Kansas Common Sense
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We Are One – Fort Riley Listening Session
On Monday morning, I had a productive breakfast meeting at Fort Riley with U.S. Army leadership from the Pentagon to discuss the impact of potential force reductions to the Big Red One. The Army is in this position because Congress passed and the President signed a Budget Control Act that requires reduced defense spending. This makes no sense when global threats continue put to our country in jeopardy and at risk. As plans for force reductions are reviewed, the investment that has already been made in infrastructure, space and community support would be difficult to walk away from. Brigadier General Roger Cloutier and I discussed the importance of troop strength at Fort Riley and its value to the Army.
Later in the afternoon, I accompanied Brigadier General Cloutier to the official Listening Session at the Geary County Convention Center where more than 4,200 members of the community and state gathered to share how vital the installation is to the community, state and country. After visiting with Brigadier General Cloutier and knowing what he learned from Kansans that evening, I believe he recognizes that Kansans support, care and respect those serving our country at Fort Riley. More importantly, I think Brigadier General Cloutier was able to see just how special the Fort Riley community is, not only in support of the soldiers in the Big Red One but for the entire U.S. Army. Kansans expressed gratitude and appreciation to those who serve our country and their families.
I will do everything I can to reduce the impact of sequestration and make certain Fort Riley receives the support it deserves from the Pentagon, so the Armed Forces and the Big Red One can continue to defend our nation. Fort Riley is America’s First Division – the place in which we defend our nation. It is a place where we defend our values, ensure that those who follow us – our kids and grandkids – live with the freedoms and liberties that many of Kansans sacrificed and Big Red One soldiers serve to protect. A special thanks to Major General Funk who provided his own comments from Iraq and his wife, Beth, who attended to convey her support for the Fort Riley community. In Major General Funk’s absence, Acting Senior Commander and Deputy Commanding General, Brigadier General Eric Wesley did a wonderful job on behalf of Fort Riley and our troops.
Salina Aviation Roundtable
On Monday, I was in Salina to lead an aviation summit for Kansas stakeholders. The roundtable discussion included Kansas airport operators and officials from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as various representatives of the aviation industry and private pilots. As a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security for the 114th Congress, Monday’s event was an opportunity for me to hear firsthand about their legislative priorities for 2015, a year in which Congress must tackle FAA Reauthorization before funding expires in September. The conversation touched on many important topics, ranging from Essential Air Service to the Federal Contract Tower Program to FAA’s implementation of rules regarding the commercial use of Unnamed Aerial Systems.
Prior to passage of the most recent FAA Reauthorization in 2012, Congress unfortunately resorted to nearly two dozen short-term extensions. The message I received on Monday is that these short-term patches are terribly disruptive to Kansas airports, who need certainty and stability in order to plan ahead and invest in the facilities and technologies necessary to maximize safety and efficiency at our airports. I will work diligently to ensure a safer and more efficient air traffic system that will allow the aviation industry in Kansas to continue to grow and prosper. Many thanks to Tim Rogers, Executive Director at Salina Airport Authority, for his hospitality and his leadership in assembling Monday’s aviation roundtable.
A VA Worthy of Veterans’ Service – Tell Your Story
Veterans deserve a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that is worthy of their service and sacrifice for our nation. When the Senate and House came together to pass the Choice Act last summer, there was a sense of hope among veterans, their families and the American people that it was the start of dramatic change at the VA. Six months later, many veterans are still unable to access the care they need because of numerous problems with Choice Act implementation.
It is clear that we are not prepared for the servicemen and women who are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are not capable of caring for our aging veterans – particularly those from the Vietnam era – as we promised we would and as every American knows we should. Unfortunately, common sense is not prevailing and the VA continues to operate in the same bureaucratic fashion.
To veterans and their families – I want to hear about your experience with the Choice Act Program. Too often the personal story of a veteran who is struggling to get the help he or she deserves goes unheard. I want to make certain the VA listens and commits to transformation of a bureaucracy that is a disservice to our veterans. Click here to share your experience. I will do my best to respond in a timely fashion and make certain the VA hears your story.
Meeting with VA Secretary Bob McDonald
This week, a few colleagues and I met with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Bob McDonald to discuss the VA’s fiscal year 2016 budget request. Spending at the VA has increased 74 percent since 2009, and just six months after the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) was signed into law, the VA is requesting a reallocation of the law’s emergency funds that are solely meant to pay for veteran health care to support “investments in the VA System priorities.”
The goal of the Choice Act is to offer access to timely, quality and cost-effective care for our nation’s heroes. I am frustrated that even with a new law and new leadership in place, the VA system continues to overlook what is in the best interest of veterans. I’m also afraid we are only just beginning to fully grasp the Choice Act’s implementation issues. I will press Secretary McDonald on this further at a full Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing later this month.
Veterans TRICARE Choice Act
On Wednesday, I introduced the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act of 2015, S. 448, which would give TRICARE-eligible veterans, dependents and those serving in the Reserve Component the ability to pause TRICARE benefits in order to contribute to a Heath Savings Account (HSA) as well as receive contributions from their employer. This bipartisan legislation addresses the inequities of current federal law, which prevents TRICARE-eligible individuals from participating in an HSA program.
Veterans and their families deserve the highest-quality health care for their service to our country. They should not be denied the opportunity to select the best health care option for their needs just because of their service to our country. HSAs have proven to be an effective way to pay for medical costs and proactively save for future medical expenses. Employees invest and save tax-free money in HSAs, which are then used to pay for qualified medical expenses. Our nation’s heroes should not have to opt out of the TRICARE benefits they earned just because they want to participate in an HSA program offered by their employer. The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act of 2015 would make certain that members of the military, both past and present, have the same opportunity as their coworkers to select the health care plan they want.
Frustration with VA Health System Continues
This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health system was added to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) “high risk” list – a biannual report focused on agencies at high risk of waste, fraud and mismanagement and recommends ways to improve their performance and accountability. The addition of the VA health system unfortunately does not come as a surprise, and it adds to the frustration my colleagues and I feel as we continue to demand accountability and leadership within the VA system. When the Senate and House came together to pass the Choice Act last summer, there was a sense of hope among veterans, their families and the American people that it was the start of dramatic change at the VA. Six months later, many veterans are still unable to access the care they need because of numerous problems with the Choice Act implementation. The GAO’s listing of the VA health system raises real concerns that common sense is not prevailing and the VA continues to operate in the same bureaucratic fashion.
I met with VA Secretary McDonald the day before the GAO list was released to discuss VA priorities, and I continue to ask why the VA is not bending over backwards to implement the Choice Act as it was intended and take care of our veterans. I look forward to addressing this issue directly with the VA Secretary when he testifies before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Feb. 26, and I will share with him the stories of Kansas veterans who continue to struggle to access the care they were promised under the Choice Act.
In the absence of dramatic change at the VA, it is clear that we are not prepared for the servicemen and women who are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are not capable of caring for our aging veterans – particularly those from the Vietnam era - as we promised we would and as every American knows we should. I will not rest until our veterans have a Department of Veterans Affairs worthy of their service and sacrifice.
Clay Hunt Legislation Signed into Law
I am pleased that President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act into law on Thursday. As a sponsor of this bill and a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Member, I am proud this important legislation will finally be enacted and begin to help our veterans.
The average suicide rate among veterans is a staggering 22 deaths each day. This bill will help develop a VA system capable of offering first-rate mental health care services, as well as utilize the expertise of outside organizations to provide support for those returning home and struggling with the invisible wounds of war. I can think of no better way to honor the memory of Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who committed suicide in March 2011 at the age of 28.
During a Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee hearing in last fall, I had the opportunity to learn about his compelling story of sacrifice for our country and struggle with the VA from Clay’s mom, Susan Selke. No mother, father or family member should suffer with the loss of their loved one because of failures in the VA health care system. President Obama should take quick action in signing this important legislation so the VA has the ability to care for our suffering service members who are not receiving the care they need. Click here to learn more.
Correcting the President’s Comments on Paris Terror Attack
This week, President Obama was featured in an interview where he spoke about the recent terror attacks in Paris, France. The President described this attack as “randomly shoot[ing] a bunch of folks in a deli.” This strange description of the hostage taking and murder of four Jews in a Kosher supermarket is deeply concerning.
When asked to clarify the President’s comments, a White House spokesman stated that the Jewish victims of this attack were “killed not because of who they were, but because of where they randomly happened to be.”
Given media reports that the attacker declared his intention to target Jewish people, the Obama Administration’s repeated comments that chalk up this targeted attack to “randomness” are bizarre and concerning. The Obama Administration should be doing everything it can to clearly describe the threat of terrorism. The stakes are simply too high to operate under anything but a full understanding of the significant challenges our Americans and our allies face. I shared these concerns in a speech on the Senate floor this week. My speech was featured on Fox News’ Special Report program.
Privacy Notice Modernization Act
This week I introduced the Privacy Notice Modernization Act, S. 423. This bipartisan legislation would streamline the financial privacy notifications that banks provide consumers. Under current law, consumers are inundated with written notices that are often confusing, duplicative and become so routine that they are commonly discarded without being read. By enacting a commonsense notification policy, we can ensure consumers are receiving timely alerts of policy changes in a format that is accessible and on-demand, while at the same time unburdening our community banks from erroneous regulation.
Striking a regulatory balance is vital for American businesses and consumers as we seek to grow and strengthen our economy. Unfortunately, community banks are being disproportionately hurt by overregulation and notification requirements because they have less capacity to absorb the compliance costs. By reducing these costs and providing more relevant information to the consumer, our community banks can focus on what they do best – serving the community. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure swift passage of this commonsense legislation. Click here to learn more.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Announces Support for Startup Act
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents 3 million companies across the United States in addition to business associations and state and local chambers, has announced its support for Startup Act – a bipartisan jobs plan I introduced that is aimed at jumpstarting the economy through the creation and growth of new businesses. In a letter this week, Executive Vice President for Government Affair at the Chamber R. Bruce Josten said, “Unleashing and fostering the entrepreneurial spirit has been the hallmark of sustained economic growth in the United States since the nation’s inception. For more than a decade we have seen this economic engine sputter through a drag on the traditional strength of business formation. This trend has slowly started to reverse with the passage of the bi-partisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (“JOBS Act”). The bi-partisan Startup Act is another important step in reversing that trend. Continued efforts to restart the business formation engine are critical for the economy to grow and create jobs.”
Startup Act, which is based on research and analysis by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation based in Kansas City, modifies the tax code to encourage investment in new businesses, accelerates the commercialization of university research that can lead to new ventures, and seeks to improve the regulatory process. Research shows that for close to three decades, companies less than five years old have created almost all net new jobs in America – averaging about 3 million jobs each year. I am pleased the business community has recognized the power of these policies to create jobs and economic growth, and I am hopeful that with new leadership in the Senate, the Startup will no longer be denied a vote. Click here to read the full text of the U.S. Chamber’s letter to Sen. Moran on Startup Act.
Recognizing the Importance of Community Service
On Tuesday morning, I met with leaders of several Senior Corps programs across our state to visit about the importance of community service and volunteering. Senior Corps is an organization that connects Americans older than 55 with opportunities to contribute their expertise and job skills to their respective communities. Three of the these initiatives are the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), the Foster Grandparent Program, and the Senior Companion Program. Foster Grandparents serve as tutors and mentors to Kansas students. Senior Companions help homebound seniors and other adults maintain independence in their own homes. And, RSVP volunteers conduct safety patrols, renovate homes, tutor and mentor youth, respond to natural disasters, and provide other services across the state. More than 5,300 Kansas seniors contribute their time and talents through participation in these programs.
That evening, I joined these Kansas Senior Corps directors at the 12th Annual Friends of National Service Awards event. I was honored to receive an award at this event and humbled to join a bipartisan group of advocates in support of national service. As a nation, we must make sure that we make smart decisions regarding our federal budget. National service and community volunteering represent exceedingly cost-effective solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing challenges. These initiatives connect dedicated and caring citizens to those in need. They are genuine examples of neighbors helping neighbors, which is the foundation of the special way of life we live in Kansas and in communities across this great nation. Thank you to Melody Gault of Augusta, Lori Bishop of Manhattan, Connie Stewart of Topeka, and Brittany Crabtree of Topeka for their insight on the benefits of community service and their commitment to supporting Kansans.
Visiting with Leaders of Kansas Community Colleges
Administrators and trustees representing our state’s community colleges traveled to Washington this week to meet with the Kansas Congressional Delegation and attend the Association of Community College Trustees’ 2015 National Legislative Summit. I had the opportunity to visit with leadership of Johnson County Community College to learn more about the latest developments on their campus and the issues impacting their institution. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee, which has authority over the budget of the U.S. Department of Education, these conversations are very useful in helping me assess how the Department’s higher education initiatives are impacting Kansas students and colleges.
Executive Order on Cybersecurity
On Friday, President Obama issued an executive order related to improving critical cybersecurity infrastructure. Recent high-profile data breaches demonstrate the significant cyber threats that businesses and consumers face in our digital world. The President’s actions today are not a complete solution, but do help prepare a policy foundation on which Congress can build a robust legislative strategy to solving the data security challenges American businesses face. I hope the President will keep his commitment to work with Congress to align incentives for American businesses to protect themselves and consumers. As Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Data Security, I will continue my efforts to provide solutions to these important issues.
On Thursday Feb. 5, 2015, I chaired a hearing of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security entitled, “Getting it Right on Data Breach and Notification Legislation in the 114th Congress.” The hearing featured testimony from experts to inform committee efforts in crafting a federal data breach bill, and focused on issues including the consumer benefits of a uniform federal law in place of disparate state laws, the timeliness of notification to consumers, and how sensitive personally identifiable information should be defined.
Applications Available for Summer 2015 Internships
I am currently accepting internship applications for my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for summer 2015. An internship, either legislative or communications, provides a unique opportunity to work closely with Senate staff on behalf of the state of Kansas. Legislative interns in Washington, D.C., will gain a better understanding of the legislative process in the U.S. Congress, and develop knowledge and professional skills valuable to future career pursuits. Interns based in Kansas will focus on constituent services.
The application deadline is Friday, March 6, 2015. Application forms are available under the ‘Services’ section of my website at https://www.moran.senate.gov. Applicants should submit a completed application form, resume, academic transcript, two letters of recommendation and a cover letter explaining the applicant’s interest in public service and goals of serving as an intern. Please submit required materials to: email@example.com.
Kansans in the Office
Neurofibromatosis Network Central Plains
Sharon Loftspring of Leawood
Elana Loftspring of Leawood
Sunil Alluri of Overland Park
American Federation of Government Employees Local 1336
Don Halliburton of Kansas City
Senitria Hampton Monk of Kansas City
Kansas Senior Corps
Melody Gault of Augusta
Connie Stewart of Topeka
Brittany Crabtree of Topeka
Lori Bishop of Manhattan
Kansas City Community College
Mary Ann Flunder of Kansas City
Donald Ash of Kansas City
Christal Watson of Kansas City
University of Kansas School of Engineering
Jack Cline of Lawrence
Mike Denning of Lawrence
National District Attorney Association
Amy Hanley of Lost Springs
Johnson County Community College
Dick Carter of Topeka
Michael O’Gorman of Olathe
Jerry Cook of Overland Park
President Joe Spocich of Overland Park
Kate Allen of Overland Park
US Canola Association
Michael Stamm of Manhattan
Tyson Good of Montezuma
Kansas Fraternal Order of Police
Kenny Gorman of Topeka
James Morton of Dodge City
Mark Bundy of Kansas City
Hans Assmussen of Wichita
Haskell Indian Nations University
Stephens Prue of Lawrence
Beverly Foley of Lawrence
Chris Sindone of Lawrence
Daniel R. Wildcat of Lawrence
City of Topeka
Doug Whitacre of Topeka
Curtis Sneden of Topeka
Pat Downes of Topeka
Jack Hession of Topeka
Paul Hirsch of Topeka
Greg Schwerdt of Topeka
Dodge City Community College
Morris Reeves of Dodge City
Hutchinson Community College
President Carter File of Hutchinson
David Marshall of Hutchinson
Santa Fe Trail Association
Roger Boyd of Baldwin City
Ross Marshall of Overland Park
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City
Coni Fries of Kansas City
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas
Sunee Mickle of Topeka
Andrew Etkind of Olathe
Bill Gies of Salina
Kim Morrissey of Wichita
Kansas Rural Water Association
Dennis Schwartz of Tecumseh
Bill Shroyer of Sabetha
Elmer Ronnebaum of Seneca
Bob St. Peter of Topeka
Computing Technology Industry Association
Riddhiman Das of Lawrence
Ryan Weber of Kansas City
The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers
Nancy Mellard of Leawood
William Wilkerson of Mission Hills
National Home Infusion Association
Rick Lane of Overland Park
Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians
Selahattin Aydin of Lenexa
National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
Ben Kohl of Manhattan
Kansas National Education Association
Ruth Goff of Kansas City
Sandra Walker of Lawrence
Kimberley Lindeman-Kenny of Topeka
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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