Kansas Common Sense
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Touring Destruction from Tornado in Cherokee County
Last night a tornado — nearly three blocks in width — struck the community of Baxter Springs resulting in at least 34 injuries along with major damage to a minimum of 160 homes and 12 businesses. This tornado was part of a larger storm system that also ravaged parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma resulting in at least nine deaths. My thoughts and prayers go out to residents and business owners who suffered great loss and devastation.
This morning I traveled to Cherokee County to join local, county and state officials for a tour of some of the hardest hit areas and to receive an update on relief efforts. As I witnessed the destruction of homes, businesses and infrastructure, it was clear that the damages are much more than a number. Much more importantly, it represents families, employees and business owners in need. And not surprisingly, less than 24 hours after the destruction, Kansans were already reaching out to meet those needs.
Applauding Air Force’s Final Decision on Basing Tankers at McConnell AFB
This week, the U.S. Air Force had good news for Wichita — McConnell Air Force Base is and will continue to be the nation’s super tanker base. The Air Force announced their final decision to base the new KC-46A tankers at McConnell Air Force Base following a lengthy environmental impact review.
The upcoming arrival of the new KC-46A tanker fleet at McConnell translates into an economic boost for the community, which will endure for years to come as each phase of preparation is completed. I am grateful the efforts to ensure this outcome were successful and that the Air Force truly understands the value of air mobility assets in Kansas. I will continue to work with Air Force leadership to make certain the KC-46A delivery process runs as smoothly as possible. Click here to learn more about this decision.
Visiting Edwards County Hospital and Healthcare Center
On Tuesday, I traveled to Kinsley to visit and tour Edwards County Hospital and Healthcare Center (ECH). ECH is a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) that provides a broad range of health care services to patients in Edwards County and the surrounding area, as well as operates a rural health clinic in Kinsley. During my time representing Kansans in Washington, D.C., I have had the pleasure of visiting each of the 127 community hospitals in Kansas. As Ranking Member of Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over most agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that impact hospitals and health care providers, meeting with Kansas hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, and other providers gives me insight on the unique challenges they face caring for patients in rural settings.
My discussion with ECH administrators and staff spanned various topics including concerns with the increasing federal regulatory burden on providers. We visited about unreasonable physician supervision regulations threatening hospitals’ ability to provide routine outpatient therapy services to patients and the Administration’s proposals to cut Medicare reimbursements to CAHs and eliminate Kansas hospitals from the CAH program. When federal policies fail to take into account the realities of providing care in rural communities, we risk losing access to important health care services provided by Kansas hospitals and other health care providers. The ability of our providers to meet the needs of patients is greatly affected by decisions in Washington, D.C. I will continue to make certain I understand the effects of these policy decisions through conversations with Kansas health care providers. Thank you to ECH CEO Bob Krickbaum for hosting my visit.
Lindsborg Community Visit
On my way to McPherson on Tuesday I stopped in the community of Lindsborg and enjoyed visiting with Kansans at Bethany College, The Courtyard, the Small World and Brick Street Galleries, Smoky Valley Public Schools and Smoky Valley Virtual Charter School. I also stopped and chatted with folks at Lindsborg Community Hospital, Apotek Pharmacy and City Hall. Thanks for the good dose of Kansas common sense.
Honoring Congressman Dick Nichols at McPherson Rotary Club
After walking Main Street and stopping by Bethany College in Lindsborg, I drove south to McPherson where I enjoyed having lunch with nearly 100 Rotary Club and community members. We had a great conversation about what a special community McPherson is and the importance of preserving the American Dream for the next generation of citizens in their community, throughout Kansas and across our nation. We discussed how Washington D.C. may help in that effort by focusing on tax, regulatory and health care policies that promote rather than hinder job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship.
At the conclusion of my remarks, I surprised my mentor — former Congressman Dick Nichols — with a framed copy of a speech I gave in tribute to him on the floor of the United States Senate, as well as a picture of the two of us from the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. At every point in his life — son, husband, father, grandfather, soldier, businessman, Congressman, community leader and friend — Dick has put service to others above self. It was an honor to join his wife Linda, their family and many McPherson residents in recognizing a man that has and continues to touch the lives of so many people in such positive, meaningful ways. After the surprise, I was asked to lead the singing of “Happy birthday” to Congressman Nichols whose birthday is tomorrow, April 29.
Thanks to club president Adrian Morales for the invitation to give remarks, fellow Rotarian Dale Sprague for the kind introduction, Rotary District Governor Dr. Roger Marshall for attending, and Mayor Tom Brown for his leadership of McPherson.
Visiting JACAM Chemical Company in Sterling
Following my morning in McPherson County, I drove to Sterling where I met with the leadership team and employees of JACAM Chemical Company. Started more than 30 years ago in a family garage, company founder and CEO Dr. Gene Zaid has built JACAM into an internationally recognized leader in the energy industry. With more than 130 employees in Sterling as well as a presence in 13 states and five countries, JACAM is involved in many aspects of the oil and gas production including: manufacturing, field services, distribution, lab work, and cutting edge research and development. Credited with more than 30 patents, Dr. Zaid and his team continue to innovate. JACAM is an example of how hard work, determination and creativity can create quality jobs. I enjoyed learning more about this great Kansas success story. Thanks to Gene and his son, Jason West, company president, for the kind invitation to visit. This is another example of a family-owned business planning for an even brighter future.
FCC Moves to Increase Phone Prices for Rural Customers
This week, I wrote a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler and his colleagues urging the Commission to reconsider a proposal that would increase the “rate floor,” which is the minimum amount rural telephone companies much charge for phone service in order to qualify for federal support. Unfortunately, the FCC moved forward with their plan to increase the “rate floor” from $14 to $20.46.
As a result, over one million rural Americans will see increases in their local telephone rates. I am concerned about this unnecessary 46 percent increase in prices for rural consumers, particularly because this policy will not save the federal government or taxpayers a penny. This policy only makes phone service less affordable in rural areas, where incomes are lower and families have fewer telecommunications options.
I am also concerned the FCC’s action will negatively impact rural broadband deployment. Higher prices may force rural customers to abandon their landline phone, and in turn make it more challenging for rural companies – most, of which, provide both broadband and phone service to their customers in Kansas – to plan for the future and make investments to expand broadband. I will continue to fight for rural Americans and their ability to access broadband and other telecommunications services.
Remembering the Lives and Service to Kansans — Don Cates and Don Dahl
This week, Kansas lost two public servants to unrelated plane crashes: Barton County Commissioner Don Cates and former state representative Don Dahl.
Don Cates was a decorated military hero and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. Both he and his wife Ginger are well known in the Barton County for their dedication to keeping the community a great place to live and work. Don was a true role model and his generous spirit will be greatly missed.
Don Dahl was a man of principle who served his country as a pilot in the U.S. Navy and returned home to improve his community and our state through years of public service in the Kansas Legislature. I ask everyone to join me in keeping the families and friends of these Kansans in our thoughts and prayers in the days ahead.
Larned Rotary Club
On Tuesday evening, I spoke to the Larned Rotary Club Members at Pawnee Valley Community Hospital. The conversation was centered on frustration with inaction in Washington, and attendees brought up President Obama’s decision to extend the Keystone XL Pipeline comment period as yet another example of this administration prioritizing politics over what’s best for our country. Thanks again to everyone who shared their thoughts, suggestions and concerns with me.
Last week, I enjoyed a tour followed by a Q&A with employees from Ferrellgas in Overland Park. During the Q&A, I heard employees’ concerns with the new health care law, overregulation and overreach by the federal government, energy policy, entrepreneurship and the American Dream. Thanks to Ferrellgas Chairman Jim Ferrell and Ferrell Capital President Pam Breuckmann for the visit and tour.
Flipping Pancakes at the Combat Air Museum
On Saturday, I started my day by flipping pancakes at the Forbes Field Combat Air Museum’s Annual Celebrity Pancake Feed benefiting the Combat Air Museum. The event had a great turnout and was a lot of fun. Thanks to Deloris Zink and Gene Howerter for the invitation to participate.
Kansans in the Office
Brett McGee of Yates Center
Valerie McGee of Yates Center
Austin McNett of Yates Center
Robert Arnold of Yates Center
Kalee Crabtree of Yates Center
Trevor Chism of Chanute
Emily Proper of Chanute
Robert Debler of Humboldt
Rebecca Spencer of Iola
Eli Spencer of Iola
Ty Spencer of Iola
Chawin Leelapanang of Buffalo
Milee Freiden of Hazelton
Larry Frieden of Hazelton
Gerald Cornett of Conway Springs
Joyce Cornett of Conway Springs
Dawson Tarrant of Conway Springs
Edward Hammond of Hays
Brandon Taylor of Hays
Joanna Ferrell of Hays
Brittany Ballou of Hays
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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