Kansas Common Sense
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Honoring the Life of Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland
This week, I attended the funeral for Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland. As Mayor of Olathe for nearly two decades, Mike's first concern was always for his community – how he could make Olathe a better place for every family living there and every individual passing through.
Olathe has lost a great advocate and Kansas an important leader. Robba and I will be praying for Mike’s wife Maria, their children and the entire Olathe community. Read more about Mike’s legacy and passion for his community of Olathe here in the Kansas City Star.
Celebrating Thermo Fisher’s New Lenexa Manufacturing Site
I joined Thermo Fisher Scientific, Governor Laura Kelly, Kansas State Senator Dinah Sykes, Kansas State Representative Brandon Woodward and Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm for the opening of the new, 120,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Lenexa where Thermo Fisher will produce viral transport media, specialized COVID-19 test tubes. Since the pandemic began, Thermo Fisher has doubled the output of the VTM-filled test tubes, and this facility, built in just six weeks, will allow them to increase production to make millions of these test tubes per week.
Widespread testing is a necessary component to keep the American economy running safely. Thermo Fisher has stepped up to produce additional test tubes to help meet the national demand for COVID-19 testing and has created 300 new jobs by expanding its manufacturing base in Lenexa.
Kansans never fail to do their part in our country’s time of need and this is no different. Thermo Fisher’s ability to manufacture test tubes and significantly increase production is important for making certain Americans are secure in their health and can safely return to work.
I would like to thank Gianluca Pettiti, Senior Vice President & President, Specialty Diagnostics at Thermo Fisher for the invitation to join the ribbon cutting ceremony for this exciting new facility and his team for providing the tour
Visiting the Benne’s Specially Adapted Home
I was invited on a very special visit to tour the home of Colonel Paul and Christine Benne in Manhattan. Col. Benne was medically retired after serving in the Army for 23 years when he was diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease. He received a 100 percent disability rating at the time of his separation and was soon reliant on a wheelchair. To make their home more wheelchair accessible, the Benne’s tried to qualify for the VA’s Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, but like too many veterans, were having trouble navigating the grant process. After working with my office, Paul and Christine were able to qualify for the (SAH) grant to make necessary adaptations to their home. Paul passed away in December 2019 due to complications from his disability.
Christine showed me how they were able to use the SAH grant to adapt their home to accommodate for Paul’s wheelchair. Paul was fitted for a much-needed electric wheelchair in 2016, but at the time, his home was not wheelchair accessible. Without the SAH grant, the Benne family would have faced financial challenges to renovate their home. This grant allowed Paul to live in his family home for the remainder of his life.
Working with Paul and Christine to help them qualify for the SAH grant led to my bill, the Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019. This bill was signed into law earlier this month and will let more veterans adapt their home to fit their disability. It allows blind veterans to access the SAH grant and expands eligibility requirements so more veterans can use this crucial program. It is named after Paul, a Spring Hill, KS native, and Captain (retired) Ryan Kules, another Fort Riley soldier who used this grant.
Touring Paul and Christine’s home showed me how important the SAH grant is to disabled veterans and their families. Installing wheelchair ramps, lower countertops, wheelchair accessible bathrooms, and other renovations have a real impact on the quality of life for our veterans and their families. I want to thank Christine for her hospitality and thank her for her and her husband’s years of service. I appreciated meeting their adult children Hagan and Brayson and hearing their loving memories of their father. I also want to thank Director of the Manhattan Military Relations Council Janet Nichols for joining us.
Read more about my visit here in the Manhattan Mercury.
Visiting Southeast Kansas
Joining Parsons Rotary
I had the opportunity to visit with government and business leaders about the COVID-19 federal relief funds the community has received while at Parsons Rotary, and I gave an update on the continuing Phase IV negotiations. During a number of visits and meetings across Kansas, I sought feedback on what should be included in a future relief package, what issues still need addressed and Kansans’ thoughts on continuing to borrow trillions of taxpayer dollars.
We also spoke about students going back to school and the important role teachers play in our children’s lives, the importance of the USPS and my bill that would expand access to mental health care for veterans, which recently passed the Senate.
We also discussed the importance of rural broadband and the need for accurate coverage maps, which is especially important to the community because Parsons is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s hometown.
Thank you to all of the Parsons Rotary members for your feedback on Phase IV. Read more about my discussion here in the Parsons Sun.
Visiting Watco Companies
While in southeast Kansas, I stopped by Watco Companies and Jake’s Fireworks. Both these businesses were started by local families and now operate on international levels. Their dedication to our state’s economy is evident through their commitment to keep their headquarters located in Pittsburg.
Watco is the largest privately owned short-line operator in the United States, providing transportation, terminal and port, supply chain and mechanical solutions. It was a pleasure to meet with CEO Dan Smith who is helping the Webb family lead the corporation today.
Touring Jake’s Fireworks
At Jake’s Fireworks, I met with the Marietta family to tour their distribution warehouse. We discussed concerns about the regulations and oversight of their industry, and I was pleased to hear that many families celebrated this past Independence Day with a bang and the company is thriving. Thanks to Mayor Dawn McNay and Deputy City Manager Jay Byers for joining me on the tour.
Read more about my time in Pittsburg here in the Morning Sun.
Visiting Dodge City
Speaking with Dodge City Rotary
I enjoyed visiting Dodge City on Monday to meet with civic, government and business leaders regarding a possible future stimulus package, the CARES Act, a potential vaccine, the need for more testing in certain areas, economic shutdowns, the VA and the MISSION Act, the U.S. Postal Service delays in rural areas and human trafficking. I appreciate rotary club president Michelle Salinas inviting me to come speak. As a Rotary Club member myself I understand the important role civic clubs play in our communities.
Read more about my visit here in the Dodge City Globe.
Learning about the Dodge City University Center
I toured the new University Center in Dodge City on Monday. The University Center is a great tool for southwest Kansas to encourage college students and adults who want to go back to school in southwest Kansas. The University Center teamed up with community colleges and universities across Kansas to provide the necessary classes to students to earn a degree without having to move to attend college.
Right now, the center is focusing on RN/BSN programs and Bachelors and Masters of Social Work programs. The Rural Education Workforce Alliance has done a good job helping recruit additional programs. I appreciate the time, effort and collaboration put into making the University Center a reality. Thanks to State Senator Bud Estes, Economic Development Corporation Executive Director JoAnn Knight, and the colleges across Kansas for making this happen.
I also visited Larned this week and was able to chat with folks from the USDA Service Center, Farm Service Agency and the NRSC. I visited the Pawnee County Courthouse and met with those who work in the offices there and also stopped in a number of businesses in town. I always appreciate receiving feedback from Kansans on how our office can try to improve the lives of Kansans, and I appreciate everyone who took time to speak with me.
Checking in with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office
While in northeast Kansas, I visited with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office while touring their Criminalistics Laboratory (JCSOCL), which is one of three accredited full-service police crime laboratories in Kansas. At the JCSOCL, the lab technician team assists law enforcement with their investigations by analyzing the evidence found by police. The lab and its technicians are quite impressive and have the ability to provide services in nine important disciplines. As chairman of the committee which conducts oversight of the Department of Justice, I appreciate the opportunity to see the capabilities in Kansas firsthand.
They are also innovative in their approach to address shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facemasks. During the COVID-19 pandemic many first responders in the state experienced a shortage of PPE. In order to address this ongoing issue, the Johnson County Lab launched a program to sanitize facemasks, so the masks be reused by first responders. Lab technicians converted stainless steel evidence collection units into sanitation chambers by retrofitting them with ultraviolet lighting systems. The Johnson County Lab then partnered with American Dish Service in Edwardsville to manufacture the PPE decontamination unit which I was able to see in use during my tour. These sanitation chambers have been provided to both the Johnson County Fire Department and Johnson County Med-Act. Those at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Criminalistics Laboratory are providing an invaluable service for the citizens of Johnson County, and I thank them for their continued commitment to the community.
Urging the USPS to Protect the Delivery of Veteran Prescriptions
Last week, I called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to ensure the timely delivery of lifesaving medication to veterans as the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) evaluates postal reform. The VA mail-order pharmacies provide approximately 120 million outpatient prescriptions to veterans annually, totaling nearly 89 million packages. On a typical day, more than 330,000 veterans receive a VA prescription in the mail, and USPS is responsible for delivering almost 90 percent of them. A well-run postal service is critical, and the timely delivery of lifesaving medication to veterans is essential.
Meeting Virtually with the Kansas Bankers Association
On Wednesday, I spoke with members of the Kansas Bankers Association (KBA) regarding rural ag banks, the recently-delayed Adverse Market Refinance Fee, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Kansas banks were able to process about 50,000 PPP loans with a total value of approximately $5 billion, with nearly 80 percent of small businesses in Kansas receiving funding and supporting nearly 75 percent of the jobs they provide. The rapid deployment of these funds saved thousands of jobs and is a major testament to Kansas banks and their staff that they were able to process so many loans so quickly often with limited staff.
On August 12, 2020, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced an Adverse Market Refinance Fee equal to 0.5% of a loan amount that would take effect September 1, 2020. This fee was created to cover projected losses due to COVID-19 but would add expense to Americans who wish to refinance their homes. This is a time of great economic duress, making this fee poorly timed and deeply troubling. On August 20, 2020, I led my Senate colleagues in urging the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mark Calabria and his agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to withdraw this fee to prevent harm to everyday Americans. On August 25th, FHFA announced the fee would be delayed until December 1, 2020, and would be limited to loans above $125,000. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to ensure that Americans are supported during this pandemic and appreciate the work of KBA and its members to support our state during this period of economic stress.
Speaking with Kansas Medical Professionals
While in Parsons this week, I stopped by Eyecare Associates to visit with optometrist Dr. Wayne Gilmore. He shared with me the safety steps their practice had taken to protect their patients and staff while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. They schedule less appointments per day and alter staff schedules to avoid everyone working together all week in case of exposure.
On Friday, I also spent time at AdventHealth in Shawnee Mission with Dr. Mark Brady with Midwest Anesthesia Associates who is the incoming President of the Kansas Medical Society. I met with Dr. Brady, CEO of AdventHealth Sam Hunergardt and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Botts regarding the issues facing the health system in the wake of COVID-19 and the steps they have taken to respond to the pandemic. I also learned about the Dr. Brady’s work with the VA and the issues he commonly faces, of particular interest to me as chairman of the Senate VA committee.
Thank you to all of the medical professionals who took time to speak with me this week. As our communities continue to face challenges, I appreciate your insight into the issues Kansas is experiencing.
Continuing Negotiations on a Phase IV Relief Package
The White House and Democrats are currently at loggerheads over a COVID-19 Phase IV relief package, but it is important to remember that every previous federal relief package passed with unanimous support. The first three federal relief packages included many provisions to support hospitals that needed supplies, small businesses that needed loans, and folks who were out of work, through no fault of their own, who needed relief.
The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted longer than many predicted, and we cannot continue spending trillions of dollars at our current pace. There are simply not enough government programs or borrowed dollars to keep this economy going. Any additional federal relief needs to be focused on our health, with resources for more testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and vaccine development and distribution.
During the last week, I visited several Kansas communities across the state and sought feedback on past COVID relief packages and how Kansans felt about a fourth relief package. I continue to monitor the negotiations occurring and participate in conference calls with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Advocating for Senior Living Facilities
Due to the threat of COVID-19, America’s senior citizens have been forced to sacrifice much and protecting them must remain a priority. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak with the leadership team of Ventas to discuss the pressing needs of senior living facilities as they continue to battle COVID-19 and increasing costs of care. During the pandemic, senior living communities have continued providing care for the population that is most susceptible to COVID-19 infection and least likely to recover. As the industry faces considerable financial difficulty, it is essential to ensure the federal government provides the necessary resources needed to care for our senior citizens.
At the outset of the pandemic, I wrote to HHS Secretary Azar requesting that HHS consider the living and care situations our senior citizens face and allocate funding appropriately from the COVID Provider Relief Fund.
Securing Valuable Resources for Tribal Governments
Last week, I led a group of Senators in urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to include priorities for tribal governments in a future COVID relief package, especially providing flexibility for tribal governments to use funds provided in the CARES Act.
Indian Country has suffered particularly high rates of coronavirus with complicating factors such as obesity, diabetes and other preexisting conditions. As a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, tribal governments deserve greater flexibility to spend the funds previously provided to them in a manner that meets the individual needs of each tribe. This local decision-making will allow tribes to utilize their resources in the most efficient manner.
Applauding Wide Spread Support for S.785
My legislation S.785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act has received strong support from a wide array of Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs), mental health organizations and organizations across America that serve veterans. I appreciate their support as we work to get this important legislation for veterans passed in the House and signed into law.
The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee urging the House of Representatives to pass this critical legislation. Additionally, America’s Warrior Partnership spearheaded a letter to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee leadership with 30 veteran-serving community organizations, all in strong support of S.785 and calling for immediate passage in the House. Multiple mental health organizations support this legislation and called on the House to pass S.785, including NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
This legislation will strengthen community organizations already providing support to veterans, bolster research efforts on brain and mental health conditions, expand upon telehealth partnerships to deliver better care to our veterans in rural areas, allow veterans to take advantage of emerging, complimentary and integrative treatments, and so much more. This bipartisan bill received a unanimous 17-0 vote in the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs earlier this year and passed unanimously out of the Senate in early August.
Announcing Federal Grants for Kansas
KC Streetcar Expansion Grant
Last week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded a $50.8 million grant to the Kansas City Streetcar Main Street Extension project. This grant will fund a 3.5-mile extension for the streetcar connecting Union Station to the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC). These new resources will help build on the already successful streetcar by continuing to connect neighborhoods, businesses and students.
EDA Resources for North Central Kansas
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, (CJS) and Related Agencies, I announced the Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $1.1 million grant to the North Central Regional Planning Commission in Beloit, to help support small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I support the ongoing and critical mission of the EDA to assist the economic activity of our communities, especially during this pandemic. This grant is an investment into small businesses in north central Kansas that support local jobs and provide invaluable resources to many communities in the region.
Accepting Service Academy Nominations
I am currently accepting nominations to the United States Service Academies. The academies include the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Those selected will enter the academies in June 2021.
Selections are based on SAT or ACT test scores, class rank, grade point average, school records, extracurricular activities, leadership potential, motivation, recommendations and interview evaluations. Applicants must meet the individual admission requirements of each academy in order to receive Sen. Moran’s nomination: applicants must be legal residents of the state of Kansas, at least 17 years of age but not past their 23rd birthday on July 1 of the year of admission, citizens of the United States, unmarried, not pregnant and without legal obligation to support children or other dependents.
The application deadline is October 1, 2020. Applicants will be required to interview with Sen. Moran’s Service Academy Selection Board on Saturday, November 14, 2020 by Zoom. Academies will make the final decision on who will receive an appointment of admission in early 2021.
Interested applicants can request application materials on Sen. Moran’s website at moran.senate.gov under the “Services” menu, or by calling Sen. Moran’s Olathe office at 913-393-0711.
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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