Kansas Common Sense

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Senate Passes Continuing Resolution, Averts Government Shut Down
Last week, the Senate passed its version of the continuing resolution (CR) — a bill to fund the government through September 30, 2013, and avert a government shutdown. The CR was also passed by the House and is now on the President’s desk awaiting his signature.

Fighting to Save Air Traffic Control Towers
This week, I fought to save Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Contract Air Traffic Control Towers that will close beginning April 7, 2013, as a result of being targeted for a 75 percent sequestration cut disproportionate to other agencies. I asked Senate Democratic Leadership to put the safety of Americans before politics and allow a vote on my amendment to the CR to stop the planned FAA funding cuts to 179 air traffic control towers in 42 states. My amendment was blocked from a vote even though it had 26 bipartisan Senate cosponsors including 14 Democrats. The only expressed opposition to my amendment was from the Administration; it is clear that saving air traffic control towers from closure does not fit their message that spending cannot be cut without disastrous consequences.                                                     

On Friday, the FAA released their final list of 149 contract control towers that will close beginning April 7. Kansas Air Traffic Control facilities that are on the final closure list include: Philip Billard Municipal in Topeka; Hutchinson Municipal in Hutchinson; New Century Air Center in Olathe; Johnson County Executive in Olathe; and Manhattan Regional in Manhattan. The FAA removed Forbes Field in Topeka and Garden City Regional in Garden City from the proposed closure list. Both airports submitted a waiver request to the FAA and it was determined their closure would have a negative impact on national interest.

The Administration’s decision to shutter these air traffic control towers is short-sighted and dangerous. Closing control towers is equivalent to removing stop lights and stop signs from our roads. Although my amendment to the CR to save the control towers and protect public safety was blocked, this fight is not over. I will continue my work to make certain the Administration puts the safety of air travelers first, and will actively encourage the FAA reconsider its decision. I have already spoken to the Chairperson of the Appropriations Committee to seek out other avenues to protect the 149 control towers slated for closure.

Click here to learn more about my amendment to the CR which would have stopped the control tower closures. Click here to read an Associated Press story titled “Trouble in the air,” which discusses the safety issues Americans face with control tower closures. And Click here to watch my remarks demanding that the Administration put public safety ahead of political messaging.

Tuition Assistance Program Amendment
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment to the CR I sponsored to reinstate the Tuition Assistance program for members of our Armed Forces. The passage of this amendment will stop the suspension of Tuition Assistance benefits for members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force as a result of sequestration, and direct the Department of Defense to find savings elsewhere. Sacrifices in sequestration are to be expected, but the Administration must be smarter with spending decisions and make cuts in ways that do not intentionally and unnecessarily inflict hardship and aggravation upon our service men and women. The amendment restores the Tuition Assistance program, which gives our active-duty service members the quality education they deserve, and helps make certain our military has the best and brightest defending our freedom.

Meat Inspector Furlough Amendment
This week, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment I sponsored to the CR to solve a funding gap for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The amendment minimizes the impacts of sequestration by eliminating job furloughs that would negatively impact meat inspectors and consumers in Kansas and America. Without inspectors, meat and poultry production facilities would be shut down, products would stop flowing to grocery store shelves, and the availability of safe and affordable products would be limited. The amendment adds no additional cost to the bill. Instead, it moves one-time funding for school equipment grants and deferred maintenance on buildings and facilities at USDA. The amendment preserves meat inspector jobs and consumers should not be impacted.

Against Democratic Budget, For Fiscal Responsibility
As the CR funds the government through September 30, 2013, Saturday morning’s narrowly passed Senate Democratic budget (50-49) will fund the government through fiscal year 2014. It was Senate Democrats’ first budget proposal in four years and its debate was an opportunity to show the American people that Washington is committed to balancing the budget and addressing the long-term fiscal imbalances that threaten our future. Instead, this Senate vote defined two divergent visions for our country: one vision is of balanced budgets, smaller and more effective government, and individual responsibility; the other is of deficit spending, big government, and dependency.

We were not elected to ignore America’s fiscal crisis; we were elected to confront it. Congress must do what Kansans do every day: make decisions passed on solid values and be held accountable for those decisions. Our economy can and will recover when we balance the budget and begin to live within our means.

Amendment to Expand Access to Health Care for Rural Veterans
The Senate voted by unanimous consent to include in the Budget an amendment I sponsored with Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to encourage the expansion of access to health care for rural veterans through Telehealth and other programs. Our amendment seeks to reduce the burdens of travel for veterans to reach VA medical facilities.

Coming from a state as rural as Kansas, our access to health professionals is more limited than urban states. Veterans must have the opportunity to take advantage of the wide array of professional services that are available at every opportunity. Telehealth utilizes new technologies to give care centers the ability to treat more patients who would otherwise need to travel extensively to see a specialist. Expanding access to health care is critical for the growing number of veterans who live in large, rural states like Kansas, and I am pleased this amendment was included in the Budget.

Amendment to Protect National Guard and Reserve Military Technicians' Jobs
I cosponsored an Amendment to the Senate Democratic Budget Resolution along with Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming that would protect National Guard and Reserve military technicians who face furloughs under sequestration. They are the only members of the federal workforce wearing military uniforms subject to a reduction in their duty days.

The President, Congress and the Department of Defense agreed to exempt uniformed personnel from sequestration furloughs to limit the impact on military readiness. The decision to not exempt military technicians from furloughs could significantly hurt the National Guard’s federal mission to maintain a well-trained and equipped force to execute federal mobilization orders. 

I will continue to work on this issue in the Senate because this amendment did not receive a vote for inclusion in the Senate Democratic Budget Resolution. The National Guard Association of the United States supports our efforts to undue this wrong and make certain the National Guard maintains a high level of readiness to carry out its state and federal responsibilities to respond to state emergencies and overseas missions.

Kansas Farm Bureau Reception
This week it was a pleasure to speak at the Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) reception about the many issues facing agriculture and rural America during their annual Presidents Fly-in. It was good to have Kansans in Washington D.C., educating folks about our way of life. KFB is the largest agriculture advocacy organization in Kansas, with local chapters in all 105 counties. Click here to see a photo from the their visit.

Second Amendment Rights Are Not Negotiable
Last week, the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) began in New York. Hailed as the “final” round of negotiations by treaty advocates, the Conference seeks international consensus to establish common standards for the “import, export and transfer of conventional arms.” However, by failing to exclude civilian firearms from its scope or recognize the individual right to self-defense, the treaty threatens to infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners in the United States. 

When last summer’s conference on the ATT dissolved without a consensus treaty, firearm owners in America breathed a sigh of relief. However, when the Obama Administration made clear its intention to once again participate in treaty negotiations, continuing its reversal of the policies set forth by President’s Clinton and Bush, I felt compelled to take a stand once more. Last week, I introduced S. Con. Res. 7, a Concurrent Resolution expressing the sense of the Congress that ratification of any Arms Trade Treaty infringing upon our Second Amendment freedoms is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate. The bipartisan resolution has been signed by 33 Senators and 127 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. As this process continues, I will redouble my efforts to defend the firearm freedoms of Americans from an international treaty that equates law-abiding citizens of democracies with dictatorships abroad.  

Obamacare Anniversary
Saturday was the third anniversary of President Obama’s health care reform plan, the Affordable Care Act, becoming law. While the President promised the ACA would lower these costs and strengthen our health care system, over the past three years analysis shows that the law is increasing health insurance premium rates for individuals and families, slowing economic recovery, and hindering private sector job growth.

Many Americans could see the cost of their health insurance double next year due to changes that will take place as key provisions of the law take effect in 2014. This premium spike will be even more painful for young adults as mandates drive up the cost of coverage. The ACA is one of the largest expansions of government in American history, creating 159 new government boards, bureaucracies, and programs. As of early March, the Administration has issued more than 19,800 pages (see photo below) of new rules and regulations implementing the law. An individual seeking to apply for insurance coverage in the exchange will be required to complete a 21-page application.

The law is compounding our nation’s spending problem and increasing the burden on future generations, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that it will increase government spending by $1.88 trillion, double the estimate from 2010. CBO also estimates that the ACA will increase the federal government’s health care spending and subsidies by $1.2 trillion. Additionally, the law is a significant impediment to our country’s economic growth and job creation facing our country. Surveys repeatedly show that small businesses are not hiring because of the law’s onerous mandates, taxes, and administrative burdens.

Speaking at Home Care & Hospice Conference
On Tuesday, I enjoyed speaking at the National Association for Home Care & Hospice’s conference in Washington, D.C. Access to quality health care services such as home care and hospice determines whether Kansans can remain in the homes and communities they love with their families. And, these services are often cost-effective compared to other care options. Thank you to Jane Kelly, Kansas Home Care Association Executive Director, for inviting me to speak this morning and for introducing me at the event. It was also nice seeing Terri Wahle, Director of Homecare, Hospice, and Home Medical Equipment at Geary Community Hospital in Junction City, at this event. Click here to see a photo from the event.

Improving Consumer Protections
This week I introduced S. 635, the Privacy Notice Modernization Act of 2013, which would exempt financial institutions from mailing annual privacy notice disclosures to their customers if that information has not changed from the previous year. These long, and oftentimes confusing, notices are widely available online and by other means. By eliminating the requirement to send these notices on an annual basis, small financial institutions will be spared this great operating expense. With privacy policies widely available, customers can continue to obtain those privacy policies at their convenience.

The House of Representatives has passed very similar legislation a number of times. I look forward to swift passage of this bill so that banks and credit unions can get back to serving their customers by making these notices readily available without stuffing consumers’ mailboxes.

Leavenworth Lions’ 75th Anniversary Celebration
On Saturday, I had the opportunity to give the keynote speech at the Leavenworth Lions’ 75th Anniversary Celebration. The Leavenworth Lions Club has a rich history of serving its community and doing great things for Kansas. I have been a proud member of the Hays Lions Club for 35 years and am a former president of the club. The Lions’ core belief that “community is what we make it” is apparent in the value that Lions clubs, and other civic organizations, add to our Kansas communities. Thank you to the Leavenworth Lions Club President Gary Colston and to Lion Jack Walker for inviting me to speak. Click here to see a photo from the event.

Working to Bring More Physicians to Rural America
On Tuesday, three of my Senate colleagues and joined me in introducing S. 616, the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act. Our bipartisan legislation is aimed at improving the Conrad State 30 Program — a national initiative that permits states to recommend visa waivers for foreign-born, American-trained physicians recruited to care for patients in medically underserved communities. Access to physicians and other health care providers is essential to the survival and success of Kansas towns and rural communities across the country.

The State 30 program has brought thousands of physicians to rural, inner city and other medically-underserved communities since it began in 1994. I originally introduced legislation to extend the program during my time in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Kansas hospitals have used this program for years to recruit physicians to our communities. Under the State 30 program, foreign-born, American-trained doctors agree to practice medicine in underserved communities for at least three years in exchange for the waiver of certain visa restrictions that lengthens their stay in the United States. Since its inception, the State 30 program has been extended numerous times and brought doctors to rural and underserved communities in all 50 states. The physician shortage in America is a growing crisis. By 2020, projections show the nation may fall short by as many as 200,000 doctors. This shortage will be felt hardest in rural areas in Kansas and across the nation. Click here to read more about S. 616.

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

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City
Carlos Gomez of Topeka
Thomas Carignan of Overland Park 

Agriculture Future of America
Jordan Pieschl
Logan Britton 

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
Michael Sokol of Overland Park 

Heritage, Haven and Bible Baptist Church
Scott Hanks of Lawrence
Blake Alling of Haven
Daniel Knight of Coffeyville 

Immigration Voice
Rithvik Mogali of Lawrence 

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Bonnie Maddox of Leawood
Valissa Smith-Marston of Westwood Hills 

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Maria Iliakova of Kansas City 

National Association of Postmasters
Jo Ann Wells of Meade
Judy Wasko of Burdett
Rex Poole of Wamego
Jim McAnuny of Wathena

Association of Records Managers and Administrators
Michael Avery of Overland Park
Liz Icenogle of Kansas City

US Canola Association
John Haas of Larned
Michael Stamm of Manhattan

LeadingAge Kansas
Debra Zehr of Topeka
Angela Dailey of Topeka
KJ Langlais of Olathe
Jean Bryant of Cimarron
Amy Hoch Altwegg of Abilene
David Beck of Topeka

American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
Patty Tucker of Johnson
Christine Winkel of Glen Elder 

Kansas City Mayor’s Office
Mayor Joe Reardon of Kansas City
Paul Kalchbrenner of Kansas City
Pam Curtis of Kansas City 

Lyn Roberts of Wichita 

American Health Information Management Association
Mary Sue Moore of Manhattan
Kathy L. Tucker of Downs
Julie Renee Hatesohl of Manhattan
Claudia Ellerman of Wichita
Ann Nowlin of Salina 

National Automated Clearing House and EPCOR
Karen Sylvester of Olathe 

American Society of Agronomy
Josh Jennings of Manhattan
Gar Pierzynski of Manhattan
Fred Vocasek of Dodge City
Patrick Bell of Stillwater 

Kansas Commissioner of Education
Diane DeBacker of Topeka
Brad Neuenswander of Topeka 

Midwest Housing Equity Group
Pat Michaelis of Topeka 

Kansas Podiatric Medical Association
Dr. Jeff Hogge of Independence
Mark Landry of Overland Park
Michael Johnson of Overland Park 

Atchison Housing Authority
Sheryl Swendson of Atchison
Roxanne Mason of Leavenworth
Larry Hopkins of Topeka
JoAnn R Sutton of Manhattan
Kathy Rankin of Olathe 

National Association of Conservation Districts
Ron Brown of Fort Scott 

FAA Managers Association
John Griffiths of Overland Park 

Kansas Home Care Association
Jane Kelly of Topeka
Terri Wahle of Junction City 

Kylene Scott of Dodge City
Justin Goetz of Park
Kayla Goetz of Park 

Kansas Farm Bureau
Matt McCabe of Buhler
Brad Birzer of Ellinwood
Cale McCabe of Buhler
Shari McCabe of Hutchinson
Richard Filts of Manter
Tim, Kelly, Caleb, and Bailey Spies of Wellsville
Robin Dunn of Wellsville
Richard Dunn of Wellsville
J. Jaspen of Parker
Clark and Ann Eglert Mccure
Mellissa Stanfield of Cowley
Bryan and Jennifer Blume of Poxy
Kyle and Leslie Rennie Cherokee
Jerry McReynolds of Woodston
Diane McReynolds of Woodston
Stacey Forshee of Delphos
Robert Voegele of Arkansas City
Keith Miller of Great Bend

Pest Management
Pamela Peckman of Paola
Spencer Duncan of Topeka
Ravi Sachdeva of Manhattan 

American Society at Hematology
Dr. Brea Lipe of Westwood 

Society for Neuroscience
Laura Martin of Kansas City 

Kansas Recreation and Park Association
John Washington of Garden City
Bob Johnson Jr. of Overland Park
Doug Vance of Lawrence
Sue Vance of Lawrence

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Organization
Randal Atkeisson of Wichita 

National Association for the Education of Young Children
Holly Turner of Lawrence
Diane Purcell of Topeka
Deb Crowl of Emporia
Elaine Edwards of Salina 

University of Kansas Hospital
Dorothy Hughes of Kansas City
Terry Rusconi of Kansas City 

National Association of Convenience Stores
Bill Deichler
Cindi Summers
Jeff Parker of Hutchinson 

U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc.
Taff Hughes of Ellinwood 

American Society of Civil Engineers
David Silverstein of Overland Park
Aaron Frits of Lawrence
Chris Hermreck of Roeland Park 

National Association for Sport and Physical Education
Blake Taylor of Wichita 

Wichita Airport Authority
Victor White of Wichita
Charles Fletcher of Wichita 

Fight Colorectal Cancer
Doug Sharp of Prairie Village
Dan Dixon of Kansas City 

Westar Energy
Jim Ludwig of Wichita
Mark Ruelle of Topeka
Jeff Martin of Topeka
John Fitzgerald of Topeka 

Kansas Christian Church Youth Group
Dawson Soper of Columbus
Kenny Turner of Pittsburg
Kayly Schoming of Salina
Dalton Beech of Columbus
Makenna Billesbach of Columbus
Justin Garrison of Columbus
Ryan Thomas of Columbus
Cameron Hilley of Clearwater
Ty Spear of Columbus
Sean Green of Atchison
Tera Spear of Columbus
Kaitlyn Vanatta of Columbus
Tiffany Pedersen of Solomon
Shannon Tremblay of Columbus
Kimmie Thomas of Columbus
Adrienne DeClerck of Topeka
Mady McColm of Fort Scott
Steven Martin of Topeka
Tricia Boyes of Columbus
Julie Stover of Columbus

Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved
Connie Hubbell of Topeka
Phillip Davis of Emporia
Erin Reece of Emporia
Brandy Nance of Emporia
Teresa Lovelady of Wichita 

Tourette Syndrome Association
Chuck Knoepker of Overland Park
Justin Knoepker of Overland Park
Winnie Knoepker of Overland Park 

George Washington University
Emily Thompson of Hutchinson
Chelsea Franzluebbers of Lawrence 

National Sunflower Association
Karl Esping of Lindsborg 

D.C. Capitol Tours
Pamela Slawson of Tonganoxie
Thomas Geyer of Tonganoxie
Kevin Watts of Brookville
LuAnn Watts of Brookville
Mark Filipi of Lawrence
Ann Marie Harris of Lawrence
Karen Reddig of Great Bend
Kelsey Hofeling of Great Bend
Mary Bieker of Great Bend
Emma Bieker of Great Bend
Pamela Dankenbring of Marysville
Mitchell Dankenbring of Marysville
Mary Dixon of Olathe
Grace Dixon of Olathe
Matthew Dixon of Olathe
Clemente Moreno of Wichita
Tammy Moreno of Wichita
Briana Moreno of Wichita
Kayla Moreno of Wichita
Andrew Moreno of Wichita
Christy Jansen of Emporia
Lauren Jansen-Clarke of Emporia
Leslie Jansen-Clarke of Emporia
Donna Barrett of Jamestown
Cory Beougher of Downs
Kyle Beisner of Downs
Mercedes Barlow of Downs
Cody Burda of Downs
Bailee Hennes of Downs
Kelli Hennes of Downs
Tanner Bowles of Cawker City
Nathan Weeks of Cawker City
Tanner Gasper of Tipton
Trevor Winkel of Glen Elder
Brittany Winkel of Glen Elder
Tam Decker of Downs
Alexis Koops of Downs
Garen Forsythe of Emporia
Patricia Forsythe of Emporia
Charissa Forsythe of Emporia
Ariel Forsythe of Emporia
Kieran Forsythe of Emporia
Fernando Andrade of Olathe
Jessica Andrade of Olathe
Dean Gravett of Weir
Cheryl Gravett of Weir
Taylor Gravett of Weir
Chandler Gravett of Weir
Ramona Weigel of Leawood
Susan Wagner of Leawood
Sarah Wagner of Leawood
Asley Boone Leawood
Kurt Maurath of Oakley
Julie Maurath of Oakley
Leigh Ann Maurath of Oakley
Michael Maurath of Oakley
Adam Maurath of Oakley
Akram Laytimi of Lawrence
Nadia Laytimi of Lawrence
Amy Laytimi of Lawrence
Abdellah Laytimi of Lawrence
Kathleen Parker of Hutchinson
Anna Parker of Hutchinson
Olivia Parker of Hutchinson
Dr. Luke Nichols of Wichita
Stephanie Nichols of Wichita
Ian Nichols of Wichita
Jonah Nichols of Wichita
Scott Graves of Wichita
Kelly Graves of Wichita
Kristen Graves of Wichita
Julia Graves of Wichita
William Froeschl of Mission Hills
Lori Froeschl of Mission Hills
Philip Froeschl of Mission Hills
Robert Froeschl of Mission Hills
Kayton Froeschl of Mission Hills
Kyle Schartz of Great Bend
Bonny Schartz of Great Bend
Kaleb Schartz of Great Bend
Dr. Roger Rajewski of Lawrence
Lian Rajewski of Lawrence
Benjamin Rajewski of Lawrence
Jacob Rajewski of Lawrence
Charles Meise of Baxter Springs
Lisa Meise of Baxter Springs
Courtney Phillips of Baxter Springs
Trenton Phillips of Baxter Springs
Terry Henry of Randolph
Tammie Henry of Randolph
John-Michael Gilmer of Lenexa
Lisa Gilmer of Lenexa
Alissa Gilmer of Lenexa
John Gilmer of Lenexa
Richard Hall of Prairie Village
Ann Hall of Prairie Village
Elizabeth Hall of Prairie Village
Reser Hall of Prairie Village
Jean Hall of Prairie Village
Justin Prelogar of Leawood
John Roberts of Prairie Village
Jane Roberts of Prairie Village
Madeline Roberts of Prairie Village
Margot Roberts of Prairie Village
William Roberts of Prairie Village

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.

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