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. The Senate will return to session next week, and the first item of business for consideration will be the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Coming Up: Forum on U.S. Tax Reform in Wichita
Overhauling our tax code is not an easy undertaking, but the time for reform is now. To get the conversation started, I will host a Forum on U.S. Tax Reform in Wichita on Tuesday evening. Joining me for the discussion will be Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a CPA, and Americans for Fair Taxation Chairman and President Steven Hayes and representatives from the Kansas FairTax Board: State Director Earl Long of Overland Park, President Jim Lyle of Overland Park, Mark Saylor of Topeka, Lloyd Hanahan of Overland Park, Randell Phalp of Lenexa and John Collet of Leawood. I encourage Wichita-area residents to attend. A similar forum was held earlier this month in Olathe.
Tuesday, September 1 at 6:30 p.m.
Wichita State University Hughes Metroplex
Waters of the United States Ruling
The administration’s new regulation to expand the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act was set to go into effect this week, but was halted by the U.S. District Court in North Dakota. The EPA claims the ruling only blocks the regulation in the 13 states that sought the injunction from the North Dakota court and plans to begin enforcement of the rule in the other states, including Kansas. The state of Kansas joined in filing a separate lawsuit challenging the legality of the regulation in the U.S. District Court in Augusta, Ga.
We watched the EPA dismiss the concerns voiced by Americans from across the country regarding the regulation, including overwhelming opposition from farmers and ranchers. I’ve consistently fought against the administration’s agenda that threatens the Kansas economy and jobs. I supported the inclusion of a provision in the FY2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill to block funding for the implementation of the WOTUS rule. I am also a cosponsor of the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, legislation that aims to stop the regulation’s implementation and force EPA to go back to the drawing board and stay within its constitutional and legal authority. I believe that Kansas farmers and ranchers know better land stewardship practices than bureaucrats in Washington and will fight against regulations such as the WOTUS rule that violate that principle.
Chairing the Congressional Down Syndrome Task Force
Recently, I became Senate co-chair of the new Congressional Down Syndrome Task Force, a bipartisan group from both chambers of Congress dedicated to making certain the needs of the Down syndrome community are a priority. Congressman Kevin Yoder is a member of this task force. Every person should have the opportunity to experience a full and satisfying life – to live, learn, work and pursue the American Dream. The Congressional Down Syndrome Task Force will increase our ability to build awareness of the issues important to those individuals with Down syndrome and their families, such as medical care, research, education, work opportunities, and independent living. Advancing policies that enable individuals with Down syndrome to have opportunities to realize their hopes and dreams takes bipartisan cooperation, and I am proud to found the Senate counterpart of this valuable congressional task force. Special thanks to Jawanda Mast of Olathe and her daughter, Rachel, for their committed advocacy on these issues.
United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty
The First Conference of State Parties (CSP) to the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) took place in Cancun, Mexico, this week. Having regrettably entered into force on December 24, 2014, the ATT requires states party to the treaty to convene this conference within a year to establish rules for the organization and funding of the treaty’s administrative body. While the U.S. Senate has continued to demonstrate overwhelming bipartisan opposition to ratification of the treaty, officials from the Obama Administration were nonetheless present in Cancun as participants in the conference.
It is disappointing to witness this Administration continue its commitment to advancing the ATT, but I was encouraged to hear statements from Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman emphasizing that treaty obligations are for states party to the treaty alone. It is critical to ensure that the United States does not bear responsibility in the implementation of this deeply flawed U.N. treaty that threatens the fundamental individual rights of Americans.
Although this process will take years to unfold, my commitment to upholding the Second Amendment freedoms of Americans is consistent. I will continue to lead a bipartisan majority in Congress in declaring that until the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty is ratified by the U.S. Senate we do not regard our nation as bound to uphold its object and purpose.
Meeting Kansas Cadets at U.S. Air Force Academy
It was an honor to meet with six Kansas Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy this week. Days like these serve as a reminder that Kansas produces smart, hard-working and civic-minded individuals who want to give back to their country. I’m also fortunate serve on the U.S. Air Force Academy Board of Visitors, and work to make certain this institution provides the best possible education and training for the next generation. The board provides the Secretary of Defense and members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees independent advice and recommendations on matters relating to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Pictured with me here from left to right: Jordon Boyce of Leavenworth, Drew Broadbent of Overland Park, Mitchell Willis of Lenexa, John McCune of Valley Center, Davis Parker of Dodge City, and Emily Wagemaker of Topeka.
Health Care Forum for Veterans
On Thursday, I was in Seneca to discuss a potential closure of the Seneca Community-Based Outpatient Clinic. I hosted a forum and invited VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System Director Rudy Klopfer to answer veterans’ questions about access to health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, the Seneca CBOC is only open to serve veterans two days each month and our discussion focused on the possibility of better serving area veterans under the Choice Act with community providers. More than 35 veterans and community hospital administrators in attendance asked questions and shared feedback. It is critical that we make certain these area veterans can get the care they deserve and that there is no gap in their services. Thanks to the local VA officials for attending and helping answer questions.
Kansas Listening Tour Stop in Nemaha County
My Kansas Listening Tour continued this week in Nemaha County at the Buzz Café in Sabetha. About 60 Kansans came to visit about numerous issues facing our state and nation including health care access, federal intrusion into education, trade issues, the Iran nuclear agreement, and VA reform. I always appreciate the opportunity to hear concerns and comments about the many important issues facing our state nation. Thanks to the local chapter of Kiwanis, and Mayor Doug Clark for coordinating and hosting my visit. Thanks also to State Senator Dennis Pyle and Representative Randy Garber for attending the day’s events.
Centralia School Visit
After my visits in Seneca and Sabetha, I headed south to Centralia to visit with students and educators at Centralia High School (CHS). My tour was hosted by two outstanding CHS seniors, Mayda Stallbaumer and Braden Deters. During my tour, I had the opportunity to meet several teachers including agriculture teacher Bob VanWinkle, music teacher Glenda Wood, art teacher Joni Steffes, government teacher Roger Holthaus, and librarian Dorothy Becker. I appreciate each of them taking time to visit with me about the important work they do each day to prepare Kansas children for their future. If you ask somebody who made a difference in their life, no one says a member of Congress or other public official. But if it’s not mom and dad, it is certainly a teacher. Because K-12 education takes place all under one roof in Centralia, I also had the opportunity to see elementary and middle school classrooms. Of all that I saw on the tour, the thing that impressed upon me the most is how the older kids look out for the younger ones and participate in their learning. This culture of community is what makes Centralia and other Kansas towns so special. Thanks again to Mayda and Braden for the tour. Thanks also to Principal Larry Glatczak and Superintendent Mischel Miller for hosting and coordinating my visit.
Kansas Hospital Administrator Roundtable and Hospital Visit
Friday I was in Fredonia and met with hospital administrators from throughout southeast Kansas at the invitation of the Kansas Hospital Association. I also toured Fredonia Regional Hospital. During my time representing Kansans in Washington, D.C., I have had the opportunity to visit each of the 128 community hospitals in Kansas. 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 (HHS) that impact hospitals and health care providers, meeting with Kansas hospital administrators, physicians, nurses and other providers gives me unique insight on the challenges they face caring for patients in Kansas.
Roundtable with Hospital Administrators
Our discussion touched on a range of health care issues facing the industry. Topics included physician recruitment and retention, the importance of primary care, the future of Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), electronic medical records, Medicare audits and reimbursements, as well as the federal regulations that make administrative burdens and costs unreasonably high for health care providers. Thank you to the Kansas Hospital Association for organizing the roundtable and a special thanks to the hospital administrators who traveled to Fredonia to participate in our discussion.
Fredonia Regional Hospital
Before the roundtable discussion, I toured Fredonia Regional Hospital and visited with CEO John Hart. The facility is a 25-bed CAH and has been a vital part of the community since 1950. The hospital’s second floor operates as nine-bed Geriatric-Psych Unit. Whether Kansans may remain in the communities they call home, and whether their children will return to raise families of their own is dependent upon access to quality health care. 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. Thanks to John for hosting my visit as well as the hospital administrators’ roundtable.
USDA Announces $3.8 Million Loan for Wastewater System Improvements
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) selected of Ozawkie, Kan., to receive a $3.8 million loan through the USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) this week. The loan will be used to complete the second phase of a wastewater collection system improvement, and to refinance the city’s existing debt used on the phase one improvements. Investments in rural Kansas help make certain communities can continue to be attractive places for people to live, work, and raise a family. This loan will provide Ozawkie with access to funding needed for infrastructure upgrades to the community’s wastewater treatment system.
USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) administers programs that provide infrastructure or infrastructure improvements to rural communities. These include water and waste treatment, electric power and telecommunications services. To learn more, click here.
Tiblow Days Parade in Bonner Springs
Robba and I enjoyed participating in the 35th annual Tiblow Days Parade. The parade marks the final day of a three-day celebration hosted by the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville Area Chamber of Commerce. Bonner Springs was originally named Tiblow in honor of Henry Tiblow who operated a ferry across the Kansas River. The city was renamed Bonner Springs in the 1880s. Thanks to George Rifford for driving us in his 1931 Model A Roadster Convertible and to Regina Utter for coordinating our participation.
Kansans in the Office
Bob Wills of Wichita
Scott McDonald of Wichita
Shirley McDonald of Wichita
Tim Collins of Augusta
Dina Collins of Augusta
Jarrod Bartlett of Wichita
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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