate care, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is keeping veterans inside the VA direct care system, often at the detriment of the veteran, and failing to comply with the authorities that Congress gave the VA in the MISSION Act to increase access and give veterans greater control over their health care decisions. 

I invited veteran, nurse and advocate Chelsey Simoni to testify at the hearing, and she gave a moving personal account of just how high the stakes are for veterans in need of these services and how important it is that VA get this right. As Chelsey knows all too well, when veterans struggling with mental health or addiction are ready and willing to seek help, providing them care as soon as possible is a matter of life and death. Veterans deserve to be met with a supportive system that provides timely and high-quality care. I will never stop fighting to make that a reality for veterans in Kansas and across the country. That is why I recently introduced the Veterans’ HEALTH Act, which would help all veterans – including those with mental health conditions or substance use disorder – receive the care they need when they need it and where they want it. I look forward to moving the Veterans’ HEALTH Act out of committee and passed by the full Senate as soon as possible.

HunterSeven Foundation Award Presentation
I was humbled to accept the Strategic Toxic Exposures Prevention, Identification, and Treatments in Uniformed Personnel – or STEP IT UP – award by the HunterSeven Foundation this week. The STEP IT UP award is provided in recognition of those who work to support the half-million post-9/11 veterans diagnosed with cancer and the health care providers who treat them. I was nominated for this award by Kansan Gail Mattern after Gail learned of my office’s efforts to help a young Kansas veteran. This young man had been diagnosed with cancer three separate times by the VA and was offered hospice care by VA officials. Today, an appointment at a premier non-VA cancer care facility has successfully treated him. I am grateful to the HunterSeven Foundation for this recognition and remain committed to help veterans.


Associated Builders and Contractors Award Presentation
I was grateful to be presented an award by the Associated Builders and Contractors on Wednesday. These men and women in the construction industry work tirelessly to grow our economy by building homes, businesses and factories. With competitive wages, lower paperwork burdens and clearer federal guidance, these contractors can continue to grow. Hearing their concerns about workforce shortages underscores the importance of investing in our community colleges, technical schools and apprenticeships. Together, these opportunities provide the pipeline needed for Kansas to thrive.


340B Drug Pricing Program Request for Information
At the beginning of the 118th Congress, I was invited to join the bipartisan Senate working group focused on the 340B Drug Pricing program with my colleagues Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). Last week, the Senate 340B Group sent out a Request for Information (RFI) to 340B stakeholders, including Kansas’ hospitals, community health centers, federally qualified health centers and larger health systems, to solicit suggestions on improvements that need to be made to the 340B program.

The 340B program was created by Congress in 1992 through the Veteran’s Health Care Act. The program requires that drug manufacturers who participate in Medicaid provide certain non-profit health care providers, hospitals and clinics, called covered entities, a discount on outpatient drugs. The 340B program enables covered entities to use these savings to provide more comprehensive services to underserved patients and their communities.

I have heard consistent concerns about the way the 340B program is operating. These issues have increased in recent years due to confusion around the program’s contract pharmacy provision, a lack of transparency and a lack of congressional oversight. In considering improvements to 340B, my colleagues and I look forward to reviewing the stakeholder responses to our Request for Information and using these proposals as a starting point for productive conversations.

Make American Flags in America Act
This week, as our nation celebrated National Flag Day, I introduced the Make American Flags in America Act with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21). Throughout the years, the American flag has been a symbol of freedom and hope. Brave men and women have fought to protect this flag, and it is only appropriate that American flags be manufactured in America. The Make American Flags in America Act will make certain flags displayed on federal property are made completely in the United States.

Lunch with Summer Interns and Page
On Wednesday, I hosted my summer interns and page for lunch to discuss their work in my office serving Kansans and to hear from them about their interests and future plans. I am pleased to have the following interns in my office this summer: Adelaide Easter of Salina; Josey Schmidt of Tribune; Annika Wiebers of Wamego; Collin Kisner of Victoria; Lydia Kimble of Rose Hill; and Jadyn Walker of Hill City. In addition, Caden Nicholson of Prairie Village is interning with my staff on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Madison Coyne of Overland Park is working as a Senate Page. I am grateful to these students for choosing to assist Kansans in my office this summer.


Happy 248th Birthday to the U.S. Army!
This week, I had the honor of celebrating the U.S. Army’s 248th birthday by cutting the Army’s birthday cake with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, Army Chief of Staff General James McConville, Army Sergeant Major Michael Grinston and my fellow Army Caucus Co-Chair Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.). This celebration not only marks another year of the Army's steadfast service to our nation but also honors the enduring legacy and the promising future of the U.S. Army.


Members of my staff along with current and former Army Fellows from my office also participated in the annual Army Birthday Run through Arlington National Cemetery. This run not only celebrates the Army's founding but also serves as a solemn reminder of those who gave their lives in defense of our freedom. It is a powerful testament to the enduring strength and unity of the Army and a symbol of our ongoing gratitude for the selfless service of our soldiers.


Kansans in the Office

James Simmons of Spring Hill

Matthew Jones of Wichita

Shelley Jones of Wichita

Stella Jones of Wichita

Maggie Jones of Wichita

Scott Hagemeister of Manhattan

Karla Hagemeister of Manhattan

Emmaly Hagemeister of Manhattan

Jakob Hagemeister of Manhattan

Brenda Inman of Manhattan

Brady Inman of Manhattan

Colby Inman of Manhattan

Daniel Schnieders of Overland Park

Julie Hedrick of Topeka

Kevin Hedrick of Olathe

Jalynn Hedrick of Olathe

Lisa Ruzicka of Norton

Megan O’Connor of Norton

Chad Rowell of McPherson

Nancy LaPrad-Rowell of McPherson

Drew Bretz of Hoxie

Dan Page of Lawrence

Holly Page of Lawrence

Jamie Labrier of Topeka

Kael Harman of Topeka

Levi Hoskinson of Topeka

Ryan Hoskinson of Topeka

LaVell Winsor of Grantville

Charles Edwards of Wichita

Sasha Edwards of Wichita

Noah Edwards of Wichita

Ezekiel Edwards of Wichita

Hadassah Edwards of Wichita

Jerry Bohn of Wichita

Julie Bohn of Wichita

Mason Brungardt of Wichita

Michaela Likens of Overland Park

Rachel Hundley of Topeka

Lucy Hundley of Topeka

Ada Hundley of Topeka

Kelly Barnett of Topeka

Thayne Barnett of Topeka

Jadyn Barnett of Topeka

Joe Millikan of Wichita

Jana Millikan of Wichita

Melissa Whitaker of Lenexa

Avery Whitaker of Lenexa

Makenna Whitaker of Lenexa

Marcus Bassett of Topeka

Cynthia Bassett of Topeka

Scot Moseman of Kansas City

Dr. Paula Moseman of Kansas City

Adam Moseman of Kansas City

Julie Moseman of Kansas City

David Funk of Nortonville

Jennifer Funk of Nortonville

Jack Funk of Nortonville

Ben Henry of Wichita

Courtney Henry of Wichita

Luke Henry of Wichita

Evelyn Henry of Wichita

Therese Kienstra of Manhattan

Mena Thiel of Lenexa

Dr. Abdul Salam of Kansas City

Soju Salam of Kansas City

Suhara Salam of Kansas City

France Family Farm
Amy France of Scott City

Delaney France of Scott City

Calli France of Scott City

Jury France of Scott City

KU School of Nursing
Amy Garcia of Lawrence

Heather Nelson-Brantley of Lawrence

Jennifer Williams of Lawrence

Susan G Komen Advocacy Summit
Michael Steiner of Overland Park

Peggy Johnson of Wichita

Citizens Climate Lobby
Tony Schmidt of Lawrence

Alan Bauman of Prairie Village

Elizabeth Fenner of Wichita

American Council of Engineering Companies of Kansas
Scott Heidner of Topeka

Pheasants Forever
Jack Allen on Horton

Clean Fuels Alliance America
Commissioner Dennis Gruenbacher of Andale

Suzanne Gruenbacher of Andale

Commissioner Bob Haselwood of Berryton

Lauryn Karr of Manhattan

Reagan Neufeld of Hays

Dennis Hupe of Perry

Gary Louis of Overland Park

Kansas Farm Bureau
Joe Newland of Neodesha

Jeff Grossenbacher of Bern

Glenn Brunkow of Wamego

Darrin Jacobs of Waterville

Bryan Zesinger of Lawrence

Ivy Tatum of Winfield

Ryan Flickner of Manhattan

Curby’s Lawn & Garden and Lawrence Landscape
Curby Hughes of Olathe

Frank Male of Lawrence

Ducks Unlimited
Mark Schlegel of Kingman

Mike Bulk of Sabetha

Associated Builders and Contractors
Michele Roberts-Bauer of Kansas City

Nature Conservancy
Ben Postlethwait of Topeka

Justin Cobbs of Topeka

Kansas Association of Broadcasters
Allison Mazzei of Lawrence

Kyle Bauer of Clay Center

Justin Fluke of Hiawatha

ASPR Legislative Affairs
Chris Fischer of Lawrence

University of Missouri-Kansas City
Chancellor Mauli Agrawal of Kansas City

Matt Haase of Kansas City

Emily Lucas of Kansas City

Dr. Anthony Caruso of Kansas City

United Steel Workers Local 307
Alexander Jones of Topeka

Joseph Mahoney of Topeka

Curtis Campbell of Topeka

Mark Elder of Topeka

American Psychological Association
Dr. Amy Beck of Kansas City

Global Business Travel Association
Mark Champagne of Overland Park

Shawanda Witterstaetter of Kansas City

American Nurses Association
Linda Adams Wendling of Olpe

Terry Siek of Hays

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