Kansas Common Sense
Jun 21 2021
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.
Wishing You a Happy Father’s Day
My greatest joy has been being a father.
I was blessed with great parents, and my father molded and shaped me in important ways that have defined my life. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in Kansas and across the country!
Joining Fox News to Discuss Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework
On Sunday, I joined Fox News to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure framework.
It’s important that Kansans have a seat at the table while infrastructure is being debated. As a fiscal conservative, I’m working to make certain the proposal is based on actual infrastructure needs instead of recklessly spending trillions of dollars on things that have little to do with infrastructure.
Watch by clicking here or below.
The Eisenhower Museum Expands Its Hours
Following my visit to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home to advocate for a full reopening, I learned the museum will be increasing the number of days it is open to the public. Effective today, the museum and Place of Meditation, Ike’s burial site, will be open Monday through Saturday. While the museum hours, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m., remain the same, this expansion is a promising development following my recent visit and good news for the Abilene community. I am encouraged by the museum’s intent to increase the number of hours open in the near future. I will continue to advocate here in Washington for the entire Eisenhower complex to fully reopen.
Read more about my visit by clicking here.
Modernizing College Athletics
Speaking on the Senate Floor
On Monday, I spoke on the Senate floor regarding student athletes’ control over the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) to receive compensation and the need for a consistent federal standard.
The floodgates will fully open on July 1 when state laws begin to take effect allowing student athletes to profit off of their NIL. Nineteen states have passed NIL legislation, and of those 19, six will go into effect on July 1. As more and more states continue to pass their own legislation, we are quickly headed for a system of inconsistent state laws that will be cumbersome and in some cases, unworkable for athletes and schools alike to navigate. College sports and the opportunities it provides student athletes will be harmed if we fail to pass a federal standard.
In February, I introduced the Amateur Athletes Protection and Compensation Act that would create a single set of guidelines to enable amateur athletes to profit from their NIL by prohibiting conferences, schools and athletic associations, like the NCAA, from rendering an amateur intercollegiate athlete ineligible on the basis of receiving NIL compensation. This bill strikes an appropriate balance as we work to empower amateur athletes while maintaining the integrity of college sports that we all know and love.
Visiting with Kansas Athletic Coaches
I also spoke with Kansas athletic coaches, including, University of Kansas Men’s Basketball Coach Bill Self and Kansas State University Football Coach Chris Klieman and left a voicemail with Wichita State University Men’s Basketball Coach Isaac Brown to give them an update regarding my NIL proposal. I appreciate their dedication to making Kansas an incredible place for student athletes to compete and learn and thanked them for taking time to speak with me.
Discussing My NIL Proposal at a Commerce Hearing
This week, I participated in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing covering NCAA student athletes and NIL rights. I heard directly from student athletes about their experiences as NCAA athletes and what should be considered in a federal NIL bill. I also heard from the father of Jordan McNair, a Maryland football player who lost his life to heat stroke at conditioning practice, about the needs for strong health and safety standards for amateur athletics as they compete at a collegiate level.
Evaluating FY2022 Budget Requests
This week, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough appeared before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to articulate the need for the department’s record level funding request for FY2022. As I pointed out to the Secretary, our country, through Congress, has provided the VA with significant funding increases in recent years, despite other departments’ funding remaining flat or seeing their funding cut. Investing in veterans’ success has been a priority for me and my colleagues, and I am committed to getting the VA the resources it needs to meet its mission.
The VA plans to spend over $300 billion next year, when their entire budget in 2019 was only $200 billion. Since 2018, the VA’s outpatient visits have increased 5.9 percent, and the number of inpatients has actually gone down. Yet VA spending on medical care has increased by 63 percent since 2018. Although the VA expects, and is already seeing, a surge of care following the pandemic, it remains unclear how that expected temporary surge in demand for care is accounted for in VA’s Enrollee Health Care Projection Model for the next two years. I am committed to getting more information to make certain the significant increase in funding is being put to its best use. Watch the full hearing by clicking here.
On Tuesday, I questioned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Bill Nelson, who was sworn in as the 14th Administrator last month. As the lead Republican on the Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA, our hearing reviewed NASA’s FY2022 budget request. During the hearing, I was able to emphasize vital components of the agency such as the Artemis mission and STEM education programs offered within the agency. Additionally, I was able to highlight the recently established Kansas Supersonic Transportation Corridor, an agreement finalized between the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration. As NASA continues progress on their X-59 supersonic aircraft, we would welcome them to use our test track as they continue to develop supersonic aircraft.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack testified before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and FDA Appropriations regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) FY2022 budget request. During the hearing, I expressed my concerns about the reopening of Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices as COVID-19 rescinds in Kansas and across the country. Opening these offices to visitors is vital for farmers and ranchers seeking assistance and advice from USDA programs and experts. I also asked Secretary Vilsack for an update on the implementation of provisions from my bills, the RAMP-UP Act and the Small Packer Overtime Fee Relief Act, that will help expand slaughter capacity for small meatpacking plants, which will result in more market opportunities for livestock producers. Given the current issues with cattle markets particularly, I believe moving forward with these actions ought to be a top priority for USDA. I once again invited Secretary Vilsack to come to Manhattan, Kansas, to see the progress of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF), and I look forward to continuing to work with him in supporting Kansas farmers and ranchers.
Department of Education
At a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations subcommittee hearing this week, I questioned Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on the Department of Education’s FY2022 budget request. During the hearing, I shared the importance of the Impact Aid program, particularly for Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, which provides financial assistance to schools facing financial difficulties due to a federal land presence in their district. Supporting Impact Aid schools is not only the right thing to do, but also yields national security benefits by supporting our military and veteran communities, and I conveyed my support for strong funding for TRIO programs.
As a first generation college student, I have long been an advocate for TRIO programs, which help provide opportunities in higher education for low-income, first-generation students. I also conveyed my support for IDEA state grants, as this funding is vital to providing adequate resources to ensure that students with disabilities receive the best education possible. While the overall size of the department’s budget request is concerning, I look forward to seeing that these and other education programs important to Kansas continue to receive the necessary funding in an eventual FY2022 spending bill.
Establishing Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday
This week, the Senate and House passed legislation to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, which President Biden signed into law on Thursday. On Saturday, as a result, we recognized the inaugural Juneteenth National Independence Day as America’s 12th federal holiday, and the first created since 1983.
This federal holiday recognizes the full implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation that transpired on June 19, 1865. On June 19, news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation finally brought long-awaited freedom to enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, marking the end of slavery in the United States.
Kansas is known as the state “where slavery began to die,” and I’m proud our state recognizes this important part of our past. As we observe the end of slavery and honor African-American freedom, we must also encourage further dialogue on where we have come from and the work we still need to do to live up to our founding ideals as a nation. This involves listening and learning from Kansans and Americans who have experienced or are still experiencing injustices to understand the right path forward so we can form a more perfect union.
Applications for the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program Are Open!
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released applications for the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program (AMJP), a program designed to protect our aviation manufacturing workforce. The program was created by legislation I introduced with Congressman Ron Estes and is structured as a temporary, emergency program as aviation manufacturers deal with the unprecedented crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program works to ensure the experienced and invaluable aviation manufacturing workforce will be safeguarded and available to contribute as the industry recovers.
The application process is open for four weeks, closing at 5:00pm ET on Tuesday, July 13th. I urge any eligible business interested in applying to visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s webpage for more information here.
Additionally, anyone is free to submit questions, particularly about the application process, to AMJP@dot.gov. An overview of the AMJP application process is available here.
Bolstering Transportation Needs
This week, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed the Surface Transportation Investment Act out of committee. This important legislation includes several important provisions to Kansans that I led, including providing regulatory flexibility to our agricultural and livestock haulers to promoting women in the trucking industry to working to address blocked railroad crossings. I’m pleased this important legislation passed out of committee with bipartisan support, and I look forward to supporting it on the Senate floor as safe roads and robust interstate commerce benefit our Kansas producers, truckers and families.
Celebrating Hays Public Library's Renovation
On Friday, I joined friends from the Hays community for a ribbon cutting at the newly renovated Hays Public Library. This $1.6 million renovation project brought updates to both the first and second floors which includes additional meeting rooms, a room for nursing mothers, upgrades to the early childhood area and more.
I’d like to thank Library Director Brandon Hines, his staff and Chair Katherine Wolfe for their efforts, as well as the Library Board of Directors for their leadership and dedication, all of which helped see this project through. Thank you also to Hays Mayor Sandy Jacobs and the Hays City Commission for their work.
Additionally, I’d like to recognize and thank the Robert E. and Patricia Schmidt Foundation, Heartland Community Foundation, Beach-Edwards Family Foundation, Friends of the Hays Public Library and the Hays Public Library Foundation who helped make this project possible through their contributions.
As a former president of the Hays Library Board of Directors, I appreciated the opportunity to speak at the celebration and ribbon cutting. Libraries are vital components of our communities, and I am proud of the efforts to renovate and improve our library to benefit the Hays community.
Hosting a Listening Tour Stop in Barton County
I enjoyed my time in Hoisington on Friday speaking with community members on a range of issues. We discussed the importance of mental health services, expanding broadband access, infrastructure spending, the estate tax, special needs funding in our education system and my work on the Senate VA Committee to improve the lives of veterans who have served our country.
Thank you to Micah Ehler for hosting us at the Ehler Chevrolet Showroom, as I grew up coming here when it was Manweiler Chevrolet Showroom. Thank you also to Chamber of Commerce Director Karen Baldyga for helping coordinate and to everyone who spent their Friday afternoon speaking with me.
While I was in Claflin this week, I was able to stop by Miller's of Claflin, a fifth generation furniture store that sells everything from living room furniture to flooring and fireplaces. As Claflin’s mainstay, Miller’s offers the largest selection of in-home furnishings between Kansas City and Denver, and has been family owned since 1903.
It was great to learn more about this family business and hear how the Miller family opened an independent furniture store, and then proceeded to grow it throughout several generations. Thank you to the Miller family, as well as to Kyle Hickel, Bobette Kirmer and Robin Mccarty for taking time out of your day to speak with me.
Information for Students
High School Juniors: Become a Senate Page
Senate Pages play an important role in day-to-day operations of the United States Senate. High school students who are selected for and participate in the Senate Page Program are afforded a unique opportunity to work in the Senate and learn about Congress and the legislative process while maintaining their regular coursework. The Senate Page Program is administered by the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Secretary of the Senate and the party secretaries.
After the program’s temporary halt due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, I am excited to announce that the Senate Page Program will restart this September. Summer Page eligibility is limited to students who have completed their sophomore year of high school and who will be 16 or 17 years old on or before the date of appointment. More information on the program, eligibility and application can be found here. Applicants are encouraged to apply early.
Fall 2021 Internship Applications Due This Week
An internship in my office provides a unique opportunity for students to work closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans, and applications for the Fall 2021 Intern Session are now available. Interns witness the workings of Congress from a unique perspective, and develop knowledge and professional skills that will serve them in their future career pursuits. My office is accepting applications for the Fall Session through this Thursday, June 24. Please visit my website to hear from past interns, find the application link and learn more about this opportunity by clicking here.
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.
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