Kansas Common Sense
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Celebrating Independence Day
Independence Day is a special holiday – a time when we come together as Americans to celebrate our nation’s founding with parades, fireworks and barbecues. While celebrating this year with your family and community, take a moment to remember the sacrifices our veterans and current members of the Armed Forces have made to defend the freedoms enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is because of these sacrifices that America is still the land of opportunity and the greatest nation on Earth.
Lenexa Community Days Parade
Many communities across our state celebrate the Fourth of July each year with parades and festivities. Robba and I started the day Saturday in the community of Lenexa for their annual Community Days Parade, and we were honored to celebrate our country's 239th birthday with the thousands of Kansans who lined the parade route. The parade was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. Special thanks to Ted Halpin for driving us in the parade and to his daughter Mary Claire for riding along.
144th Annual Wamego Independence Day Parade
We ended the day Saturday in Wamego for the 144th Annual Independence Day Parade – one of the largest in the state. The theme this year was “Celebrate Freedom in Wamego!” Robba and I appreciated the opportunity to see so many patriotic Kansans come out to celebrate our nation’s independence and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Thanks again to Lonnie Paquette for driving us in the parade.
Hosting the Northrop Grumman New Supplier Symposium in Wichita
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of welcoming Northrop Grumman Corporation and 160 plus representatives from nearly 90 Kansas aerospace and aviation suppliers to a new supplier symposium in Wichita aimed at bolstering the aviation industry in Kansas. Suppliers converged on the world-class National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) for the opportunity to meet one-on-one with representatives from Northrop Grumman to learn more about doing business with one of the world’s leading global security companies. Thanks to Gloria Pualani, Northrop Grumman Corporate Director for Global Supplier Diversity Programs, for coordinating this impressive event with me aimed at facilitating more business between Kansas companies and Northrop Grumman.
Northrop Grumman currently partners with more than 180 Kansas businesses. Over the past three years, the Northrop Grumman has committed more than $132 million with suppliers in Kansas, including more than $30 million in 2014. In addition, the company employs more than 640 Kansans at facilities in Olathe and Fort Leavenworth – providing training programs for the U.S. Army, Army National Guard and Department of State – and Topeka – providing depot repair for the U.S. Postal Service. The purpose of the new supplier symposium was to make certain that as Northrop Grumman looks to contract with new U.S. suppliers, it looks to Kansas companies.
To help accomplish this goal, suppliers met one-on-one with Northrop Grumman procurement executives about the process of doing business with the company. Attendees also took part in a panel discussion where they were able to ask questions not only of Northrop officials but also executives from current Northrop suppliers Celltron, Inc. and Globe Engineering. To close out the day, attendees heard about the importance of innovation from Debra Teufel, vice president of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) and John Tomblin, Ph.D., vice president of research and technology transfer and director of the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University.
Thanks again to the GWEDC for helping make the event a success, with special thanks to Tammy Nolan for her organizational support efforts. Thanks also to NCAT for serving as wonderful hosts. A true team effort made July 2, 2015, a great day for Kansas aviation. Click here to learn more.
Touring William Newton Hospital in Winfield
On Thursday afternoon, I traveled to Winfield to visit William Newton Hospital (WNH) – a Critical Access, not-for-profit community general hospital that has served the community for almost 90 years. WNH operates five rural health clinics in three counties, which specialize in family medicine. My discussions with WNH administrators, board members and staff focused on a variety of topics, including our opposition to cutting Medicare reimbursement rates to Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and eliminating the CAH designation for some hospitals based on an arbitrary mileage determination. CAHs are small, rural hospitals particularly classified under Medicare to receive an enhanced reimbursement for providing care in rural areas, and 84 of Kansas’ 127 community hospitals are CAHs. We also visited about how hospitals and other community health care providers purchase drugs to treat patients, initiatives to recruit physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals, and WNH’s recent addition of board certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jeryl Fullen, to their medical staff. Dr. Fullen served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over most agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that impact hospitals and providers, meeting with Kansas hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, and other staff gives me important insight on the challenges they face caring for patients. Thanks again to WNH CEO Ben Quinton for hosting my visit.
U.S. Senate Aerospace Caucus Reception
My visit to Wichita continued Thursday evening when I was formally introduced as co-chair of the U.S. Senate Aerospace Caucus at a reception in Wichita hosted by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), Spirit AeroSystems, the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) and the Wichita Aero Club. In my role as co-chair, which I began in January 2015, I am working to promote education, workforce and research development, as well as increase manufacturing within the aerospace industry – an industry so vital to the Kansas economy. Roughly 32,000 Kansans support more than 450 aerospace companies, and that work contributes more than $7 billion annually to the Kansas economy.
One of my highest priorities is safeguarding our nation for future generations, which requires both a strong national defense and a strong economy. The aerospace industry is where these two priorities converge. Making certain this historical American industry remains strong, secure, and competitive globally is important not only for Kansas, but also across the nation. I’m proud to co-chair the Senate Aerospace Caucus, and am committed to supporting this innovative industry.
(Pictured with me here is Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell, Chuck Alderson of the Kansas Department of Commerce, Dave Franson of the Wichita Aero Club, Gloria Pualani of Northrop Grumman, Kathryn Verona of AIA, and Phil Anderson of Spirit AeroSystems.)
Emergency Department at Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center Reopens in Topeka
On Tuesday, June 30 at 8 a.m., the Emergency Department at Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center reopened after being closed for 514 days due to staffing shortages. This is the good news Eastern Kansas veterans have been waiting for – they will once again be able to count on emergency services at Colmery-O’Neil after the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) determined that the Topeka Emergency Department now meets all policy, procedures and staffing levels.
It has been a long road since the emergency room was temporarily shuttered in January 2014, and Topeka veterans were suddenly without the emergency care they could need at any moment. I am pleased our efforts alongside Director Klopfer, Congresswoman Jenkins and VA Heartland Network Director Patterson resulted in this positive outcome. I first raised concerns about the shuttering of the emergency department with then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in August 2013. I also expressed frustration with the VHA in January 2014 once the emergency room at Colmery-O’Neil was temporary closed. In order to resolve the ongoing issues, in April 2015, Rep. Jenkins and I asked the VA Heartland Network Director about the support the Network is receiving from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Washington, D.C. In early June, they received a response from the VA Heartland Director dated April 27, 2015, which stated that “we anticipate the temporary ‘pause’ on the Emergency Department to be removed by the end of May.”
This reopening follows the completion of a plan by Colmery-O’Neil to make certain the Emergency Department is fully capable of meeting the needs of the veterans. Safe and quality care for our nation’s veterans is one of my top priorities, and I trust that the reopening of the Colmery-O’Neil emergency room will help make certain veterans in Kansas can get the timely, quality care they earned through their selfless service to our nation.
Kansans in the Office
Kevin Christensen of Manhattan
Kristy Speckman of Wichita
Cody Utz of Holton
Grace Utz of Holton
Isaac Utz of Holton
Preston Utz of Holton
Julie Hedrick of Topeka
Lindsey Ross of Lawrence
Katelin Andrews of Olathe
Brian Roggy of Overland Park
Celeste Roggy of Overland Park
Victoria Roggy of Overland Park
Allison Roggy of Overland Park
Jim Holt of Valley Center
Karen Holt of Valley Center
Alana Holt of Valley Center
Brendan Wirth of Mankato
Pamela Wirth of Mankato
Jacob Wirth of Mankato
Garrett Wirth of Mankato
Casten Wirth of Mankato
Ethan Wirth of Mankato
Colin Wirth of Mankato
David Wirth of Ellinwood
Pam Wirth of Ellinwood
Erin Doherty of Overland Park
American College of Nurse-Midwives
Sharon Foster of Wichita
Leslie Arnold of Topeka
Cara Busenhart of Shawnee
Crystal Murphy of Overland Park
Kansas League of Postmasters
Rita Boos of Denton
Judy Rancy of Lawrence
Eileen Arnhold of Russell
Deona Joy of Iola
Charles Lincoln of Herington
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.
Very truly yours,
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