Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you 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. The Senate will return to session the day after Labor Day, and the first item of business for consideration will be the Iran Nuclear Deal.
This week and next, I will host important meetings in the state – a forum on veterans' health care in Seneca and a forum on U.S. Tax Reform with Rep. Lynn Jenkins in Wichita.
Veterans' Health Care Forum
On Thursday, August 27 at 10:30 a.m., Seneca area veterans are encouraged to stop by the Seneca Free Library to share feedback with Sen. Moran and VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System Director Rudy Klopfer about access to health care and veterans’ affairs related issues.
Forum on U.S. Tax Reform with Rep. Lynn Jenkins in Wichita
The forum, on Tuesday, September 1 at 6:30 p.m., will introduce Kansans to the FairTax – a proposal that would eliminate the complexities and loopholes of our current tax code, protect Americans from government intrusions by the IRS, boost business growth, and incentivize savings and investment. Joining Rep. Jenkins and me is Americans for Fair Taxation Chairman and President Steven Hayes. Area residents are encouraged to attend and share feedback on the FairTax and other critical issues facing Kansas and the nation.
Olathe Forum on U.S. Tax Reform
The need for a leaner and fairer tax code has never been greater. With its multitude of exemptions, loopholes and growing complexity, our tax code continues to stifle economic growth and cost Americans and businesses countless hours in their effort to comply. Adding to the significant shortfalls of our current system, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues to be beleaguered by gross mismanagement, politically biased leadership, and poor data security protections.
Overhauling our tax code is not an easy undertaking, but the time for reform is now. In order to get the conversation started, I hosted a Forum on U.S. Tax Reform in Olathe on Monday evening. Joining me for the discussion was Steven Hayes, Chairman and President of Americans for Fair Taxation, State Representative John Rubin (R-Shawnee), representatives from the Kansas FairTax Board, and more than 300 area residents. Our conversation focused on fixing our broken tax code, the economic benefits of a simplified code, the importance of protecting Americans from Government intrusions by the IRS and the differences between the leading tax reform proposals.
In order to simplify our tax code and help bring an end to the IRS, I have introduced the Fair Tax Act of 2015. This legislation would replace our complicated and costly income based, multi-tier tax system with one national sales tax – and render the IRS obsolete. By repealing all corporate and individual income taxes, payroll taxes, self-employment taxes, capital gains taxes, and gift and estate taxes, the Fair Tax will allow Americans to once again be in charge of their lives and money.
While there is still much work to be done, I hope that we can come together to acknowledge that reform is needed and that our current tax system cannot continue. Thank you to Steven Hayes, Kansas Rep. John Rubin, the Kansas FairTax Board, and everyone who came out, for making this forum a great success. If you would like to learn more about my efforts and the Fair Tax please click here.
Kansas Will Not be the Next Guantanamo Bay
The Pentagon quietly sent an evaluation team to Fort Leavenworth last week as part of the president’s latest push to bring 116 terrorists to American soil before he leaves office. Just as in 2009, Fort Leavenworth’s soldiers, their families, and northeast Kansans should not be forced to unfairly bear the burden and consequences that accompany detaining terror suspects in the homeland.
A critical national security decision deserves critical thought. Yet in seven years, this administration has been unable to present a cohesive, comprehensive and legally justifiable closure and relocation plan that maintains the safety and security of American citizens. We believe this last-ditch effort to carry out a reckless national security decision in a desperate attempt to turn failures into accomplishments is disingenuous and flawed. We are committed to making certain Fort Leavenworth is not its causality.
I encourage you to read my co-authored guest column in the The Leavenworth Times with The 27 Committee Chairman Jerry Reilly, which expresses our concerns with the administration's latest attempt to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Named for the year of Fort Leavenworth’s establishment (1827), the 27 Committee encourages cooperation between government and private business entities in the greater Kansas City region, centering on Fort Leavenworth. Click here to read the joint op-ed.
In addition, I called on the Members of Congress who are involved in the conference negotiations of the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and urged them to preserve and reinforce the prohibition on the transfer of detainees to the United States. I expressed my concern with the Pentagon’s renewed focus and recent visit to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and requested additional oversight to ensure that the intent of Congress and interpretation of current law is upheld.
Unleashing the Entrepreneurial Potential of Veterans
Wednesday, August 19, was Startup Day Across America – a day dedicated to raising awareness about the innovation, entrepreneurial activity and job creation happening right in our backyard. It was also a great opportunity to educate folks about the changing face of entrepreneurship in America.
As veterans in Kansas and across the country separate from the military and transition into civilian life, they have the opportunity to forge a new path. After serving our nation, more and more veterans dream of giving back to their communities as small business owners and entrepreneurs. That is why I introduced the Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act of 2015 (VET Act) – bipartisan legislation that would empower veterans to access resources through their earned G.I. Bill benefit in order to become entrepreneurs, create jobs for Americans, and generate growth in our economy. Higher education is essential for many, but some have a different calling. It’s common sense to give them a choice when it comes to how they can use their earned G.I. Bill benefits.
The VET Act proposes a three-year pilot program – overseen by the Small Business Administration – that would enable up to 250 veterans to utilize some their G.I. Bill benefit to start a new business or purchase an existing business or franchise. To make certain veterans have the highest chances of success, grants would be provided in installments after successful completion of an SBA-approved entrepreneurial training program as well as the development of an extensive and SBA-approved business plan.
The VET Act is gaining momentum in Congress, and was recently passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. As Sean McIntosh, former Navy SEAL and executive director of The Bunker in Kansas City put it, the VET Act “would be a game changer. Areas like Kansas City that provide a longer runway and better cost of living would see a huge influx of veterans… It would be easier for Midwest cities to capture the talent that’s needed.” You can learn more about my proposal in an op-ed published this week in The Daily Caller. It’s time to empower those who have sacrificed so much for our country to use the benefits they earned to unleash their entrepreneurial potential and achieve their dreams.
National Aviation Day and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Visits Kansas
Last Wednesday, August 19, was also National Aviation Day, and fittingly U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was in Kansas for the occasion. This was Secretary Foxx’s first visit to Kansas since being sworn into the position July 2, 2013, following a 100-0 confirmation vote by the U.S. Senate.
Wednesday’s event, held at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), brought together nearly 30 state and local leaders from the aviation industry to talk about issues involved in the Congressional effort to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Of particular interest during the roundtable discussion was the FAA’s proposed rule for small-unmanned aerials systems (UAS), and the agency’s process for exempting certain commercial uses. Of course streamlining the certification process for aircraft manufacturers, an effort with strong bipartisan support in Congress, was another primary focus. After 23 short-term extensions of FAA authorization between 2007 and 2011, Secretary Foxx concurred with sentiments from the aviation leaders on the need for long-term reauthorization to provide stability to the industry.
The roundtable event followed a presentation by WSU President Dr. John Bardo and NIAR Executive Director Dr. John Tomblin on the advancements in innovation the center is making in the testing and certification of airframe technologies. Because of NIAR’s research efforts, WSU ranks third among all U.S. universities in aeronautical R&D expenditures and first in industry funding for aeronautics. NIAR labs provide services to federal agencies and a wide array of aviation industry clients such as Airbus, Beechcraft, Boeing, Bombardier Learjet, Cessna, Gulfstream, Lockheed Martin, Spirit AeroSystems, the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA. Following a tour of the facility’s state-of-the-art research and testing labs, I was pleased to hear Secretary Foxx say it was unlike anything he has seen before.
In addition, the Secretary’s visit included a meeting with Shawnee County Commissioner Shelly Buhler regarding the state of the Willard Bridge in Topeka and opportunities for federal funding to repair the damaged bridge. The Willard Bridge is a critical connector between I-70 and U.S. Highway 24 for traffic across western Shawnee and Wabaunsee Counties, with more than 3,000 vehicles crossing the bridge each day. Unfortunately, now six decades old, the bridge is well past its useful service life and heavy traffic such as school buses and farm vehicles can no longer cross, forcing a an alternate route of 22 miles or longer around the Kansas River. The Willard Bridge is just one of many examples of infrastructure projects in Kansas that need attention.
I am confident the conversations Secretary Foxx had with Kansas aviation stakeholders will provide him valuable perspective for his work in Washington. Many thanks to Dr. Bardo, Dr. Tomblin, Tracee Freiss, Andy Schlapp and others at WSU for accommodating and facilitating the event and making the Secretary’s trip to Kansas a big success. Click here to read a joint opinion piece by Secretary Foxx and I that ran in The Wichita Eagle about the importance of air transportation.
(photo by Jim Meyer)
New Whistleblower Allegation: VA Rationing Hep-C Drugs
Startling new allegations came this week from a high-level VA Whistleblower who revealed that the VA planned to withhold hepatitis C drugs from veterans after urgently requesting congressional authorization to use $500 million in Choice Act funds to make certain veterans suffering from Hep-C receive treatment in a two-month timeframe.
In July, the VA cornered Congress, desperately requesting $3.3 billion at the 11th hour to make up for a foreseeable budget shortfall due to rampant mismanagement within the VA. Included in this request was the $500 million for Hep-C treatment to address the backlog of patients in need of care. The VA threatened that patient care would stop if they did not receive the requested funds and shared publically a very specific outline of how Hep-C treatment would be distributed among the veterans in need. Congress did not turn its back on the men and women who sacrificed for our nation and authorized the funds.
If the VA tells us there's a crisis and asks us to urgently respond to that crisis, the funds should be used as they told us they would. Instead, there is clear evidence the VA is working behind the scenes to ration care. The VA continues to make veterans wait for the care they need, putting the best interest of the VA ahead of the best interest of sick veterans.
Year after year, the Department of Veterans Affairs has requested and received increased funding from Congress to help make certain veterans receive the benefits they earned and the timely, high-quality care they need. Despite these substantial financial recourses, the VA continues to fail in its mission and these increases have not equaled an increase in service and support to veterans. It is becoming increasingly clear that the VA consistently says one thing publicly and then does another. Time and time again we hear promises and commitments with very little follow-through. Click here to read the special report in the Washington Examiner.
Reserves at Trail Ridge Ribbon Cutting
Housing is an issue in every community across Kansas. I took part in a ribbon cutting for the Reserves at Trail Ridge in Great Bend this week. The new, 48-unit apartment complex is a tremendous asset to the Great Bend community. Access to quality, affordable housing is vital to the survival of our communities because it determines whether Kansans can remain in the communities they call home. It is needed to ensure that businesses can hire the work force they need. These types of innovative efforts demonstrate that Kansans can and will go to great lengths to improve their hometowns and the lives of their neighbors. Thanks to Mayor Allison, Chamber President Jan Peters, and the local leadership team for their support on this important project.
Harvey County Listening Tour Stop
I continued my Kansas Listening Tour this week with a stop in Harvey County. About 75 local residents came out to the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce to share their thoughts and concerns about a range of issues from the Iran nuclear deal, and veterans’ issues to government spending and health care.
In attendance was James Mendenhall who drove from Wichita. I first met James following the 2007 Greensburg tornado when he was working to help Kansans rebuild their community. Thanks to James and so many others like him, the citizens of Greensburg once again have a place to call home.
Thanks again to everyone who participated in the good conversation today. Thanks especially to State Rep. Don Schroeder, Newton Mayor Glenn Davis, Sedgwick Mayor Rodney Eggleston, Newton City Commissioner Dave Nygaard, Walton City Councilman Jeremy Ashby, and Steve Kelly, CEO of Newton Medical Center.
Meeting with the Kansas City Breakfast Club
I also met this week with the Kansas City Breakfast Club – an association of business executives who have met to exchange business ideas and fellowship since 1936. During the meeting, we discussed a number of issues including the Iran Nuclear Deal and tax reform. Thanks to Mr. Tom Rogge for the invitation to attend.
Visiting Black and Veatch
I enjoyed visiting Black & Veatch's headquarters in Overland Park this week. Black & Veatch was founded in 1915 by two The University of Kansas grads and today is one of the largest private companies in the world, employing about 10,000 professionals and with completed projects in more than 100 countries. We discussed policy issues related to entrepreneurship, infrastructure, water and trade. It is always inspiring to hear about the innovation and success of great Kansas businesses.
Kansans in the Office
Kathleen O’Neil of Lenexa
James O’Neil of Lenexa
Edward Manda of Lawrence
Allie Denning of Ellsworth
Sky Morey of Overland Park
Mike Moran of Overland Park
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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