Kansas Common Sense
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This week, the Senate overwhelmingly passed an important piece of legislation that would repeal an impending 3 percent withholding tax on government contracts. I was pleased to support this repeal because the tax would negatively impact businesses, as well as the state and local governments they contract with, and make it more difficult for them to hire new workers, and pay employees and vendors on time.
I also supported an amendment to this legislation, containing a portion of the President’s jobs plan which would provide a tax credit incentive to companies that hire unemployed veterans and wounded warriors. The amendment also creates training programs to help veterans of war transition into the civilian workforce. The timing of this amendment’s passage was quite fitting as the country paused to celebrate Veterans Day on Friday. One of the best ways we can honor our veterans is by keeping our promises to them, and this legislation helps us do that. The House is expected to approve the bill soon.
Finally this week, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction continued to work toward reaching an agreement that finds $1.2 trillion in spending cuts prior to their November 23 deadline, with recent discussions including tax reform proposals. News reports indicate that there is an impasse between members of the committee on what can be done, but I remain hopeful that the committee will not squander this opportunity. Now is the time for Congress to put love of country above party and the future of our country ahead of the next election.
Saluting Those Who Have Served
Each year on November 11, Americans come together to celebrate and honor our nation’s veterans. It is a day when we express our gratitude for the service and sacrifice of those who have protected our way of life. Our nation’s veterans did not sacrifice for Republicans or Democrats; they sacrificed for the greater good of our country.
On Friday, I joined veterans in Leavenworth to show my appreciation for their service at the Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade. The oldest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi, this year’s parade was appropriately themed “America – Thanks to Veterans.” It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the courage and selflessness of those who have defended our freedom, and the stories of sacrifice many veterans shared with me were inspiring. Click here to view photos from the event.
That afternoon, I joined a special celebration in Belleville at the Central Christian Church where I had the privilege of presenting several service medals, including the Purple Heart, to Korean War veteran Charles Wilber. Charlie was injured in November 1951 when an enemy grenade landed in his foxhole. Although he was wounded, he continued to fight alongside the men of his company until he was no longer able.
After he returned from the war, Charlie never received the special recognition for his sacrifice he was due. This Veterans Day, sixty years after his injury, this distinguished war hero received the honor he deserves. Click here to view photos from the event. Click here to read an editorial I wrote recently about the importance of honoring our nation’s veterans.
Working for a Better Future for the Postal Service
This week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs passed a bill, the 21st Century Postal Act of 2011, to provide USPS with the flexibility it needs to restructure itself in an effort to save billions of dollars and return USPS to financial viability. This bill would not only improve the postal service’s financial condition, but also help prevent calls for taxpayer dollars. The USPS is funded by the revenues it raises and this bill’s goal is to give them additional tools so they can downsize to better meet their revenues.
Among its many provisions, the 21st Century Postal Act would: authorize USPS to offer buyouts to help reduce its workforce and reach a savings of $8 billion a year, achieve health care savings, put in place future curbside delivery requirements, reform workers’ compensation and allow the USPS to implement five-day-a week mail delivery after two years once it considers options to increase revenues and reduce costs, as well as develops remedies for customers who may be disproportionately affected.
The Postal Service recently released a list of nearly 3,700 post offices across the country – including 134 in Kansas – to be studied for possible closure. The USPS has hosted meetings in many Kansas communities about the post offices slated for closure and my staff has attended 90 of these meetings throughout our state. After several meetings, I became concerned that it was never made clear what criteria were being used to determine whether a post office should be closed. I also learned that a study by the Postal Regulatory Commission found that maintaining rural post offices amounts to less than one percent of the Postal Service’s budget. So the amount of savings that would occur if the post offices were closed would be greatly eclipsed by the difficulties and costs imposed on those rural communities.
To address these concerns, I offered an amendment, which was adopted, that would require USPS to develop standards of service and alternatives to closure that must be considered prior to closing any post office. Upon the bill’s enactment, it would also prevent the closure of any post offices until those standards are in place and are considered in each case.
USPS would be required to take into account geography, including distance to other postal services and the maximum amount time a customer should be expected to travel, as well as population density and age demographics of a community. Prior to closing a post office, the Postal Service would also have to consider alternatives to closure, such as reducing business hours or providing retail postal services in an alternative establishment such as the local hardware or grocery store.
Since coming to Washington, I have been committed to ensuring rural America is not forgotten, and access to a local post office is critical to the future of rural communities across Kansas. I want to make certain that we never give up a community that hasn’t given up on itself. The 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011 will now move to the full Senate for consideration. Click here to view my comments from the committee markup. Click here to read more.
New Report on Iran Brings Increased Urgency to Act
The United Nations nuclear watchdog released a new report this week that makes clear the true purpose and danger of Iran’s nuclear work. The report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presents detailed evidence that Iran’s nuclear work is military in nature and that Iran has mastered steps necessary to design and build a nuclear weapon. No doubt should now remain about the intent of Iran’s nuclear program.
After reviewing the report, I renewed my call for the Administration to robustly enforce sanctions. Congress has provided the Administration with a toolbox full of sanctions to persuade Iran to change course but the Administration has only sanctioned ten companies under the Iran Sanctions Act. Media reports continue to indicate that Chinese and Indian firms may be among those still doing business in Iran in violation of U.S. law, yet none have been sanctioned. All available tools to stop Iran must be used before it is too late.
The Children’s Campus of Kansas City (CCKC)
On Monday, I had the opportunity to visit The Children’s Campus of Kansas City (CCKC). CCKC is home to four organizations that work together to help young children succeed in life. Through the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics, children have access to early education programs. Faculty with the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project also work to improve children’s development and educational experiences, and the Family Conservancy provides additional training. CCKC also provides a variety of services to help support the children’s families, including health care, family literacy and child development classes. I enjoyed learning about how all these organizations work together to care for Kansas children. Thanks to Martha Staker, President of CCKC for showing me around. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Visiting Students and Teachers at Sabetha Middle School
On Friday, I enjoyed visiting Sabetha Middle School and meeting with students and educators that help make the school such a great place to learn. While I was there, I dropped in to listen to the boys’ choir sing a few tunes, and I was very impressed. Recently, Sabetha Principal Tom Palmer was selected by his peers across the state to be recognized by the Kansas Association of Secondary School Principals as the middle school Principal of the Year for 2012. His leadership at Sabetha has been invaluable and is evident in the quality education the students receive. I thank Tom and the teachers across the state for their dedication to Kansas students and their future. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
Supporting Johnson County Community College
On Saturday evening, Robba and I attended a scholarship benefit for the Johnson County Community College Foundation called “Some Enchanted Evening.” This year marks the 25th anniversary of this successful event which has raised more than $4.5 million for student scholarships. Each year the Foundation’s highest recognition of achievement, the “Johnson Countian of the Year,” is awarded to an individual or individuals who make an outstanding contribution to the Johnson County community. During this year’s event, we were joined by the past 24 award winners. Thanks to all the Johnson County residents for their efforts to enhance the local community and make it a better place to live and work.
Visiting the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Convention
On Friday, I attended the annual convention of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) in Kansas City. NAFB’s members are agricultural and rural broadcasters from across the nation. During my time with NAFB members, I discussed my work this week as a conferee on the fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill, my concerns regarding a recent U.S. Department of Labor rule which could fundamentally disrupt agriculture practices across the country, the farm bill, and preserving rural post offices. Thanks to all the broadcasters for taking the time to visit with me. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
Firing the Pittsburg State Kickoff Cannon Prior to the Pitt State – Missouri Southern State Football Game
On Saturday, I participated in a pregame tradition prior to the game with visiting Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg. Pitt State, the all-time winningest Division II football in the nation, hosted MSSU for this year’s installment of the Sonic Miner’s Bowl. The pregame coin flip was administered by local physician and military veteran Col. Bill Sullivan along with CPT Gates Brown, the Wounded Warrior Representative for Kansas. On this Veteran’s Day weekend, I was pleased to see the outpouring of support for these two heroes as they made their way to midfield. Just prior to the game’s opening kickoff, I was allowed to fire the kickoff cannon and very much enjoyed participating in this Pitt State Gorilla tradition. Thanks to Pitt State President Steve Scott for hosting me. Special thanks to our men and women in uniform, past and present, that have fought for our freedom. Click here to view a photo from the event.
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.
Close Up Foundation
Stacy Mendez of Lawrence
Alejandra Hernandez of Lawrence
Denise Torres of Hugoton
Kenia Camacho of Wichita
Miguel Jimenez of Cimarron
Viridiana Lopez Gonzalez of Dodge City
Mayra Ortega of Liberal
Renato Pinto of Burlington
Van Rem of Kansas City
Samantha Minihan of Topeka
Joshua Gill of Topeka
Kelsey Akin of Topeka
Lydia Bergman of Topeka
Carolyn Quintana of Topeka
Mallory Diederich of Topeka
Abigail Gray of Topeka
Randy Crome of Topeka
Jesse San Juan of Garden City
Easter Seals Capper Foundation
Steven Knoll of Topeka
Jim Leiker of Topeka
Kathy Stiffler of Topeka
Johnson County Community College
Darcy McGrath of Overland Park
Edward Leonard of Lindsborg
Kansas Bankers Association
John Lehman of Girard
Frank Reifschneider of Garden City
Alex Williams of Halstead
Emmett O'Keefe of Coffeyville
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including: Kent and Lenise Fuller of Smith Center; Anthony Gassmann of Dresden; Gary and Lynette Abbott of Salina; Barbara Kyle and son of Parsons; Spencer Sight of Leawoodp; and Carmen Mackey of Wallace. Mark Heitz of Topeka also visited the office.
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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