Kansas Common Sense

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Honoring Ft. Riley’s Fallen

While the lead story in the news this week focused on President Obama’s announcement to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan, the cost of war was once again being felt in Kansas. On Thursday, I joined Major General William Mayville for the memorial service at Ft. Riley for six U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq on June 6. The attack was the single deadliest attack on a Ft. Riley unit since the war began. Spc. Marcos Cinton, Spc. Emilio Campo Jr., Spc. Michael Cook Jr., Spc. Christopher Fishbeck, Spc. Robert Hartwick, and Pfc. Michael Olivieri were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the First Infantry Division. 

On behalf of all Americans, I met with the families and expressed our sorrow, condolences and respect. We are deeply saddened by the loss of these heroes, and forever grateful for their service. Our thoughts and prayers are with each of their families and with the Ft. Riley community.

Medal of Honor for Father Kapaun

I joined members of the Kansas congressional delegation this week in requesting that Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates award the Medal of Honor to Chaplain Emil Kapaun, a Kansas war hero.

Father Kapaun’s heroic actions in the Korean battlefields saved countless lives when he ran under enemy fire to rescue wounded soldiers. In the bitter cold of winter, Father Kaupan carried injured comrades on his back during forced marches through the snow, gave away his meager food rations, and cared for the sick who were suffering alongside him in the prison camp. This compassionate, selfless man distinguished himself by going above and beyond the call of duty, and he is more than deserving of this distinguished award.

Earlier this year, the Kansas delegation offered legislation in both the House and the Senate to waive the statutory time limitation for Father Kapaun to receive the Medal of Honor. The letter to outgoing Secretary Gates seeks the military’s clear support for moving the legislation forward in Congress. Click here to read more.

Supporting Our Veterans

Today, there is a disturbingly high rate of suicide among our servicemen and women who have returned home from combat. This is a stark reminder that the scars from the frontlines are not just physical. Mental health services are critical to the well-being of our heroes, and it is vitally important that these services be improved and expanded, particularly to rural areas.

This week, I joined five of my colleagues to express my concern about this important issue, and to ask Secretary Eric Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for an explanation of what is being done to reduce this suicide rate.

I commend the dedication of the employees at the VA, and I will work with them to address this important issue. Click here to read the letter sent to Secretary Shinseki.

Wichita Chamber of Commerce 2011 Visit

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of business leaders participating in the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce 2011 Washington Fly-In.  While in town, they had the opportunity to meet with members of the Kansas delegation as well as take part in policy briefings offered by officials at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The message I received from members of the Wichita Chamber is that Washington’s laws, regulations and excessive spending continue to create economic uncertainty, and are hindering business growth, job creation and opportunity for Kansans.  Chamber members reminded me that our country must chart a new direction in health care, energy, banking, taxes and debt if we are to create a promising future for the next generation. Thanks to all the members of the Wichita Chamber for making the trip to our nation's capital.

USDA Grants Disaster Designation for 25 Kansas Counties

On June 24, 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated 25 counties in Kansas as natural disaster areas due to production losses caused by severe drought, wildfires and high winds. Secretary Vilsack’s latest disaster designation is necessary for Kansas farmers and ranchers in the affected counties, and I am grateful the Secretary approved Gov. Brownback’s request. During a time when producers are experiencing the devastating effects of drought, USDA’s decision to provide needed assistance will help agricultural producers meet operating requirements, in spite of the exceedingly dry conditions

USDA designated the following counties as disaster counties: Barber, Barton, Butler, Clark, Comanche, Cowley, Edwards, Ellis, Ford, Graham, Gray, Harper, Harvey, Hodgeman, Kingman, Lincoln, Norton, Phillips, Reno, Rice, Russell, Sedgwick, Stafford, Sumner and Trego. Farmers and ranchers in the following 24 counties in Kansas also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous: Chase, Chautauqua, Decatur, Elk, Ellsworth, Finney, Gove, Greenwood, Haskell, Kiowa, Marion, McPherson, Meade, Mitchell, Ness, Osborne, Ottawa, Pawnee, Pratt, Rooks, Rush, Saline, Sheridan and Smith. Click here to read the text of the letter I sent to Sec. Vilsack.

These counties were added to the 21 counties USDA designated as natural disaster areas last month. Affected farmers should contact their local FSA office for more information by clicking here.

City of Olathe’s Sewer System

On Monday, I participated in a meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 Administrator, Karl Brooks, to discuss the City of Olathe’s concerns about EPA’s proposal to change regulations affecting the city’s sanitary sewer system. Included in the meeting was Congressman Kevin Yoder; Mike Copeland, Mayor, City of Olathe; Jim Randall, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Olathe; Bob Montgomery, Councilman, City of Olathe; Olathe Public Works staff; Hannes Zacharias, Manager, Johnson County; John O’Neil, Wastewater Director, Johnson County; WaterOne staff; and Karl Brooks and his EPA Region 7 staff. 

During the meeting, City of Olathe and Johnson County representatives discussed how EPA’s proposal could result in costly updates to city and county sewer facilities. The officials asked EPA for a more comprehensive and flexible strategy to manage sewer flows during large rain events. Administrator Brooks offered to continue the discussion and set up a future meeting to discuss the technical details of the policy. Thanks to everyone who attended the meeting to discuss this important issue that could affect thousands of citizens in Johnson County and other counties across Kansas. Special thanks to Erin Vader and Tim Danneberg for coordinating the meeting and hosting it at Olathe Service Center.

Touring Fire Damage in Ellsworth

I stopped by Ellsworth this week to survey the damage caused by a fire that unfortunately destroyed the historic downtown building housing the Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter. Firefighters worked to douse the flames for four hours on Sunday evening and were able to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby businesses. In spite of the great loss, I was pleased to hear that the weekly edition of the paper will still be published. Allyn Denning, daughter of the paper’s editor and publisher Linda Mowery-Denning, served Kansans in my Washington, D.C. office in the spring and summer of 2010. Click here to see a photo from my visit.

Viewing Fire Damage in Ellsworth

Touring New Sara Lee Facility

Sara Lee Corporation recently opened a new facility in Kansas City that is the most advanced meat processing plant in the world due to the high tech robotics on site. On Monday, Plant Manager Chip Burns gave me a tour of the 230,000 sq. ft. facility that employees over 200 people. The state of the art technology and best-in-class processes allow the facility to double the production of other plants. Sara Lee selected KCK because of the great location, Midwest work ethic, good talent, and ease in working with the Unified Government. The plant has room to expand, so I wish them success in growing in Kansas. Thanks to Heidi Rudolph for organizing the tour and to Tom Hayes for joining me on the tour. Thanks also to the management team for visiting with me during my stop.

Recognizing Outstanding Kansas Students

On Monday, Taylor Sutton of Wichita visited my Washington office. Taylor is an International Relations & Journalism, Radio/TV major at American University and winner of the 2011-2012 David L. Boren Scholarship. Boren Scholarships are awarded to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad programs. This year, 944 undergraduate students applied for the Boren Scholarship and only 152 were awarded. Boren Scholars represent a variety of academic backgrounds, but all are interested in studying less commonly taught languages. Taylor will live in South Korea and study Korean.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet with Rex Tai, a recent graduate of Blue Valley North High School in Leawood, to congratulate him for being selected as a 2011 United States Presidential Scholar. Since its creation in 1964, the Presidential Scholars Program has honored graduating high school seniors for academic excellence, artistic accomplishments, and civic contributions. Each year, this program invites more than 3,000 students to apply for recognition based on outstanding scores on the College Board SAT or ACT assessments. Rex was one of only 141 students to receive this prestigious award this year - 121 students honored annually include one young man and one young woman from each State, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, plus an additional 15 "at-large" Scholars. Applicants are further evaluated on the basis of school reports and transcripts, leadership activities, and contributions to family, school and community. Click here to see a photo from his visit.

Sen. Moran with Rex Tai

These awards are outstanding recognitions, and Taylor and Rex should be very proud of their achievements. I commend them for their hard work and dedication, and wish them the best as they continue their education and civic contributions. 

Country Stampede – An Annual Summer Highlight for Kansans

This weekend, I had the great pleasure of joining thousands of Kansas country music fans at the Country Stampede - just north of Manhattan. This annual event is a four-day music festival held at Tuttle Creek State Park. I enjoyed spending the evening visiting with Kansans and listening to many talented performers. I also had the opportunity to introduce one of country music’s biggest stars, Blake Shelton. Thanks to Jeff and Marla Copper for arranging the details of my visit and thanks to all the event organizers for their hard work to ensure this year’s Country Stampede was a great success. Click here to view a photo from my visit.

Addressing the Crowd at the 16th Annual Country Stampede

Visiting Inland Truck Parts Company

On Monday, I visited Inland Truck Parts Company (ITP) in Olathe. ITP is an employee owned company that was established in 1944. The company has locations in nine states that specialize in truck parts, in-house remanufacturing, and drive-in service facilities. In Kansas, you can find ITP stores in Olathe, Salina, and Wichita. The location I toured is preparing to expand to a seven bay service center. It is good to see businesses expanding during these difficult economic times. I wish the employees at ITP the best as they continue to create employment opportunities for Kansans. Thank you to ITP’s President Dave Scheer and Chief Financial Officer Greg Klein for showing me around.

Listening Tour Continues

I continued my listening tour this week and traveled to Norton and Decatur Counties to visit with local residents. I was in Norton on Friday morning and appreciated the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics with local residents including summer harvest, rural hospitals and the upcoming farm bill. Thanks to area residents for such a warm reception.

After Norton, I headed west to visit with Kansans in Oberlin, and visited with residents about their concerns regarding community banks, transportation and rural hospitals. I appreciated the chance to visit with local residents in both Norton and Oberlin so I could gain a better understanding of their views and the ways I can better serve them in Washington, D.C.

Upcoming Listening Tour Stops

This month, I am continuing my statewide listening tour. Please find more information about my upcoming town hall meetings below. If you’re nearby, I encourage you to stop by and share your thoughts.

Saturday, July 2, 2011
Riley County, Manhattan – Hosted by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
Location: Historic Union Pacific Depot
Address: 120 Fort Riley Blvd.
Time: 9:00-10:00a.m. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Republic County, Belleville
Location: Bel-Villa Restaurant
Address: 213 US Highway 36
Time: 12:00-1:00p.m. 

Jewell County, Mankato
Location: Mankato Community Center
Address: 214 North High Street
Time: 1:45-2:45p.m. 

Smith County, Smith Center
Location: Smith County Courthouse, basement meeting room
Address: 218 South Grant
Time: 3:30-4:30p.m. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011
Pratt County, Pratt – Hosted by the Rotary Club
Location: Park Hills Country Club
Address: 337 Lake Road
Time: 12:00-1:00p.m. 

Barber County, Medicine Lodge
Location: Main Street
Time: 1:45-2:45p.m.

Harper County, Anthony
Location: City Hall
Address: 124 S. Bluff Ave.
Time: 3:45-4:45p.m. 

Friday, July 8, 2011
Reno County, Hutchinson – Hosted by the Kiwanis Club
Location: Hutchinson Community College
Address: 1300 North Plum
Time: 6:30-7:30a.m. 

Stafford County, Stafford
Location: Stafford Community Senior Center
Address: 130 South Main Street
Time: 9:00-10:00a.m. 

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.

Kansas Farm Bureau
Terry Holdren of Manhattan
Harry Watts of Topeka 

Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
Joe Dick of Kansas City
Don Gray of Kansas City 

Kansas Municipal Utilities
Colin Hansen of McPherson
Robert Poehling of Overland Park 

Westar Energy
Mark Schreiber of Topeka 

Kansas Water Office
Tracy Streeter of Topeka 

Garmin International
Kevin Farnam of Olathe

American Health Care Association
Fred Benjamin of Coffeyville 

North Point Skilled Nursing
Dena Casida of Paola
Katie Albertin of Paola
Cindy Rush of Topeka 

Kathy Webster of Overland Park 

University of Kansas School of Nursing
Cynthia Teel of Kansas City 

Kansas Hospital Association
Cara Greve of Topeka 

National Patient Advocate Foundation
Janet Parker of Lawrence
Daniel Downing of Russell 

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
William Vander Ark of Leawood
Jackson Vander Ark of Leawood
Brent Vander Ark of Leawood
Betty Vander Ark of Leawood 

University of Kansas School of Education
Rick Ginsberg of Lawrence 

Prescription Solutions
Michael Lonergan of Overland Park 

BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas City
David Gentile of Kansas City
Coni Fries of Kansas City
Gordon Johnson of Kansas City 

BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas
Sunee Mickle of Topeka
Andy Corbin of Topeka

National Stroke Association
Dian Smith of Atchison 

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Paul and Paul Freeman, Jr. of Mission Hills 

Andover Public Schools
Susan Reusser of Andover 

Kansas Motor Carriers Assoc
Kimberly Bonhart of Overland Park
James Curry of Kansas City
Karl Cushey of Kansas City
Trenn Davis of Dighton
Larry Dinkel of Oakley
Sherwin Fast of Salina
Jason Hammes of Topeka
Ken Leicht of LaCrosse
Brenda Miller of Kansas City
Jay Miller of Edwardsville
Tom Whitaker of Topeka
Becky Crawford of Topeka 

Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Center
Candace Anderson Dixon of Hutchinson 

National Retail Federation
Joe Flannery of Lawrence
Curtis Sneden of Topeka 

Viking Power Dozer
Bill Baker of Andover 

Rural Cellular Association
Johnie Johnson of Hays 

Wheat State Telephone
Archie Macias of Udall
Mary Meyer of Madison
Andrew Denzer of Overland Park 

Janet Juhnke of Salina
Ted Hale of Salina 

Wichita Chamber of Commerce
Les Eck of Wichita 

National Peace Essay Contest
Austin Miller of Prairie Village 

Allison Pfeifer of Hays 

The American Horse Council
Christine Mensch of Lawrence
Adrienne Landry of Lawrence
Taylor Wolken of Lawrence

Many Kansans stopped by this week for a tour of the United States Capitol including: Brad and DeAnn Stephens of Overland Park and their children Grant and Brock; Steve and Nadine Foreman and Dorris Scheideman of Haysville; Ronald Randa of Liebenthal; Keno and Jonea Hartshorn of Timken and children Taberie and Kwinter; and Mayor Joseph Reardon and wife Amy of Kansas City along with their children Jack and Connor. Kansans visiting from Topeka included Becky Rislove, Elyssa Ellis and Lois Niles. Kansans visiting from Olathe included: Joe and Leanne Patterson; and Theron and Jill Krizek and their children Logan and Kaedyn. James and Shirley Estes of Overland Park also stopped by the office to say hello.

Contact Me

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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