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.
Although many pressing issues remain in Washington, the Senate went out of session at the end of this week for August recess. I look forward to spending quality time in Kansas during the August state work period learning from my constituents.
Bipartisan Report Confirms Political IRS Targeting
This week, the Senate Finance Committee’s exhaustive investigation into political targeting by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirmed: IRS actions have been terribly damaging to the public’s faith in our democracy. In all, the bipartisan report indicates that more than 300 conservative groups were harmed by the IRS. While rampant incompetence and mismanagement at the IRS is highlighted throughout, the report demonstrates a direct connection between the political views of Exempt Organizations Unit Director Lois Lerner and the agency’s treatment of conservative taxpayers.
Equally disturbing is the report’s conclusion that the IRS has established a pattern of intentionally misleading both houses of Congress about its efforts to target conservative organizations. Failure at the IRS to locate and preserve e-mail records, false statements about the existence of backup data, and other actions to deny Congress access to relevant IRS records impeded the investigation at every turn. I am thankful for the work of the Finance Committee to bring these facts to light.
All Americans have the right to expect the IRS to operate in a fair, appropriate and nonpartisan manner. No matter one’s political affiliations, the First Amendment rights of all Americans deserve to be respected and defended. The findings of this bipartisan investigation require serious changes at the IRS if the powerful but broken institution has any intention of restoring the trust of the American taxpayer. Click here to learn more.
Defund Planned Parenthood, Support Local Health Care Providers
Taxpayers deserve the peace of mind that their money is not facilitating abortions. In reaction to the shocking videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the dismembering of aborted children, I sponsored and voted for S. 1881, legislation introduced by Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa to prohibit federal funding for Planned Parenthood. S. 1881 would redistribute that funding to local health care providers such as community health centers and county health departments that provide quality health care for women.
I am disappointed the 53-46 vote failed to meet the 60-vote threshold required under Senate rules. In Kansas, there are two Planned Parenthood clinics, but more than 50 community health centers as well as many other providers who would benefit from this law and provide quality care to more Kansans. I remain hopeful for a solution that will advance the life and health of both mother and child, and I will continue strongly advocating for both. I spoke on the Senate floor on this topic, and you can watch my full speech here.
Lesser Prairie Chicken Population on the Rise
This week, I requested information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding how the agency intends to use new evidence highlighting a significant increase in the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) population. An aerial survey conducted by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) estimates the bird’s population to be 29,162 birds – a nearly 50 percent increase since 2013. In light of the new population estimates, I’ve asked the agency if they are reconsidering the necessity of the bird’s listing as a threatened species.
I’m convinced there are ways to conserve the LPC without hindering our Kansas economy. We don’t need burdensome regulations from federal government dictating land use practices and holding back our farmers, ranchers, energy professionals in the habitat area. More rainfall, as well as locally-driven, voluntary conservation plans developed with stakeholder input, will do far more for the bird’s conservation than bureaucrats and regulators in Washington.
In June, my amendment to prohibit the USFWS from enforcing the listing passed with a majority vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee. I also secured a vote on a similar LPC amendment to Keystone XL pipeline legislation, which received the support of a bipartisan majority of senators. I’m committed to continuing to raise the profile of the issue with my colleagues in Congress and to lead the effort to reverse the misguided decision. Click here to read me letter to USFWS.
Administration’s Latest Proposal Will Raise Kansans’ Electric Bills
Washington should focus on commonsense policies to make energy cleaner and more affordable rather than simply mandating it by adding more red tape and harmful regulations. This administration continues to ignore the impact a rule like this has on average Americans, and I believe we should work to put in place environmental policies that can both protect our natural resources and safeguard our economy.
The White House introduced another piece of their climate change agenda this week called the Clean Power Act. The latest proposed rule, crafted by bureaucrats rather than elected lawmakers, would lead to higher energy costs for Kansas families and businesses, destroy jobs, and threaten economic growth. Kansas would be especially impacted because nearly two-thirds of our state’s electricity production comes from coal. Our state’s power providers have made great progress in reducing emissions over the years, but the additional regulations mandated in this rule will result in higher costs without demonstrating much environmental benefit. Furthermore, this rule will make the United States less competitive than other countries that are aggressively growing their economies with the low-cost electricity generated by coal.
Role of Service Animals in Veterans’ Lives
On Wednesday, I met with veteran Cole Lyle and Kaya, his German Shepherd service dog. Cole and Kaya are advocating for the therapeutic role of service animals in veterans’ lives – especially those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The invisible wounds of war can plague veterans when they return home and may not become apparent for years after their service. It is vital that we acknowledge the severity of those wounds and do everything we can to help veterans get the therapy and mental health care they need.
Service dogs like Kaya are uniquely trained to support veterans suffering with PTSD, providing an alternative to opioids that can become addictive and cause more harm to a veteran who is struggling. In fact, a survey conducted by the American Legion last year on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and PTSD treatment found that 59 percent of veterans reported either feeling no improvement or worsening symptoms after undergoing TBI and PTSD treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). And, 30 percent said they had terminated their treatment plan before completion. I’m grateful to Cole for his commitment to improve the lives of his fellow veterans and for working hard to take on the VA in allowing veterans access to service dogs to treat their PTSD. If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD, I encourage you to participate in the American Legion’s most recent survey which can be accessed by veterans and their families through August 16, 2015. Click here to learn more.
Milk Processing Facility Coming to Finney County
I was pleased to learn about the planned construction of a milk processing facility in Finney County. This week, Garden City commissioners approved a development agreement with Meadowlark Dairy Nutrition, a subsidiary of the Dairy Farmers of America. The effort to bring a plant to southwest Kansas has been ongoing throughout my time in Congress, so it’s exciting to see the multi-year effort by residents and community leaders finally begin to pay off. The growing dairy industry in Kansas is helping to provide jobs and drive economic development in our rural communities. According to community officials, it is estimated the plant will create 55 jobs with an average annual salary of $61,000. If all goes according to plan, preliminary design could begin as early as this fall with the goal of opening the facility on May 31, 2017.
AMBUCS Meeting in Salina
On Thursday, I was back in Kansas and joined the Salina chapter of AMBUCS for their women’s lunchtime meeting. AMBUCS, founded in 1922, is a national charitable service organization with the goal of creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities. The speaker was Lisa Newman, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with K-State’s Research and Extension Central Kansas District, who works to develop educational programs for families, couples, and parenting and child development. Thanks again to all the members of AMBCUS for welcoming me. Click here to read more about the meeting in the Salina Journal.
Visiting Ottawa County Health Center in Minneapolis
I also traveled to Minneapolis to visit Ottawa County Health Center (OCHC) – a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital with a 17-bed long-term care facility. Since opening in 1965, the hospital has consistently expanded its services to meet the changing needs of its community. OCHC offers a wide range of inpatient and outpatient services and partners with Salina Regional Health Center physicians to enable patients to receive as much of their care as possible closer to home. During my visit, I was able to see the construction currently underway on a hospital renovation project that county residents approved last year. These renovations, which are expected to be completed next year, include a new physician's clinic and emergency entrance for the hospital.
Among the issues I discussed with OCHC administrators and staff were rural hospitals’ need for reasonable flexibility from federal regulations to provide a full range of health services to their communities. If regulations fail to account for the realities of delivering health care in rural parts of the country, then patient access to important care is jeopardized. As a member of the 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 providers, meeting with Kansas hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, and other staff gives me useful insight on the challenges they face caring for patients. Thanks again to OCHC administrator Jody Parks and her team for hosting my visit.
Continuing My Kansas Listening Tour in Russell and Alma
Back in Kansas for the August state work period, I will be traveling across the state continuing my Kansas Listening Tour this month. I kicked off my August town hall meetings with a Kansas Listening Tour in Russell County. Nearly 60 area residents turned out to Russell Regional Hospital to discuss their concerns on a number of topics including the Iran Nuclear agreement, water issues facing our state, our healthcare system, education and overregulation. We also discussed the ongoing issues with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thanks again to Harold Courtois and the staff at Russell Regional Hospital for hosting the event.
On Saturday, I hosted another town hall meeting in Wabaunsee County. Local residents came out to the Alma Bakery and Sweet Shop to share concerns on a number of topics facing our nation. Thanks to all the folks who came out, and to Jeanette Rohleder for coordinating my visit.
Farewell to My Summer Interns
This past Friday our Washington office said goodbye to our great group of summer interns as they headed back home to Kansas. They were a bright and motivated group, and I appreciated their hard work this summer. Not too long ago, I was an intern myself – for Kansas’ big 1st district – and it sparked my interest in public service. I hope that their experiences were equally as positive and memorable. Their dedication to serving Kansans is very much appreciated and they will certainly be missed.
Kansans in the Office
Paul Palmer of Levant
Ann Palmer of Levant
Colten Palmer of Levant
Ryan Palmer of Levant
Sally Jenkins of Overland Park
Rebecca Jenkins of Overland Park
Rachel Jenkins of Overland Park
Cody Burke of Kansas City
Devon Stewart of Kansas City
Sheila Eichman of Hays
Sierra Eichman of Hays
Derek Eichman of Hays
Larry Lux of Olathe
Dianne Lux of Olathe
Nathan Lux of Olathe
Marissa Lux of Olathe
Austin Lux of Olathe
Scott Stengel of Leawood
Builders Development Corp.
Michael Snodgrass of Kansas City
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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