Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them.
I hope you are able to spend quality time giving thanks with family and friends this Thanksgiving week. I’m thankful that you entrust me with fighting for Kansas values in the United States Senate on your behalf. Happy Thanksgiving from Robba and me.
Another Step Closer to Tax Reform
The Senate’s tax plan, which lowers corporate and individual tax rates, advanced out of the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday and will be debated by the full Senate after Thanksgiving. Thank you for continuing to share your perspectives on tax reform with me – I will keep your thoughts in mind as we continue working toward a 21st century tax code that works for Kansans and their families.
Holding a Hearing on VA Efforts to Combat Opioid Abuse
As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, I convened a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the VA’s efforts in combating opioid abuse within the VA. We heard testimony on the need for increased coordination for veterans receiving care in their communities to make certain both community and VA providers are aware of any opioids prescribed to patients, which can hopefully reduce opioid over-prescription.
This week, I also cosponsored the bipartisan Andrew White Veterans Community Care Opioid Safety Act. The national opioid crisis disproportionally affects veterans, and the VA’s history in managing their chronic pain has led to over-prescriptions, addiction and even death. This legislation will help the VA and our healthcare providers in the community share information that is important to the well-being of our veterans, and I hope to have the opportunity to vote on this bill soon.
Sending My Bipartisan MGT Act to the President’s Desk
On Thursday, the Senate passed the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY18, which included my MGT Act. This bipartisan legislation will propel our inefficient, outdated federal IT systems into the 21st century to promote productivity and strengthen cybersecurity. Passing the MGT Act will modernize our IT infrastructure and establish working capital funds in federal agencies to incentivize the replacement of these technological vulnerabilities. Providing this funding flexibility to IT management experts within agencies – with strong built-in oversight by Congress – positions the federal government to effectively and expeditiously upgrade our systems according to the continuously evolving cybersecurity threats at home and around the globe.
In addition, nearly 75 percent of the $80 billion we are spending annually on federal IT systems is going toward maintaining and operating legacy IT rather than making lasting improvements. These improved efficiencies will end that practice and ultimately save billions of taxpayer dollars by reducing long-term spending. As Chairman of the Subcommittee of Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security. I’m pleased my colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree that IT investment reforms are an important step toward a more efficient, effective and secure government.
The bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature. You can find more on the bill here.
An Open Letter to U.S. Farmer and Rancher Organizations
I penned an open letter this week to agricultural organizations regarding the threat of NAFTA withdrawal, urging them to help rally farmers and ranchers to advocate for sound trade policy. With low commodity prices and declining farm revenues, the rural economy can’t afford to lose out on export markets. Below is a brief preview; I hope you’ll read my full letter here.
“While tax reform dominates the discussion in Washington, D.C., U.S. agriculture must not allow its focus to be diverted from the equally important issue of agricultural trade. Reforming our nation’s tax code is critical to growing the economy and can benefit all Americans. However, there will be little to no benefit of tax reform to farmers and ranchers if their ability to sell what they produce around the world is diminished...
The ability of a new generation of young producers to make a living in agriculture is impacted far more by the wheat, corn, cotton, and beef being exported each year than by any single tax deduction. And tax rates are irrelevant to the farmer or rancher who loses half of their income due to lost export markets…
With the leadership of agricultural organizations, we can help rally farmers and ranchers to speak up about the importance of trade to the future of a livelihood in agriculture. Tough negotiations on improvements – yes; withdrawal from NAFTA – no.”
Discussing Needed Legislation for Veterans Community Care with VA Secretary Shulkin
I had a productive meeting with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin in my office on Tuesday. We discussed the need for new legislation regarding veterans’ community care programs and our priorities for how community care ought to compliment care within VA medical centers. I’m pleased that the Secretary and I agree that we need substantial reform to start shaping the Veterans Health Administration into a high-performing system that will be able to provide veterans with access to the healthcare they have earned. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Shulkin to craft legislation that will make certain veterans do not face an undue burden or unacceptable wait times when accessing the care they need.
Meeting with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Regarding Tax Reform
Both Congress and the Administration have been hard at work to fix our outdated tax code to promote economic growth and provide tax relief for hard-working middle class families. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited my office to discuss our shared tax goals: creating jobs and putting money back in the pocket of Kansans.
Convening a Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on Technology in Agriculture
I convened a Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security hearing on Tuesday to examine the importance of new technologies used in modern farming. The agricultural community’s adoption of field sensors, drones, satellite imagery, advanced machinery and similar technology is growing at a rapid pace to increase crop yields and improve sustainable practices – the most profitable farms are often the most sustainable ones. This rapidly evolving technology will play a vital role in preserving farmers’ most important asset – their land – with the potential to increase farmers’ margins to unprecedented levels.
The collection and use of such data raises issues regarding the control of data, transparency of agreements between farmers and data firms, and barriers to expanding internet access in rural areas. As data collection and sharing practices become more popular across the agriculture economy, farmers are well-positioned to benefit from the “commoditization” of data collected from their land, especially as equipment manufacturers, service providers, cooperatives and other businesses seek to access and utilize this data.
I was pleased to have multiple Kansans on the witness panel: Kansas Association of Wheat Growers Vice President Justin Knopf, Farmobile Co-Founder and CEO Jason Tatge and Janzen Agricultural Law, LLC President Todd Janzen who grew up in south central Kansas.
Introducing Kansan John Broomes to the Senate Judiciary Committee
The Senate has the Constitutional responsibility to provide advice and consent on lifetime appointments to the federal bench. I was pleased to introduce John Broomes to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday for his nomination to be federal judge for the District of Kansas. Mr. Broomes – a Wichita resident and experienced attorney – has the even-handed temperament and legal wisdom required of a federal judge. The Senate Judiciary Committee will soon vote to send Mr. Broomes’s nomination to the full Senate, where I look forward to voting to confirm him as the new federal judge for our state.
Hosting a Kansas Listening Tour Stop in Cloud County
I visited Concordia to discuss the many issues challenging the small town way of life on Friday morning. First and foremost, I asked that any veterans in attendance reach out to me if they are experiencing issues with the VA or the Choice program. I am always looking for ways my staff and I can help. We discussed taxes, the future of NAFTA as it relates to farmers as well as solving world hunger with our abundance of grain. Our conversation continued on to healthcare and how we must shift our focus to the underlining costs of healthcare, rather than simply just who pays for it. I appreciate the folks that attended and contributed to the conversation.
Touring Southern Cloud High School
On Friday, I toured Southern Cloud High School, providing me the chance to see the quality of education in Miltonvale and to get to know the senior students, along with faculty and administrators who are working hard to make certain young Kansans have brighter futures. The students I met in the classrooms on our tour impressed me with their personal educational experiences and interest in learning.
My thanks to Superintendent/Principal Perkins for helping to arrange my visit and to seniors Jacey Fowler, Sienna Gray and Bailey Kennedy for leading the tour.
Touring the Proctor & Gamble Plant in Kansas City
On Monday, I toured the Procter & Gamble Plant in Kansas City on my way back to Washington D.C. Following the tour, I spoke with P&G employees, where we discussed tax reform, NAFTA and ways Congress can help local businesses like P&G succeed. Thank you to all the employees who could attend and to John Shaver, Kristen Walters and Molly Flanagan for showing me around.
Kansans in the Office
Sister Therese Bangert of Kansas City
Bruce Witt of Wichita
Jason Tatge of Bucyrus
Matt Kamphoefner of Leawood
Citizen’s Climate Lobby
Tony Schmidt of Lawrence
Planned Parenthood Great Plains
Jack Acuff of Kansas City
Rachel Sweet of Kansas City
Kansas Association of Wheat Growers
Justin Knopf of Gypsum
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
Hal Hoxie of McPherson
National Cable Television Cooperative
Gary Shorman of Hays
Kiran Chandran of Overland Park
Association of Critical Care Transport
Greg Hildenbrand of Topeka
Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Caroline Tolliver-Lee of Manhattan
Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program
Cosma Viana Teixeira Coelho of Olathe
Sophie Simon of Baldwin
Marlene Remberg of Topeka
Severin Elias Mulzer of Erie
Karl Steinke of Leavenworth
Fritz Wilhelm Wisser of Wellsville
Mathes Paul Trauer of Wellsville
Julius Albrecht Maucher of Garden City
Society for Human Resource Management
Unique Hiram of Fort Riley
Jennifer Locanthi of Wamego
Sarah Napolitano of Hutchinson
Cindy Volanti, Manhattan
Natalie Bright of Topeka
Carrie Cox of Wichita
Shelbye Smith of Wichita
Crystal Malchose of Westmoreland
Pam Foster of Topeka
Jason Zann of Shawnee
Kansas Independent College Association and Fund
Matt Lindsay of Topeka
Steve Minnis of Atchison
Navy League of the United States
Ward Cook of Prairie Village
John Broomes of Wichita
Linda Broomes of Wichita
Adam Broomes of Wichita
Claire Broomes of Wichita
Eden Broomes of Wichita
Noah Broomes of Wichita
Luke Janzen of Wichita
Alainna Janzen of Wichita
Brandon Ostradick of Overland Park
Mike Ostradick of Overland Park
Peggy Ostradick of Overland Park
Arland Wallace of Wichita
Scott Orr of Wichita
Ruth Tieszen of Wichita
Joel Tieszen of Wichita
Ryan Parks of Manhattan
Jared Parks of Emporia
William Parks of Emporia
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.
Very truly yours,
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