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.

Passing the 2018 Farm Bill
This week, I voted in support of the Senate Farm Bill, which includes a number of my provisions to benefit Kansas agricultural producers and rural communities. The Farm Bill provides a stable safety net for American farmers and ranchers, protects key risk management tools – such as crop insurance – and ensures continued access to credit for producers. With the ongoing low commodity prices and uncertainty in export markets that our farmers and ranchers experience today, passing a strong Farm Bill is more important than ever. 

One of the primary ways I judge a Farm Bill is if the policies it contains will encourage more young people to live in rural America, to go back to the communities in which they grew up and to take over family farming and ranching operations. This legislation will provide stability for producers by protecting crop insurance, strengthening the farm safety net and encouraging responsible land stewardship through conservation programs. This Farm Bill supports key rural development initiatives, including a pilot program within USDA to bolster broadband deployment.

I am pleased my amendments were included to allow Emergency Conservation Program payments for fences to be made in advance in times of disaster and to increase the accuracy of the ARC commodity program for mixed irrigated/dryland counties. Thanks to Senator Pat Roberts for leading the Ag Committee and the Senate through this process – I look forward to continuing to work on this important bill as it heads to conference and eventually to the president’s desk.

I spoke on the Senate floor in support of the Farm Bill – watch my remarks here.

Regarding Justice Kennedy’s Retirement Announcement
As a nation, we are grateful for Justice Kennedy’s many years of service. I look forward to evaluating the president’s nominee, working with my Senate colleagues to thoroughly assess his or her qualifications and confirming to the bench a jurist who is a defender of our constitution.

Advocating for the Southwest Chief
In May, I sent a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson expressing my concerns over recent indications that Amtrak does not intend to fulfill its commitment to match funds for rail maintenance on the Southwest Chief route through Kansas. Last week, I joined a bipartisan group including Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), in sitting down with Anderson with hopes to discuss common sense solutions to help Amtrak fulfill its commitment to our states and communities.  I was deeply disappointed when Anderson declined to make any such commitment.

Last year Amtrak, as a partner to BNSF railroad and the state of Kansas, pledged $3 million in matching funds to a U.S. DOT TIGER grant application, what became the third successful TIGER grant supporting track upgrades for the Southwest Chief since 2014. Amtrak’s decision to renege on their commitment is a violation of their responsibility to provide long-distance passenger train service in the United States, the very purpose for which Amtrak was created.

More than simply a long-distance travel option, the Southwest Chief is vital to many Kansans for their daily needs – getting to work, school, the doctor, visiting friends and family – and Amtrak’s own data reinforces this point: 69 percent of riders on the Southwest Chief are using it for a purpose other than leisure or vacation. The line has an economic impact on our state and each Kansas community it runs through.  

Currently, I am blocking two nominees to the Amtrak Board of Directors, and have been working through the Senate Appropriations process to require greater transparency and accountability from Amtrak when proposing any changes in service. Going forward I will continue to do everything in my power to compel Amtrak to make the right decision and fulfill its promise to Kansans.

Questioning the VA Secretary Nominee
I participated in a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Mr. Robert Wilkie to be the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday. My questions for Mr. Wilkie centered around utilizing partnerships for construction projects at the Leavenworth and Wichita VA medical centers, implementation of the recently passed VA MISSION Act, and staffing needs across the VA, including the Topeka VA Medical Center. With his previous experience as acting secretary, Mr. Wilkie is well aware of the challenges that await him at the department, and I appreciate his desire to transform the VA bureaucracy into a veteran-centric, customer service focused organization that places the needs of veterans, not bureaucrats, ahead of all else.

Once confirmed, Mr. Wilkie will undertake the monumental task of making certain the VA puts our nation’s heroes first. The VA must implement the letter of the law as intended by Congress in the establishment of the VA MISSION Act community care program, which will transform the VA into a modern, integrated health care system that will meet the needs of our veterans for generations to come.

Supporting the FY2019 Defense Appropriations Bill
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, I was pleased to support passage of the FY2019 Defense Appropriations Bill, which funds our military, out of committee this week. This year’s Senate appropriations process has thus far been robust and efficient, and the bill was approved by the committee with bipartisan support on a vote of 30-1.

This bill is vital to the investment of our future national defense priorities. It funds the largest research and development budget in the history of the Department of Defense. Additionally, the bill supports the largest pay raise for our service members in nearly 10 years.

The bill includes many of my top defense priorities, including funding research for advance composites, aviation and missile technology, aircraft development and fleet readiness, machine learning, next-generation helicopters and metal castings. It also contains language to safeguard the Kansas Army National Guard’s Advanced Turbine Engine Army Maintenance (ATEAM) at Fort Riley, support the cyber red team testing carried out by the Air National Guard’s 177th Information Aggressor Squadron and require the Army to review changes in stationing procedures with potential increases in force structure that could impact Fort Riley.

Military Funeral Honors Coordinators
I was encouraged by news this week that the Army National Guard has decided to maintain Military Funeral Honors (MFH) coordinator positions in every state. This decision reverses the Army National Guard’s previously announced plan to eliminate MFH coordinators in Kansas and seven other states. Currently, every state has a MFH coordinator to assist in the planning and coordination of staff and resources for the funeral of a veteran.

In April, I led a bipartisan letter to Director of the Army National Guard General Timothy Kadavy urging him to support the Military Funeral Honors Program and allocate at least one coordinator to each state. I also spoke on the Senate floor this month urging the National Guard Bureau to reverse course. Our veterans deserve the best our nation has to offer and their families deserve to lay them to rest with military funeral honors that are coordinated and executed faithfully.  

Visiting with Senate Page Mattaya Gibbs
For the month of June, I had the opportunity to sponsor Mattaya Gibbs from Parsons as a United States Senate Page. Mattaya worked on the floor of the Senate this month helping me, my colleagues and legislative staff with day-to-day procedures during a busy time in Congress. On Tuesday, I caught up with her to hear more about her experience before she heads back home. I’m proud of Mattaya for representing Kansas well on Capitol Hill and I wish her the best in her future endeavors.

Now Accepting 2018 Service Academy Applications
As students are finishing up the school and beginning their summer breaks, I want to remind them of the opportunity to apply to a United States Service Academy. Appointing Kansans to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. is one of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator.

To review requirements and move through the application process, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office at 913-393-0711. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by September 7, 2018. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, September 22, 2018, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

Kansas in the Office

Michelle Ponce of El Dorado
Casey Wallace of Lawrence

American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee
Jarrod Bowser of Mayetta
Sarah Bowser of Mayetta

American Promise Organization
Jerry Lloyd of Olathe
Louise Lloyd of Olathe

American Society for Radiation Oncology
Allen Chen of Kansas City
Nitesh Paryani of Leawood

American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Zachary Clary of Meriam

Coni Fries of Overland Park

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Teen Advocates
Alexa Blair of Wichita
Kisha Blair of Wichita

Frontier Farm Credit
Janet Bailey of Manhattan

Heartland 180
Max Mendoza of Kansas City

HSA Benefits Consulting
Beverly Gossage of Eudora

International Academy of Compound Pharmacists
Tyler Chamberlain of Mission
Eric Everett of Mission
Jay McEniry of Wichita

Kansas Cooperative Council
Mandy Roe of Topeka
Brandi Miller of Manhattan
Dave Spear of Valley Center
Allan Wegner of Onaga

Kansas Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee
Greg Smith of Kansas City

Kansas Soybean Commission
Jessica Freeman of Alma
Dennis Gruenbacher of Andale
Suzanne Gruenbacher of Andale
Bob Haselwood of Berryton
Dennis Hupe of Topeka
Noah Scrimsher of Perry

Kansas Music Educators Association
Panya Amphone of Wichita
Gretchen Bixler of Wichita
Martha Gable of Olathe
Lauren Hirsh of Wichita
Steve Oare of Wichita
Gae Phillips of Columbus
Mike Quilling of Garden City
John Taylor of Wichita

Kansas State University
James Stack of Manhattan

Micah Corps
Nick Detter of Andover
Ally Drummond of Leawood
Kailie Hamilton of Hesston
Tasho Mataswa of Wichita
Maria Penrod of Overbrook

National Biodiesel Board
Gene Binder of Shawnee Mission

United Spinal Associations
Linda Klaiber of Prairie Village

WSU with SCO, Navy and USMC
John Tomblin of Wichita
Andy Schlapp of Wichita

Capitol Tour
Sam Bartel of Hesston
Mary Beck of Silverlake
Charles Becker of Frontenac
Darcy Becker of Hays
Gail Becker of Plainville
Jan Becker of Frontenac
Jerome Becker of Hays
Christine Benne of Manhattan
Gage Benne of Manhattan
Paul Benne of Manhattan
Amy Brundage of Lawrence
Nate Brundage of Lawrence
Sarah Brundage of Lawrence
Kimber Li Bruner of Louisburg
Betty Burgess of Plainville
Pamela Burleson of Augusta
Walter Burleson of Augusta
Brylee Burns of Lawrence
Cade Burns of Lawrence
Chloe Callanan of Topeka
David Callanan of Topeka
Jolie Callanan of Topeka
Karlum Callanan of Topeka
Melissa Cooke of Wichita
Sharris Coomes of Hays
Lindsey Deegan of Hesston
Renee Ewert of Hesston
Kayla Ewert of Hesston
Gay Flax of Hays
Hunter Flax of Hays
Mike Flax of Hays
Dublin Fleming of Lawrence
Karen Fleming of Lawrence
Ryan Fleming of Lawrence
George Foree of Overland Park
Mary Foree of Overland Park
Donita Garner of Iola
Alanea Hanna of Wichita
Johnathon Hinojos of Newton
Ashley Hubbard of Hesston
Vicki Hubin of Dighton
Mike Hursey of Paola
Elly Lang of Hays
Ann Ludlum of Uniontown
Chelsea Makolm of Leavenworth
Tamara Martin of Hesston
Kylie Martin of Hesston
Trae Megaffin of Hays
Guadalupe Mercado-Avalos of Liberal
Bryce Minor of Liberal
Sheila Newman of Moran
Anne Oiie of Herington
Kaitlyn Owens of Hesston
Rogelio Pando-Gallegos of Liberal
Ericka Purcell of Wichita
Celbi Richardson of Hesston
Marilyn Robbins of Tonganoxie
Phillip Robbins of Tonganoxie
Jonah Rostetter of Hesston
Benjamin Roth of Hesston
Gerald Rumbaugh of Junction City
Sherol Rumbaugh of Junction City
Diana Schunn of Wichita
Christine Slinkard of Tonganoxie
Don Slinkard of Parker
Jay Slinkard of Tonganoxie
Keziah Slinkard of Tonganoxie
Mathia Slinkard of Tonganoxie
Renee Slinkard of Parker
Dorothy Sparks of Moran
Anna Speno of Hays
Rayne Stahl of Hays
Rylee Stahl of Hays
Marge Suchsland of Berryton
Steve Suchsland of Berryton
Chester Thacker of Junction City
Nell Thacker of Junction City
Christine Thomas-Hursey of Paola
Barbara Waggoner of Plainville
Hailey Waltener of Hesston
Brooke Wietharn of Kansas City
Gary Wietharn of Kansas City
Jodie Wietharn of Kansas City

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 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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