Kansas Common Sense

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NBAF Funded in Omnibus Bill
Today, we received good news — the Omnibus appropriations bill includes $404 million for construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan. For those who have questioned whether NBAF will be built in Kansas, the passage of this funding bill will provide a clear answer: yes. This investment means Kansas will become a research epicenter, and the construction of this modern, world-class facility will ultimately create jobs for Kansans in the fields of engineering, science and technology. The talented young men and women who grow up here will have the opportunities they need to stay in Kansas.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have worked to make certain NBAF remains a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security, the Administration and among Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle. I am grateful to Governor Brownback, the Kansas legislature and Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz for their leadership and support as this process continues.

A January 2012 economic impact report found the NBAF will employ approximately 326 permanent employees and support some 757 construction jobs. The facility is expected to have a $3.5 billion economic impact on Kansas in the first 20 years alone. In addition to creating an economic boom for Kansas, NBAF will protect our national economy by researching foreign animal disease threats, which are very real with devastating impacts. The cost of an outbreak far outweighs the NBAF construction cost, not only in the loss of human life but also its damage to the animal and agricultural industry.

The state-of-the-art biosecurity lab is to be built adjacent to Kansas State University. The main laboratory will boast safety and security features recommended by the National Academies of Sciences. The state of Kansas showed its commitment to this project by contributing $202 million. A funding commitment was also made to provide infrastructure repairs at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to guarantee a smooth transition of research from Plum Island, N.Y., to Manhattan, Kan.

Basing Tanker at McConnell AFB Funded in Omnibus Bill
The Omnibus appropriations bill also includes $219 million in military construction funding for upgrades to McConnell Air Force Base (AFB) to accommodate the new KC-46A tankers. The KC-46A tanker fleet will begin arriving at McConnell in 2016, bringing more than 200 airmen to the base. The economic impact in Wichita and around the state will be felt before their arrival, as military construction of the infrastructure necessary to safeguard and house the new, larger tankers begins. 

The various McConnell facility projects include: installation of the weapon system trainers to be ready for the aircraft arrival in 2016; construction of fuel cell and corrosion control hangars; construction of a parking space and hydrant fuel system; and, construction of a squadron operations and aircraft maintenance unit building. This investment is great news for our state and the city of Wichita, which is and will remain the air capital of the world. The Omnibus appropriations bill is expected to be voted on in the U.S. House and Senate this week.

Requiring More Transparency and Security for Obamacare Insurance Exchange
I sponsored two bills this week to protect American individuals and families from the consequences of Obamacare’s implementation. The Exchange Information Disclosure Act (S. 1590) requires the Obama Administration to disclose detailed information about the performance of the Obamacare health insurance Exchange website, HealthCare.Gov. The other bill, the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act (S. 1902), would increase the Administration’s responsibility for safeguarding personal information of Exchange users in response to growing security concerns about the website. The House of Representatives passed its own version of (S. 1902) on Friday with broad, bipartisan support. A House vote on legislation similar to (S. 1590) is expected as soon as this week.

Americans are tired of politically motivated distractions and broken promises related to Obamacare. While this Administration continues to spend taxpayer dollars on this flawed law’s problematic implementation, it still refuses to provide a true account of how money is being spent or how the website is performing. Given the Administration’s misrepresentations regarding the readiness of the Exchange, I am extremely concerned about the security of Americans’ personal information in the Exchange. These commonsense bills would increase transparency surrounding Obamacare’s implementation and help address the serious privacy and data security concerns associated with the law. Click here to read more about these bills.

Funding for a new Fort Riley Elementary School
This week, the Department of Defense awarded a $16 million grant to Geary County Unified School District 475 to replace Fort Riley Elementary School. Funding for a new Fort Riley Elementary School is a great way to kick off the new year, and it’s encouraging to see the federal government prioritize education for the children of those who serve our nation. The Defense Department Public Schools on Military Installations make the funds available through the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) by prioritizing military installations with schools that have the most serious capacity or facility condition deficiencies.

The Fort Riley Elementary School is the third school on base to receive OEA funds in the last several years. In 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Fort Riley and pledged to address overcrowding and infrastructure concerns at schools on post. Since then, I’ve worked with the Kansas delegation, Geary County and the Department of Defense to make certain the children of our Big Red One heroes have the educational resources they deserve. The new school is expected to break ground this spring and will with serve 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. A well-deserved congratulations to Geary County Unified School District 475 for their persistence and hard work with OEA to secure this award and support for our military families.

Opposing the Direction of the Federal Reserve
As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Janet Yellen, the nominee to chair the Federal Reserve, and discuss her views on our country’s monetary policy. Her answers did little to convince me that the Federal Reserve, under her leadership, would advance policies able to grow the U.S. economy. For five years, the Federal Reserve’s asset-purchasing program known as quantitative easing has masked the true size of our deficit and made it easier for Washington to spend money it does not have. Due to the duration of this monetary policy, our country faces restricted credit, a higher cost of living, and a lack of job opportunities. Without a change of course, we will be experiencing the damaging effects of national inflation. 

It is clear that we must move our country’s monetary policy in a new direction. Unfortunately, Dr. Yellen’s nomination demonstrated a commitment to the status quo. With that in mind, I voted against advancing the nomination out of the Senate Banking Committee and was opposed to the final confirmation. As the role of the Federal Reserve grows, I continue to hear from Kansans about the lack of economic growth. I will continue to work toward enacting policies that will unleash economic opportunities creating growth, jobs and prosperity.

Discussing the Best Ways to Create Jobs and Opportunity
This week, the Senate began debate on a 3-month extension of long-term unemployment insurance which would add $6.6 billion to the deficit without offsetting budget cuts elsewhere. Congress should not continue to saddle future generations with debt and irresponsibly spend money we do not have for temporary political gains. The fact is most people don’t want yet another unemployment check; they want a job.

A growing economy is the most important thing when it comes to increasing the financial well-being of individuals and families. Unfortunately, this Congress and this President have done next to nothing to promote pro-growth policies that would help individuals reach their full potential. We were reminded of this on Friday, when the Department of Labor announced the economy had added a dismal 74,000 jobs and now labor force participation rate is 62.8 percent, the lowest level in 35 years.

I spoke to the Wall Street Journal about how we can best create economic opportunities for Americans. As founding member and co-chair of the Senate Economic Mobility Caucus, I believe there are great ideas out there for improving access to the American Dream, and there are even more yet to be created. It is time for both sides of the aisle to come together and use the best ideas to improve the lives of poor and middle-class Americans. It’s time to talk about what we’re for, what we care about, and – most importantly – how they impact the lives of people around the country. Click here to read the full story in the Wall Street Journal.

To improve the economic opportunities for Americans, I have authored several bills including the American Savings Promotion Act, which would incentivize personal savings while never putting and individual’s money at risk. More than 40 percent of American households currently lack the savings to cover basic expenses for three months if an unexpected event leads to a loss of stable income.

I also authored Startup Act 3.0, legislation that would grow the economy and create jobs by creating an environment where anyone with a good idea has the opportunity for success. Startup Act 3.0 addresses four key factors that contribute to entrepreneurial success: talent, taxes, regulation and innovation. This week I introduced an amendment to the unemployment insurance bill modeled after Startup Act 3.0. An independent study by the Kauffman Foundation found that just one provision of the Startup Act 3.0 would create anywhere from 500,000 to 1.6 million jobs. Congress should focus its attention on legislation like the Startup Act 3.0 to help create jobs now and get economy growing again.

Kansas Listening Tour Stops: Salina, Osborne and Beloit
This week, I continued the Kansas Listening Tour with a town hall meeting in Salina. Attendees asked about a variety of issues that concern our state on the federal level. I appreciate everyone who took time to stop by the Salina Annex and share their concerns with me. Thanks to the Salina Chamber of Commerce for hosting the event. Click here to see a photo.

I also held Kansas Listening Tour town hall meetings in Osborne and Beloit. I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Kansans about a number of issues including the farm bill, ways to reduce government spending, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, new leadership at the Federal Reserve, and more. Thanks to the residents of Osborne and Mitchell County for taking the time to join me and help to make certain I get a good dose of Kansas common sense before I head back to Washington, D.C. Click here to see a photo.

Remembering Charlie Hostetler
On Sunday, I paid my respects to Charles “Charlie” Hostetler. A Manhattan native, Charlie graduated from Kansas State University and earned a law degree from the University of Kansas. He was a business, political and civic leader, in addition to being an avid sports fan. Charlie also proudly served Kansas on the Board of Regents and was active on various boards and organizations. Charlie will be remembered for his incredibly quick wit and work ethic. The crowded church for Charlie’s memorial service was a testament to the number of lives he touched. I consider it an honor to have known Charlie, and he will be greatly missed.

Memorial Service at Ft. Riley
This Thursday, the brethren of the Big Red One and the Junction City community honored five fallen heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice on December 16, 2013, when their helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan while carrying out actions to safeguard our freedom. Americans will be forever indebted to these brave soldiers who laid down their lives for our country. As we paid tribute to their service on Thursday in the Morris Hill Chapel on Fort Riley, we were reminded that freedom is not free. I pray that their families find peace knowing that their sons, husbands, and fathers sacrificed for something more important than life itself; they sacrificed for others. May they find peace in knowing what worthy lives their loved ones lived. I ask all Kansans to join me in remembering:

  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy L. Billings, 34, of Company B, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div., Fort Riley, Kan.;
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua B. Silverman, 35, of Company B, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment., 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div., Fort Riley, Kan.;
  • Sgt. 1st Class Omar W. Forde, 28, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div., Fort Riley, Kan.;
  • Sgt. Peter C. Bohler, 29, of Company B, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div., Fort Riley, Kan.;
  • Spc. Terry K.D. Gordon, 22, of Company E, 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div., Fort Riley, Kan.;
  • And also, Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany.

Speaking to the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance of Way Association
Early in the week I joined the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance of Way Association’s annual meeting. Railroads play an important role in the American economy and are often key to the viability of our rural communities. It was good to visit with people from around the country and hear about the challenges and successes of their businesses.

Attending the Fort Hays State University Men’s Basketball Game in Hays
Finally, this week I had the opportunity to see Fort Hays State University’s (FHSU) men’s basketball team take on the Lindenwood Lions of St. Charles, Missouri, at Gross Memorial Coliseum. I joined many students, alumni and Tiger fans in supporting Mark Johnson and his team. It was also an opportunity to visit with many Western Kansans about congressional issues and to discuss higher education with FHSU officials. Congrats to the Tigers who won 70-61. Thanks to FHSU President Edward H. Hammond as well as FHSU’s Athletic Director Curtis Hammeke for hosting us.

In the Office
The following Kansans visited the office this week:

Black & Veatch
Paul Weida of Overland Park
Brad Franzel of Overland Park 

Johnson County Election Commissioner
Brian Newby of Shawnee 

Blue Valley Telecom
Brian Thomason of Home

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.

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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