Kansas Common Sense
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Questioning Inspector General on GSA Regional Conference
Like all Americans, I was appalled to read recent accounts of the inappropriate actions of General Services Administration (GSA) employees outlined in the Inspector General’s report regarding a regional conference held in Las Vegas in 2010. According to the report, the 4-day conference cost taxpayers more than $822,000 of which more than $146,000 was spent on food and beverage catering. Shortly after the announcement, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson submitted her resignation to the White House, and other employees were fired.
As members of the Appropriations Committee, one of our most important responsibilities is to oversee federal agencies and hold them accountable for their decisions – especially how they spend taxpayer dollars. As Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, I questioned Inspector General Brian Miller on Wednesday about the report’s findings. At the hearing, I received confirmation from Inspector General Miller that the allegations of mismanagement of taxpayer dollars are just the “tip of the iceberg.” The Inspector General also confirmed that GSA is working with the Department of Justice to determine whether indictments are appropriate as a result of the criminal conduct being alleged.
This conduct is an unacceptable abuse of American taxpayers’ trust. It is unconscionable that some employees of the federal government completely ignored our country’s fiscal reality and disregarded their responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
How can an agency responsible for providing guidance on the correct usage of taxpayer dollars tolerate a culture of unaccountability? We must have safeguards in place to ensure this behavior does not happen again and we must send a strong message to all federal agencies that it is their duty to serve as careful stewards of taxpayer dollars. Our message is clear: those who disregard this solemn duty must be held accountable. Click here to watch my conversation with the Inspector General.
Concerns with Iran’s Nuclear Programs
On Tuesday morning, I spoke on the Senate floor about new negotiations with Iran to resolve American and international concerns about its nuclear program. These negotiations represent an opportunity for a peaceful resolution, but I also cautioned against Iran using talks as a way of buying time to continue enriching uranium. Iran’s nuclear program poses risks to America and the world, and it is essential for the United States to maintain pressure on Iran through sanctions.
Iran’s nuclear program also threatens the existence of our ally Israel. The President of Iran has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” If Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, its leaders will have the capability to do the destructive things they speak of. Thursday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. As we paused to remember and reflect on this past tragedy, it was a reminder that the United States must act to prevent a nuclear Iran and the real possibility of a future tragedy. The world cannot again look the other way. Click here to watch my floor speech.
Reducing Barriers to Success for Entrepreneurs
Also on Tuesday, I participated in a Small Business Committee roundtable to learn more about the entrepreneurship in America. The witness panel was an impressive list of entrepreneurs, scholars and experts including Christina Friederichs from the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program in Kansas City. While much of the conversation related to what government can and should be doing to help entrepreneurs succeed, I shared my thoughts about how government can reduce barriers and increase the likelihood a startup can achieve success.
One of the most important areas that must be addressed is America’s broken visa system. As other countries recognize this and modify their policies to attract and retain the world’s best and brightest, Congress continues to let partisanship and politics harm our economy. We must do more to help Congress understand the importance of winning the global battle for high-skilled talent for the future of our country. Click here to watch a video of my comments from the roundtable.
Tax Freedom Day
Finally, Tuesday was not only tax day; it was also “tax freedom day.” Kansans had to work from January 1 until April 17th to earn enough money to pay off their share of federal, state, and local taxes. One hundred an seven days is simply too many days dedicated to paying Uncle Sam. Tax Day was a reminder of out deeply-flawed system that needs to be replaced with a commonsense system that is simpler and more growth-oriented. I stand ready to work with my colleagues on a comprehensive tax reform package that will allow more people to pursue the American dream.
Senate Considering Postal 21st Century Postal Service Act
This week, the Senate voted to consider the 21st Century Postal Service Act, and on Wednesday I spoke on the Senate floor about the bill. Over the past decade, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has seen a steady decline in First-Class Mail volume due to the increased use of the internet and our sluggish economy. This decline has contributed to the USPS’s multi-billion dollar losses over the past several years.
The Postal Service is now set to close or consolidate nearly 3,600 post offices, including more than 130 in Kansas. In 2010, the Postal Regulatory Commission found that only 0.7 percent of the USPS operating budget goes to maintaining the 10,000 smallest post offices in the country, so closing these post offices will have minimal impact on the Postal Service’s bottom line and a lasting effect on these communities. Rural America is entitled to its basic rights and services from its government and too often this Congress has targeted rural parts of this country disproportionately when it is trying to find savings. I am pleased my amendment to that makes certain rural communities are not forgotten by setting minimum standards of service is included in this bill.
I certainly support the concept of requiring the Postal Service to operate more like a business, and I want to make certain the decisions we make today eliminate the need for U.S. taxpayers’ dollars to ever support the Postal Service. Because the mailing industry contributes $1 trillion to our economy, a measured approach must be taken to preserve service while saving the U.S. Postal Service money and reducing costs. We must meet the financial challenges facing the USPS, while making sure its Constitutional duty is not drastically changed.
Addressing Inconsistent Compliance Deadlines for Kansas Utilities and their Customers
On Wednesday, I introduced S. 2300 along with Senator Pat Roberts to give states – including Kansas – adequate time to comply with emissions reduction standards set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). The Kansas delegation in the House of Representatives led by Congressman Mike Pompeo introduced identical companion legislation, H.R. 4387.
On July 6, 2011, the EPA finalized a rule known as CSAPR, which requires states to improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions. A December 2008 court decision kept the requirements of the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) in place temporarily but directed EPA to issue a new rule to implement Clean Air Act requirements concerning the transport of air pollution across state boundaries. CSAPR replaces EPA’s 2005 CAIR. Kansas was not regulated under the provisions of CAIR. Kansas was brought into CSAPR thereby forcing Kansas utilities to comply with costly emissions reductions standards in a matter of months rather than years. Under the current timeline, CSAPR will force utility providers to choose between either providing adequate power and facing criminal penalties or cutting power and running afoul of reliability laws because states and utilities were only given approximately 180 days to comply with the new emissions standards. S. 2300 will give states and utilities until January 1, 2017 to comply with CSAPR – sufficient time to comply with the new standards.
Kansas utilities were already reducing their emissions voluntarily and have agreed to reduce them further – they just need more time to make the appropriate changes. This legislation will support their efforts to reduce emissions, while also preventing a significant disruption of service for Kansas consumers. I will continue to educate my colleagues in the Senate about the unfair, unnecessary predicament this rule has placed on Kansas homes and businesses. Click here to read more.
Participating in First Senate Appropriations Markup
The full Senate Appropriations Committee met on Thursday to vote on two subcommittee bills for the coming fiscal year of 2013: Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations (THUD) and Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations (CJS). CJS includes funding for the Commerce and Justice departments, science programs and NASA. The THUD bill includes funds for highway infrastructure, FAA, housing and community projects. Both bills were passed by the full committee. At the beginning of the markup, it was also determined how the overall spending level would be divided among the 12 fiscal year 2013 appropriations bills. The overall level of spending was established last August by the Budget Control Act ($1.047 trillion). Since I continue to value and advocate for getting our fiscal house in order, I opposed the proposed spending caps for the appropriation bills this year because I believe it will result in some agencies getting more funding that they need. I will continue to work so that the bottom line gets reduced and out-of-control spending is ended.
Attending Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing on Agriculture
This week I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Peggy Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Thursday. In America, we are fortunate to have an abundant food supply and the FDA plays an important role in keeping our nation’s food supply safe. However, I am worried that some decisions made by the FDA are not in the best interests of Kansas businesses and consumers. Americans expect FDA policy to be based on sound science and grounded in common sense – rather than based on arbitrary decisions made by bureaucrats in Washington. It is important for the FDA to remember that their decisions have significant ramifications for both consumers and the food industry. At the hearing, I asked Commissioner Hamburg about my concerns with recent guidance issued by the FDA about antibiotic use in livestock as well as the proposed restaurant menu labeling rule. Click here to watch a video from the hearing.
Congratulating the Kansas High School Assistant Principal of the Year
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet with Amy McAnarney, Assistant Principal at Emporia High School, and congratulate her on being selected as the 2012 Kansas High School Assistant Principal of the Year. Ms. McAnarney was selected for the award by her peers, which is presented annually by the Kansas Association for Secondary School Principals.
Ms. McAnarney has worked with Emporia Public Schools as a teacher and administrator for nearly 20 years. She has served as assistant principal at Emporia High School since 2007 where she helped implement the Spartan success program aimed at helping students get on an educational track that fits their post-high school goals. The program is required for freshmen and helps them plan what classes and experiences will best aid them as they move into young adulthood. Ms. McAnarney holds an English degree with a Language Arts teaching certificate from Fort Hays State University, and a master’s in Education Administration from Emporia State University.
I commend Ms. McAnarney for her outstanding leadership at Emporia High School. The competitiveness of our state and our nation is directly related to the quality of our children’s education and I thank her for her dedication to Kansas students and their futures. Click here to see a photo of our meeting.
Meeting Acting Executive Vice Chancellor of KU School of Medicine
I was at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City on Friday to meet with Dr. Steven Stites, who was appointed acting Executive Vice Chancellor and acting Executive Dean of KU School of Medicine earlier this month. Dr. Stites is a practicing physician and a nationally recognized pulmonologist. Additionally, he is Chair of the department of Internal Medicine and director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at KU Medical Center. Under his leadership, Internal Medicine – the medical center's largest department – has grown and advanced significantly in National Institutes of Health rankings for medical research. Five of Internal Medicine’s divisions – pulmonary medicine, nephrology, cardiology, oncology and gastroenterology – earned top rankings in U.S. News and World Report’s “2011-12 Best Hospitals” rankings. I enjoyed meeting Dr. Stites and wish him the best as he settles into his new role at KU School of Medicine.
Visiting Chad Company in Olathe
Also on Friday I stopped into the Chad Company, a food processing and safety company in Olathe which works extensively in the cattle industry. I had a nice visit with Company President Mike Gangel and learned about the important work Chad Co. does cleaning meat processing equipment. Thanks to Mike and everyone at Chad Co. for being so welcoming.
Visiting the Gordon Parks Museum/Center for Culture and Diversity
Earlier this month, I toured the Gordon Parks Museum/Center for Culture and Diversity located on the campus of Fort Scott Community College. Mr. Parks was an internationally-known photographer, filmmaker, writer and musician who was an inspirational teacher of artistic creativity, cultural awareness and diversity. Each October, the community of Fort Scott hosts a festival to honor Mr. Parks and his talent. Gordon Parks would have turned 100 years this November 30, 2012, and the community and college are currently planning a fitting celebration. Thank you to Fort Scott Community College President Clayton Tatro for the Gordon Parks' piece of artwork which hangs in my Washington, D.C. office in honor of this year’s centennial celebration.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
Randa Kuziez of Wichita
Incoming Fort Riley PAO
Marty O'Donnell of Manhattan
Kansas Council of Military Officers Association of America
Antonio Pimentel of Wichita
National Association of Realtors Institute of Real Estate Management
Clark Lindstrom of Wichita
Lee Witman of Kansas City
Craig Cooper of Kansas City
Vicki O'Malley of Kansas City
Adam Abrams of Kansas City
Shirley Harpool of Kansas City
Rosanne Saitta of Kansas City
Craig Hanson of Wichita
Blue Valley Telecommunications
Terry Force of Wheaton
Andrea Carter of Kansas City
Mortgage bankers Association
Michael Leech of Overland Park
AW Pickel, III of Olathe
Clay Sublett of Leawood
American Council of Engineering Companies of Kansas
Scott Heidner of Topeka
David Harwood of Olathe
Clint Robinson of Overland Park
Tiffany Arnold of Lenexa
Nicki Davis of Overland Park
Kansas Bar Association
Rachael Pirner of Wichita
Thomas Hamill of Prairie Village
Jordan Yochim of Lawrence
National Arts Advocacy
Nicole Rome of Hays
National Center for Fathering
Carey Casey of Shawnee Mission
Ron Zink of Topeka
Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Dennis Cooley of Topeka
Academy of General Dentistry
Paul Hund of Leavenworth
Kansas Dietetic Association
Erin Laurie of Ottawa
Linda Eisenhart of Overland Park
University of Kansas
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little of Lawrence
Frances Pugh of Olathe
Hannah Pugh of Olathe
Kansas Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Ruth Morris of Overland Park
Joe Conroy of Emporia
Tom McKibban of El Dorado
Andrew Sledge of Kansas City
Alicia Wyatt of Wichita
Brian Smith of Dodge City
American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association
Mark Feathers of Emporia
National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology
Finn Bullers of Prairie Village
John Moyer of Kansas City
Christian Bullers of Prairie Village
Scott Lopez of Olathe
Nationally Association of Federally Impacted Schools
Keith Mispagel of Ft. Leavenworth
Kansas Geographic Alliance
Paul Phillips of Hays
National Council of Teachers of English
Kay Hass of Olathe
Goodwill Industries International
Stuart Hoffman of Fairway
Federal Corrections, US Penitentiary, Leavenworth
Mike Erdley of Leavenworth
Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association
Adam Mills of Topeka
Al Hinman of Olathe
Bill Goodlatte of Wichita
Damian Farris of Kansas City
Gene Suellentrop of Wichita
Hugh O'Reilly of Topeka
Ron Hein of Topeka
Julie Hein of Topeka
Linda Goodlatte of Wichita
Michael Phipps of Wichita
Ron Oberg of Wichita
Patty Oberg of Wichita
Scott Redler of Wichita
Kansas Land Trust
Ginny Moore of Leawood
Mike Beam of Topeka
Rob Manes of Wamego
National Farmers Union
Lauren Clary of Windom
Nicholas Levendofsky of Republic
Donn Teske of Onaga
Kent Wright of St. John, WA / Wichita, KS
Public Issues Leadership Development
Linda Beech of Hays
Doug Beech of Hays
Mary Bernhardt of Salina
Kevin Bernhardt of Salina
Susan Bloom of Oakley
Chris Onstad of Colby
Lori Onstad of Colby
Keala Timko of South Haven
Meghan Ringelberg of South Haven
Gayle Price of Chanute
Ginger Kopher of Junction City
Rich Barr of Lawrence
Trudy Rice of Lawrence
JD McNutt of Chanutte
Kandy McNutt of Chanutte
Kansas Livestock Association
Frank Harper of Sedgwick
Mark Harms of Lincolnville
Ken Grecian of Palco
Lonnie Busch of Leoti
Lyman Nuss of Dorrance
T.J. Curtis of Cimarron
Dee Likes of Topeka
Matt Teagarden of Topeka
Mike Beam of Topeka
Mark Smith of Sharon Springs
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including:
David Morgan of Hutchinson
Sharon Morgan of Hutchinson
Joel Frisch of Prairie Village
Mary Frisch of Prairie Village
Joe Conroy of Emporia
Robert Mark, Jr. of Emporia
Martha Mark of Emporia
Melissa Conroy of Topeka
Jennifer Hanson of Gardner
Coley Sullivan of Overland Park
Alex Frisch of Overland Park
Tom Jordan of Lawrence
Ed Wheatley of Lawrence
Linda Wheatley of Lawrence
Kathleen Wheatley of Lawrence
Pat Wheatley of Chanute
Billie Wheatley of Chanute
Ed Reyelts of Paola
Austin Reyelts of Paola
Hannah Coen of Wichita
Anthony Maness of Iola
Sherise Maness of Iola
Gerald Greene of Newton
Phyllis Greene of Newton
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. 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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