Kansas Common Sense

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Six Major USDA Grants Reach Kansas Communities

This week, I announced six grants, totaling nearly $4 million, are going to communities across Kansas to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities. These grants (listed below) were awarded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant program, which I supported as a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee. 

$943,163 for Eastern Kansas
$781,127 for Central Kansas
$501,956 for Labette Schools
$658,894 for Southcentral Kansas
$791,638 for Paradise School District
$832,505 for Pawnee Mental Health Services

As these grants reach their respective communities, they will be used to make certain our students continue to receive a quality education and address critical health care needs during this pandemic, as well as create new learning opportunities for students in rural communities to pursue careers in STEM fields. I will continue to support federal programs that ensure rural communities are supported during this pandemic and have opportunities for growth through innovative telecommunications technology.

Update on Supreme Court Nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett

As the Senate Judiciary Committee begins its hearing on the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, I will continue to monitor her progress throughout the entire confirmation process to learn more about her judicial philosophy.

After our meeting last week, I have an appreciation for her views on the Constitution and the importance of carrying out the law as written. She is without a doubt a well-qualified, thoughtful nominee who is committed to upholding the law and applying it fairly. I look forward to Judge Barrett further demonstrating her judicial views as the confirmation process continues.

Staying Safe after Kansas Fires and Dust Storms

Last night, wildfires threatened the residents of Nicodemus and I am pleased reports today indicate the situation is under control. Thank you to all of the emergency personnel who responded quickly to the area this weekend.

Read more about the fires here in KWCH.

Supporting Small Businesses through COVID-19

During my visit to Emporia this week, I met with folks to learn more about how COVID-19 has impacted Emporia’s economic development. The experiences of Emporia’s community members and business owners captures the experiences of many of our Kansas communities over the past six months. While it’s great to see family members, friends and neighbors pull together during difficult times, COVID-19 has undeniably dealt a blow to many of our main street businesses.

I appreciated the opportunity to meet with Emporia Main Street to discuss how I can be of further help during this pandemic and visited several local businesses, including The Sweet Granada chocolate shop, Trox Gallery and Haag Property Management’s Citizens National Bank project while I was in Emporia. We also discussed the housing development efforts in the downtown area and how new loft apartment complexes have been added over the past several years. Thank you to Main Street Executive Director Casey Woods for showing me around and the business owners who took time to speak with me.

To learn more about Emporia’s Main Street Revival, read this article from The Wall Street Journal.

Supporting our Native American Veterans

This week, I joined Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) in introducing legislation to create a Congressional Charter for the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV). This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization was endorsed by the National Congress of American Indians and is dedicated to advocating for the needs and concerns of tribal veterans. NAIV was originally established in 2004, and this legislation would officially recognizes their mission and work.

There are over 1,000 Native American veterans in Kansas who would benefit from the work done by NAIV. Their ability to coordinate solutions to the needs and concerns of Native American veterans across the federal and state level is unique to both the veteran and Native American communities.

As a member of the Indian Affairs Committee, as well as the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC), bringing this Congressional Charter to fruition is another step towards better acknowledging the service of America’s Native American veterans. It is time for Congress to officially recognize the NAIV, and I encourage Congress to quickly pass this legislation.

Protecting Our First Amendment Rights

This week, I joined 33 of my Senate colleagues in signing an amicus brief in support of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. The mayor of the District of Columbia prohibited the church from holding outdoor church services that exceed 100 attendees. The church, which employs strict social distancing and mask wearing at all services and events, sued the district, contending that the city is selectively enforcing its own rules by allowing mass protests but not safely-held church services.

The brief argues that this violates the church’s First Amendment rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. The First Amendment’s promise of free speech for all should be protected and enforced, and my colleagues and I argued the court should issue a preliminary “injunction to prevent the Mayor and the District of Columbia from prohibiting outdoor religious services that adhere to COVID-19 protocols.” Late last week a judge ruled in favor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, granting them a preliminary injunction to meet outside in the district.

I will continue to actively protect First Amendment rights for all Americans.

Providing Access to COVID-19 Testing through Ellsworth County Medical Center

This week, I visited Ellsworth County Medical Center (ECMC) to discuss COVID-19 and health care with local officials. Throughout our discussion, I emphasized the need to maintain access to health care across the state as hospitals continue to be a centerpiece of many local communities’ economy, especially as health systems are forced to rapidly adapt to the circumstances created by COVID-19. I had a chance to view Ellsworth County’s mobile medical unit - the COVID-19, medically equipped automotive vehicle that is currently being used to test patients throughout the county.

Sufficient health care is key to the survival of our rural Kansas communities. I will continue to work, especially as we continue to navigate the ongoing and long-term effects of COVID-19, to make sure that rural hospitals survive. 

Thank you to ECMC CEO Andrew Bair, along with the center’s Board of Director Chair Ken Beneda, Mayor of Ellsworth Mark Kennedy, ECMC Marketing and Community Outreach Kate Schiermeyer, Mayor of Holyrood Brandon Koch, Mayor of Wilson Mike Peschka, Ellsworth County Commissioner Kermit Rush, USD 327 Superintendent Dale Brungardt, Ellsworth County Health Department Administrator Kerianne Ehrlich, Ellsworth County Chamber of Commerce Tami McGreevy, Ellsworth County Economic Development Stacie Schmidt, and ECEM Executive Administrative Assistant Kayla Timms for making this visit possible.

Improving Pawnee’s Mental Health Services through USDA Grants

I was pleased to visit Pawnee Mental Health Services in Manhattan to announce the $832,505 grant they received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants program. Through partnerships with the local health departments, these resources will help expand rural health services across north-central Kansas, providing critical care to rural communities.

I was also able to see firsthand how the grant they received last year allowed them to expand video conferencing services to Jewell, Mitchell and Washington counties. Thank you to Executive Director Robbin Cole for the tour and conversation and USDA Rural Development State Director Lynne Hinrichsen for joining us.

Now, more than ever, people will benefit from greater access to mental health services, and I am pleased this grant will further help Kansans.

Read more here in the Manhattan Mercury.

Visiting Shooter’s Corner

This week, I also stopped in Pratt to join the Chamber of Commerce in a visit to Shooter’s Corner, a recently opened indoor activity space. The owner, former Pratt Police Chief Gary Myers, opened Shooters Corner at the beginning of 2019 and has since seen a growing interest in his firing and axe throwing range.

A unique aspect of Shooter’s Corner is its partnership with local law enforcement. Pratt Police Chief Nathan Humble explained how officers can train in the indoor shooting range and the simulator room, which offers officers the ability to experience and react to potential scenarios before they encounter a similar situation in uniform. I thank all our officers for helping keep our communities safe. I will continue to support all law-enforcement officers across Kansas and work to provide the necessary resources to assist them in their mission to protect and serve.

Thank you to Chief Humble, Pratt County Sheriff Jimmy White, Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Kim DeClue and City Manager Bruce Pinkall for joining me on this visit.

Protecting Students While Responding to COVID-19 at USD 363

This week, I visited USD 363’s Administration Center in Holcomb and sat down with Superintendent Dr. Scott Myers and School Board President Matthew Jones. We discussed how the school district is responding to COVID-19 while students remain in the classroom. Through communication between USD 363 and the Finney County Health Department, the school district is able to better protect the teachers and students as they continue to learn from inside the classroom. I commend Dr. Myers, Mr. Jones and all school districts and district officials who are doing all they can to make sure students can safely attend school as we continue to protect ourselves from this virus.

Assessing Regional Airport Needs in Kearny County

I visited the Kearny County Airport in Lakin to discuss the airport’s future expansion. As a regional airport, Kearny County’s runway expansion project would help improve access to Kearny County’s Hospital in case of emergencies and continue to improve and expedite access to the rest of the state. 

Kansas’ local airports are crucial to regional economies across the state, and this project would bolster needed infrastructure improvements, supporting not only Lakin and Kearny counties, but southwest Kansas’ aviation needs for years to come. Lakin continues to be a testament to Kansas’ small-town way of life, and airport renovations make certain that Kearny County will continue to thrive.

Thank you to Ralph Goodnight, Kearny County Airport’s Development Director and Kearny County Hospital CFO Marley Koons for giving me a tour.

Safeguarding Kansas’ Natural Resources through Conservation and Preservation Efforts

On Monday, I visited the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Chase County. Established in 1996 by legislation authored by Kansas Senators Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve conserves nearly 11,000 acres of tallgrass prairie that is jointly owned by the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy. This cooperative ownership arrangement shows how the federal government can facilitate investment in conserving nature and the important role public-private partnerships play in conservation. This was my first time to meet with Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Superintendent Randy Bilbeisi.

Every year I hold a Conservation Tour, during which I meet with stakeholders and visit conservation sites in Kansas, learning how federal conservation programs are assisting Kansans and how they can better serve our communities. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to ensure conservation programs, including our national preserve system, are properly supported by Congress.

Marysville’s Landoll Company Bolsters Community

Throughout October - National Manufacturing Month - we celebrate the hard work of our nation’s manufacturers. I was pleased to visit Marysville’s Landoll Company, one of Kansas’ homegrown manufacturing industries last week. Landoll is a world-class manufacturer that delivers quality products and services for the agriculture, transportation, material handling, OEM and government industries. Since its inception in 1963, Landoll has called Marysville home for over half a century. Through its active engagement in community partnership, Landoll has become a model of home-grown businesses and industry-leading innovation. When these two are anchored together in a community, the business contributes to the surrounding area and helps ensure a community’s future. Producing and providing goods and services in Marysville will continue to bolster the area’s success in years to come.

Thank you to founder and President Don Landoll, as well as Vice President Dan Caffrey, Plant Manager Rich Landoll and Paula Landoll-Smith for the tour and conversation. I will continue to work to ensure companies like Landoll find ways to grow and be successful in communities across Kansas.

Touring NorthWind Technical Services

This week, I visited NorthWind Technical Services in Sabetha. Founded in 1997 by Michael and Marlene Bosworth, NorthWind has called Sabetha home for more than 20 years; its success has spurned numerous expansion projects both at home in Sabetha and outside of the U.S., NorthWind offers a wide set of expertise in software and automation solutions for several industries including pet foods and plastics. It offers manufacturers experience in programming, design and technical support. Like so many other Kansas-based businesses, NorthWind has risen to challenges raised by COVID-19 and has continued their success though their outstanding customer service. A special thank you to President Michael Bosworth for an excellent tour and discussion. I also appreciate City of Sabetha officials for joining me on this visit. 

Joining Garden City Rotary

This week, I joined members of the Garden City Rotary Club to provide an update on the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and county funding in response to this pandemic. After paying tribute to long-time Garden City citizen Betty Jo Roberts who passed away in June, we touched on how this pandemic continues to affect counties across Kansas, as well as providing updates on recent changes in Amtrak services, VA legislation and information regarding the Supreme Court nomination.

Thank you to Police Chief Michael Utz for his many years of service, as well as to rotary president Lee Barrett for organizing the event. Many thanks to all the Garden City Rotary members for your feedback and city and county leaders who attended; I appreciate the input I hear from Kansans during these visits.

Opening my Garden City Office

This week, I was visited my new Garden City office. I was greeted by Garden City Chamber President Myca Bunch, her executive assistant Shonda Collins, and my Southwest Kansas District Director Reid Petty. I look forward to continuing to strengthen my presence in southwest Kansas and getting to Kansans throughout the area.

Opportunities for Students

Spring Internship Application Now Open
Applications for the Spring 2021 Intern Session are now available. Qualified undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in public service, the legislative process and serving Kansas are invited to apply by October 23rd.

Please visit my website to hear from past interns, find the application link, and learn more about this opportunity.

U.S. Senate Page Program
My office is actively looking for a high school Kansan to participate in the Spring 2020 Senate Page Program. This program provides the unique opportunity to work in the Senate and learn about Congress and the legislative process while maintaining their regular coursework. The Sring Page eligibility is limited to juniors in high school who will be 16 or 17 years old on or before the date of appointment.

The Page Program is very competitive and a limited number of spots are available. Applicants are encouraged to apply early. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but the preferred deadline is October 21st. For questions or more details, please call 202-224-6521 and request to speak with the page coordinator. Please visit my website to learn more about this opportunity. 

Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard. 

Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking 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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