Kansas Common Sense

Dear Friend,

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.

Student Loan Interest Rate Bill
On Wednesday, the Senate passed an agreement to address federal student loan interest rates by a bipartisan vote of 81 to 18. This legislation would reverse the July 1, 2013 rate hike on subsidized Stafford loans, and provide a permanent solution for interest rates on all new student loans taken out after July 1.

In the interest of students, parents and taxpayers, I supported this legislation, which will provide much-needed certainty and savings to all students and families working to invest in their futures through higher education. In contrast to current law, this solution lowers rates for all students taking out new federal student loans, while saving taxpayers more than $700 million over the next decade. Higher education is often a family’s most important investment, and it is critically important that this legislation is signed into law before students return to campuses and classrooms in a few short weeks.

The White House has indicated its support for the Senate bill, which bases interest rates on all new federal student loans off of the 10-year Treasury bill, and the measure is expected to have bipartisan support in the House of Representatives when it comes up for a vote in that chamber, as soon as this week. Click here to watch me discuss this legislation.

Dodd-Frank Three Year Anniversary
This July marks three years since President Obama signed the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law. Since that time, it has become clear that what was aimed at protecting consumers and bringing stability to our financial system has done great harm to community banks – the financial institutions rural Americans depend on most.

Although community banks contributed little to the financial crisis, they were swept up in the rush to regulate the financial system and have been drowning in a sea of Dodd-Frank-imposed costly regulation ever since. Every dollar a community bank must spend on Dodd-Frank compliance is a dollar less they can invest in businesses or lend to families in their community. Making sensible modifications to Dodd-Frank would go a long way toward bringing more stability to our financial system while protecting the economic viability of rural America. For more information and my expanded thoughts on this important topic, I encourage you to read my editorial published this week in several Kansas newspapers.

Giving Rural America a Chance to Grow
This week, I introduced the Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory (CLEAR) Relief Act, S. 1349, with Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana to provide regulatory relief to community banks and their customers as well as support the housing recovery. By stripping away outdated and unnecessary regulation, the CLEAR Relief Act would help community banks focus on what they do best: provide loans to their communities and help small businesses grow.  Community banks play a critical role in the nation’s economic recovery, serving rural, small town, suburban and urban customers alike. Unfortunately, Dodd-Frank’s regulations and requirements make it more difficult for these banks to compete with larger financial institutions that have greater resources. This competitive disadvantage diminishes the ability of community banks to attract capital and support the credit needs of their customers and local businesses.

The CLEAR Relief Act does not absolve bankers from their responsibility to appropriately serve their customers. Rather, this legislation contains four targeted provisions that would modify components of current law. As economic and financial conditions change among banks and their customers, so must the laws surrounding this industry adapt to fit the needs of today’s environment. I continue to hear concerns from Kansas bankers who are hesitant to lend as they wait for the next burdensome regulation to come out of Washington. Until banks are willing and able to make prudent loans to hometown customers, job creation will remain stifled and our economic recovery will continue to lag. Click here to learn more about the CLEAR Relief Act. I look forward to working my colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee as we seek out meaningful, commonsense relief so that the special way of life we lead in places like Kansas can be enjoyed by many more generations.

Honoring the Life of Lieutenant General Richard Seitz
There is no group of individuals I hold in higher regard than our nation’s veterans, who have dedicated their lives to serving our country. Earlier this week I paid tribute to one of those WWII veterans, Lieutenant General Richard Seitz, a dedicated soldier and an American hero who recently passed away.

When WWII began, Dick was attending classes at K-State but by the end of the war, he had successfully led his battalion through some of the fiercest fighting of the war in the Battle of the Bulge. During his Army career which included nearly 37 years of active duty, Dick received numerous awards to honor his great courage and valor. Dick was a mentor, a friend and someone I greatly respected. He not only served our country, but also his state and community. Following his military retirement, he settled in Junction City, but he never truly retired from serving. He frequently visited Ft. Riley to greet deploying and returning units from Iraq and Afghanistan – no matter the hour, day or night.

Dick lived each day to its fullest and his commitment to his fellow man serves as an inspiration to us all. I extend my heartfelt sympathies to his three daughters, Patricia, Catherine and Victoria; and to his son Rick and the entire Seitz family. I know they loved him dearly and will miss him very much. I ask all Kansans to remember the Seitz family in your thoughts and prayers in the days ahead. Click here to listen to my remarks in the Senate about Lieutenant General Richard Seitz.

Meeting with Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Jim Hinson
This week, I met with Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) Superintendent Jim Hinson. Dr. Hinson assumed his role on July 1 after serving 11 years as Superintendent of the Independence, MO, school system. Dr. Hinson has spent 30 years in education and knows well the challenges that come with providing our children with the opportunity for a quality education. During our visit, we discussed the impact of federal policy on public education in Kansas. I believe lawmakers in Washington should avoid making policy decisions that restrict ingenuity, responsiveness, and development at the state and local levels. I will continue to work to see that federal policy allows sufficient flexibility for local school districts, teachers and parents to determine how to best use federal education resources to effectively meet the unique needs of their students. I look forward to working with Dr. Hinson, the SMSD Board, teachers and staff to make certain Kansas students have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream.

Farm Service Agency Meeting
As Kansans continue to cope with a less than ideal amount of rainfall, this week I met with Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Director Adrian Polansky to discuss farmers and ranchers’ much-needed access to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. Due to the ongoing drought, FSA is opening up CRP acres to allow cattle producers access to haying and grazing. The Kansas FSA State Committee used their authority with the D2 Severe drought designations on the U.S. Drought Monitor Map to authorize 66 counties for emergency haying and grazing. If you have questions regarding eligibility or access, click here to contact your county FSA office.

Earlier this month, I sent a letter, along with Senator Roberts, to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack regarding the release of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grass for haying and grazing in drought-stricken areas across Kansas. Releasing CRP grass for haying and grazing would provide them with an important boost, but  I will continue to pray for rain and do everything I can to provide certainty for folks who are facing less than ideal conditions. Click here to read the letter to Sec. Vilsack.

I am committed to making certain farmers and ranchers are provided with additional forage resources during this challenging time. Click here to see a photo from the meeting.

Wilson After Harvest Czech Festival
Beginning in the 1870s, Czech immigrants from Bohemia migrated to Wilson, Kansas, to work on the railroad, establishing the community’s culture and eventual designation as the “Czech Capital of Kansas.” On Saturday, I was pleased to join Wilson residents in celebration of their heritage at the community’s 53rd Annual After Harvest Czech Festival.

It was an honor to present the grand marshal plaque to past winners of the Miss Czech/Slovak Queen Pageant in honor of the event’s 25th anniversary. Demonstrating great pride in their heritage, more than 20 former queens returned to Wilson for this memorable occasion. Congrats to all participants and thank you to longtime pageant director Lynn Kasper for helping so many young ladies develop their leadership potential through this special event.  

I appreciate Dr. Dennis and Jennifer Kepka for driving me through the parade in their 1965 Mustang Convertible. Thanks also to Brian Boisvert, general manager of Wilson Communications; Kate Schiermeyer, parade coordinator and Kayla Cullens, festival chairwoman, for arranging my participation. Click here to view a photo from the event.

Video: Capturing Wheat Harvest in Kansas
Wheat harvest is a special time of year across the state, but even as it winds down, we know Kansas farmers work hard year round to put food on our tables and keep the shirts on our backs. To celebrate our farmers and all they do, watch this video that captures the long days and hard work through the poem,“Wheat Harvest,” by Marjorie Maydew Bell of Smith Center. Thanks to all the farmers, farm families and everyone who helped to make it a safe and productive wheat harvest.

In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:

Choice USA
Billy Garner of Emporia
Jessica Roths of Emporia
Ashley Brink of Wichita
Sydney Fish of Wichita
Amanda Shulze of Lawrence
Candice Crafton of Lawrence 

Impact DC
Jacob Bell of Leawood
Ashley Kramer of Andover
Ethan Loftspring of Leawood 

Independent Scrap Recycling Industries
Gary Champlin of Concordia 

Andy Jetter of Topeka
Eric Haar of Lawrence 

American Physical Therapy Association
Cody Barnett of Manhattan 

Accredited Snow Contractors Association
Kyle Rose of Shawnee
Michael Jones of Shawnee 

American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee
Marieta Hauser of Johnson 

Angelique Flinn of Topeka 

Washburn University
President Jerry Farley of Topeka
John Pinegar of Topeka
Doug Smith of Topeka 

The City of Dodge City
John Pinegear of Topeka
Doug Smith of Topeka
Cherise Tieben of Dodge City 

Christians United for Israel
Mary Robinson of Galena
Dave Robinson of Galena
Geta Bedasso of Shawnee
Jenny Loevven of Lawrence
Alisha Burnison of Lawrence
Andrew Hammes of Lawrence
Daniel Dosh of Lawrence
Greg Varney of Topeka
Debbie Varney of Topeka|
Jerusha McFarland of Lawrence
Esther Munganga of Topeka 

Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association
Jon Shaffer of Kansas City
Craig Smith of Shawnee 

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Kathleen Knox of Wichita
Austin Ledbetter of Wichita
Joe Cook of El Dorado
Katherine May of Saline
Ryan Kastens of Wichita 

Mission Adelante
Jason Schoff of Kansas City
Kirk Rietma of Kansas City 

Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe
Carrie O’Toole of Mayetta 

The Plastics Industry
Grant Flaharty of McPherson 

National Science Foundation
Lena Alston of Leawood 

KCAV, Inc.
Randy Adler of Leawood 

Kim Wilson Housing Inc.
Cindy Taylor of Kansas City
Christy McMurphy of Kansas City 

Kansas FFA Association
Lindy Bilberry of Garden City

Girls and Boys Nation
Samuel Pate of Lenexa
David Nolan of Overland Park
Ariba Ahmad of Overland Park
Olivia Zhas of Overland Park 

Washington Internships for Natives
Natalie Loggans of Wichita 

American Counseling Association
Diann Faflick of Wichita 

National Council on Independent Living
Lou Anne Kibbee of Hays
Shannon Jones of Lenexa 

Capitol Tour
Doug Brenneman of Newton
Marci Brenneman of Newton
Katie Brenneman of Newton
Joseph Brenneman of Newton
Thomas Nicks of Lenexa
Carolyn Nicks of Lenexa
Ruben Zaragoza of Leawood
Burt Brungardt of Wichita
Robyn Gordon of Wichita
Cindy Speere of Wichita
Brad Hodson of Pittsburg
Hannah Hodson of Pittsburg
Kirk Berneking of Salina
Rebecca Berneking of Salina
Matthew Berneking of Salina
Marlin Pfannenstiel of Ransom
Bonita Pfannenstiel of Ransom
Britny Pfannenstiel of Ransom
Bryce Pfannenstiel of Ransom
Charles Lovewell of Olathe
Erin Lovewell of Olathe
Grace Lovewell of Olathe
Mackenzie Lovewell of Olathe
Brad Harrelson of Topeka
Cynthia Harrelson of Topeka
Taylor Harrelson of Topeka
Rylee Harrelson of Topeka
David Hanson of Wichita
Kimberly Hanson of Wichita
Tyler Hanson of Wichita
Jae Chang of Leawood
Angela Chang of Leawood
Madeline Chang of Leawood
Jacqueline Chang of Leawood
Jeffrey Ottens of Marysville
Colette Ottens of Marysville
Nathan Ottens of Marysville
Nicholas Ottens of Marysville 

Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. In recent weeks, I’ve been listening to Kansans calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on and big issues our country faces. Whether your thoughts are in the form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, please know that I am listening and I appreciate messages from Kansans who wish to make their voice heard. 

Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click 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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