Kansas Common Sense

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Amendments to the Senate Continuing Resolution
Last week, the Senate considered its version of the continuing resolution (CR) — a bill to fund the government through September 30, 2013, or the end of fiscal year 2013. To avert a government shutdown, a CR must be passed by March 27, 2013.

Although the House-passed version does not eliminate sequestration, I offered several amendments to the Senate CR that transfers funds and targets cuts in a smarter way. Read more about the amendments below:

FAA Control Tower Amendment
On Wednesday, I introduced an amendment to the Senate CR that will protect 189 air traffic control towers from closure as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implements sequestration cuts. Of these towers, all of which participate in the Contract Tower Program, 173 are scheduled to close on April 7, less than three weeks away. The towers targeted for closure include seven in Kansas alone: Forbes Field and Philip Billard Municipal, Topeka; Garden City Regional, Garden City; Hutchinson Municipal, Hutchinson; New Century AirCenter and Johnson County Executive, Olathe; and Manhattan Regional, Manhattan.

While I firmly believe that Washington’s spending problem must be addressed, these irresponsible cuts from the FAA will put the flying public at risk, impair access to rural areas, jeopardize national and civil security missions, and cost jobs. There is no reason for the Contract Tower Program to be subject to the 75 percent budget cut when the remainder of the FAA’s Operations account is only faced with five percent reductions. My amendment gives the FAA the resources they need to keep these towers open and keep passengers safe.

I know firsthand the importance of maintaining commercial air service in communities across Kansas, and am frustrated that the Administration has decided to play politics that could negatively impact our state’s economic future. As the Senate finishes work on the Continuing Resolution early this week, I will redouble my efforts to ensure my amendment receives full consideration. 

Tuition Assistance Program Amendment
I joined Senators Inhofe and Hagan in sponsoring an amendment to the Senate CR to restore tuition assistance for our members of the military. On Friday, March 8, soldiers and universities were notified that the program would be suspended effective immediately — a Department of Defense decision that I found absurd. Sacrifices in sequestration are to be expected, but the Administration should not make immediate cuts to the welfare of those who serve this country with duty and honor. The Tuition Assistance program gives our active-duty service members the quality education they deserve, and helps make certain our military has the best and brightest defending our freedom. The program also levels the playing field when members of the military return to civilian life. Education is our best economic development tool and the best investment we can make in America’s future. Cutting off tuition assistance would intentionally and unnecessarily inflict hardship upon our service men and women, which is why I sponsored the amendment. Click here to read more about this amendment.

Working to Re-Open White House to Kansans
On Wednesday, I introduced an amendment to the Senate CR that would re-open the White House to the American people. The amendment would transfer $2.5 million from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — which just last week signed a two-year contract that would allow TSA to spend up to $50 million on uniform related expenses — to the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) to pay for the security staff necessary for White House tours for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. I believe we can and must be smarter with our spending and budget-cutting decisions. Canceling White House tours is an unnecessary and unfair way for the Department of Homeland Security to meet its budget-cutting obligations – particularly if the necessary savings can be found elsewhere within the department, namely from the TSA. There is no reason why American taxpayers should spend more on TSA officers’ uniforms every year than a United States Marine Corps lieutenant is allowed to spend in a lifetime of service. The same taxpayers who are funding TSA officers’ new uniforms are being denied the opportunity to tour the White House — the people’s house. Click here to read this amendment.


The Budget Battle
Last week, Senate Democrats revealed their first budget proposal in four years, which the Senate Budget Committee began debating on Wednesday. I am looking forward to this week’s floor debate and amendments offered on the budget proposal. The debate will make clear to the American people which members are for balanced budgets and which ones are for continued irresponsibility. It will make clear which members want to rein in government spending, and which ones want to increase the deficits. And it will make clear which members want to create jobs and self-sufficiency, and which want to keep Americans dependent on government handouts. Click here to watch my comments on the budget proposal.

Attending Kansas TRIO Legislative Breakfast
On Tuesday, I attended the Kansas TRIO Programs’ 19th Annual Legislative Breakfast at the Capitol. TRIO programs operate in 19 Kansas postsecondary schools and provide services to students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds, students with disabilities, adult learners, and veterans to support them in achieving their goal of completing higher education, and oftentimes becoming the first in their family to earn a college degree.

I had the opportunity to meet Kansas students currently pursuing higher education with the support of TRIO and hear their inspiring personal stories about pursuing higher education. This year I met KU students Paige Henderson, Sarah Bregman, Clint Jensen, and Adam Nicholson. Thank you to Wichita State’s Kaye Monk-Morgan for emceeing the event and for the Kansas TRIO staffs for hosting the breakfast. As a first-generation college graduate myself, I am proud of the effectiveness of TRIO programs at our schools and have seen their success firsthand.

Second Amendment Rights Are Not Negotiable
Today, the Obama Administration will continue its reversal of the policies of both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and engage in a new round of negotiations of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in New York. Last week, I introduced a Senate resolution co-sponsored by 29 of my colleagues which outlines specific criteria that must be met for this treaty if it has any hopes to be ratified by the U.S. Senate and recognized as customary international law. The current ATT draft text undermines the Constitutional freedoms of American gun owners and does not exempt civilian firearms from its scope or recognize the inherent right to self-defense. I believe that the text must exempt domestic, civilian firearm ownership and use from its scope, as governed by national laws and our Constitution. Click here to see me speak at the press conference. 

Additionally, I recently sponsored the “Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act” introduced by Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. This legislation grants judicial officials the authority to determine a veteran’s suitability to own a firearm. Those who have fought to protect our rights should not arbitrarily lose theirs when they return home.

Kansas to See Major Economic Impact from UAS Industry
This week, Kansas was announced as one of the top ten states predicted to see enormous economic and job creation impact as production of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) increase. In the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) report titled Economic Benefits of UAS Integration in National Airspace, Kansas is ranked no. seven, with a total projected economic impact of $2.941 billion and an estimated 3,716 new jobs created between 2015 and 2025. This news underscores the fact that Kansas is making incredible progress in UAS’ emerging aviation enterprise. 

Kansas already boasts the necessary attributes to manage UAS activities: airspace for UAS operations; multiple airport support facilities; university research and development on sensors, airframes, and engines; university flight and operations training; and avionics development and manufacturing capabilities.

The greatest area of growth indicated by the report will be in precision agriculture, which is slated to grow 10 times that of the public safety market for UAS. Precision agriculture use of UAS refers to two segments of the farm market: remote sensing used to scan plants for health problems, growth rates and hydration; and precision application of needed pesticides or nutrients in order to save money and reduce environmental impact. Total economic impact of agriculture spending on UAS in 2015 is slated to be $75 million, with 772 new jobs created.

The study reports that the manufacturing jobs to be created within the UAS industry in Kansas will be high paying ($40,000+) and require technical baccalaureate degrees.

The FAA still has much to do to make certain UAS is properly incorporated and accounted for in our national airspace, but the future for UAS in Kansas — the Air Capital of the World — is bright. Click here to read more about the projected impact of UAS on Kansas’ economy.

Discussing Global Health with Bill Gates
On Thursday, I met with Bill Gates to learn more about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its efforts to address extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries. Specifically, we discussed the Foundation’s collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and private partners such as Rotary International to eradicate polio across the globe. This collaboration has resulted in polio declining by more than 99 percent, from more than 350,000 cases annually in 1988 to fewer than 250 cases reported December 2012. As the Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, I have the opportunity to help shape priorities of the CDC and other health programs.

During this meeting, Mr. Gates and I also had an opportunity to discuss international agricultural development as a means of fighting hunger and policies to grow high-skilled jobs in U.S. and enhance the global competitiveness of our nation. Additionally, I mentioned my new bipartisan legislation, Startup Act 3.0, which is aimed at removing barriers that prevent new businesses from forming in the United States. Startup Act 3.0 outlines a five-prong approach to job creation based on the proven track record of entrepreneurs.

LAS Contract
I was extremely disappointed to hear on Friday that the U.S. Air Force plans to circumvent the Stop Work Order on the Light Air Support contract that was recently awarded to Embraer. Earlier this month, Senator Roberts, Congressman Pompeo and I sent a letter to Secretary Hagel requesting justification behind awarding the U.S. Air Force’s Light Air Support contract to foreign based Embraer over Kansas based Beechcraft. According to USAF documents, Beechcraft’s bid was 30 percent lower than Embraer’s and Beechcraft’s proposal included the preservation of 1,400 domestic jobs at 181 companies in 39 states, which would have resulted in a superior aircraft. In light of this recent development, the U.S. Air Force is deciding to compound an already complex issue. It seems irresponsible to move forward with a contract and spend money on a product that may ultimately be unable to procure in a time when DoD is struggling to fund vital programs and train our Armed Forces. We are, once again, urging Secretary Hagel to implement the Stop Work Order to make sure the GAO process is finalized and as a matter of good governance.

National Down Syndrome Society Champion of Change Award
On Thursday morning, I was honored to receive the 2013 Champion of Change Award from the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). NDSS focuses its efforts to make certain people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, achieve their aspirations, and become valued members of their communities. Advocates from states throughout the country, including Kansas, were in Washington, D.C., this week for the NDSS Buddy Walk on Washington – an annual two-day advocacy conference that brings the Down syndrome community together to advocate for policies that impact the lives of people with Down syndrome and their families. I am glad to support efforts to enhance the quality of life of individuals with Down syndrome and their families. It was a pleasure to visit with several Kansans during the gathering including Jawanda Mast, Jonathan Mast, and Rachel Mast of Olathe; Anita Raghavan, Tavrick Lawless, and Rebecca McCaulley of Wichita; and Paula Doran of Overland Park.


Parsons Land Transfer Agreement
On Monday, I was pleased to hear that negotiations were resolved on the Purchase and Sale Agreement (P&SA) between Day & Zimmermann, Inc., (D&Z) and the U.S. Army. D&Z, a leading provider of caliber munitions and components, negotiated the transfer of 4,112 acres of property near Parsons, Kan., formerly known as the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant. Senator Roberts, Congresswoman Jenkins and I wrote to Secretary of the Army John McHugh in January to continue to work through the negotiation process regarding environmental cleanup and other services to come to an amenable resolution. Thankfully, the Army announced that they will accept the P&SA as executed by both parties, which marks the end of more than seven years of negotiations. The next steps in the property transfer will involve coordination of environmental permit transfer and property deed execution. Then, the Army will provide $20.25 million in Base Realignment and Close Process (BRAC) environmental restoration funding to D&Z. Together with the conveyance of the munitions infrastructure, this funding is intended to compensate D&Z for completing the tasks as specified in the executed P&SA. The agreement will preserve 150 jobs and keep D&Z plant operations open — all good news for the Parsons community and for Kansas.

Senate Banking Committee Hearing
During the Senate Banking Committee hearing Tuesday, I had the opportunity to question Mrs. Mary Jo White, President Obama’s nominee to serve as Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mrs. White and I discussed the importance of completing the SEC rulemaking process for the JOBS Act passed last year. Once fully implemented, the JOBS Act will enable small businesses to more easily raise the capital necessary to grow. I also asked Mrs. White about the SEC’s plan to create a pilot program to experiment with adjusted wider price increments, also known as ‘tick-size,’ for small businesses seeking to take their companies public. I stressed to Mrs. White the importance of startups and small businesses to the American economy and requested that she prioritize JOBS Act rulemaking and pursue small business friendly policies if she is confirmed to lead the SEC. Click here to watch a video of my conversation with Mrs. White.

Kansas Communities Visiting Washington
This week, several communities across Kansas came to Washington to visit their elected officials. They were also in town to meet with officials from federal agencies whose projects and programs affect their community. We were happy to host representatives from Wichita, Manhattan, Olathe, Garden City, Hays, Liberal, Dodge City and Great Bend. The conversations I have with Kansans guide my work and votes in the Senate. Thank you to everyone who made the trip and stopped by our office.

Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing
Over the last few weeks, I heard from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans that there is a significant problem in regard to how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs answers the concerns and claims of those who have served our country with duty and honor. I understand the Department of Veterans Affairs currently has more than 860,000 pending claims, which is more than double the number of claims that were pending at the end of fiscal year 2008. I’ve listened to countless stories from folks who wait months — and in some cases years — to have their claims make it through all the wickets of the VA, and this is unacceptable.

The Department of Veteran Affairs has an ambitious goal of eliminating the claims backlog by 2015, which is why I questioned the Undersecretary for Benefits on Wednesday during a Veteran Affairs Committee hearing to see how the Administration is tackling this mounting and inexcusable problem for our veterans. I asked Undersecretary Hickey to explain how the Department of Veteran Affairs partners with Veteran Service Organizations (VSO), the private sector, and seeking the inputs from their own personnel to determine the problems and resolve the backlog. We must fix the claims system for our veterans and eliminate the backlog in an effective and efficient way that puts the needs of veterans above all else. 

Encouraging Students to Study STEM at F.I.R.S.T. Robotics Competition in Kansas City
On my return to Kansas, I joined students, teachers, parents, and sponsors for the F.I.R.S.T. Robotics Regional Competition at the Hale Arena in Kansas City. Teams at the competition represented 60 high schools from seven different states, including a handful of teams from Kansas. The mission of F.I.R.S.T., which was created by prolific American inventor Dean Kamen, is to inspire young Americans to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills. I joined the participants to encourage them to pursue a career and education in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field and to explain the value of STEM education both for their own lives and for the future of our country.

A recent study from the Partnership for a New American Economy predicts that by 2018, American will have roughly 800,000 jobs that require STEM skills, but only 550,000 Americans to fill those jobs. America used to be a leader in one STEM field, engineering, but now the United States produces just four percent of the world’s engineering graduates each year. And for every computer-science degree, the U.S. gives out two degrees in journalism or communications. We all have a role to play in encouraging young Americans to pursue and remain engaged in STEM. Special thanks to Paul Borchardt, F.I.R.S.T. Regional Program Director, for his tireless work to organize the competition and for the invitation to speak.

24th Annual Rush Center St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
On Saturday, I attended the 24th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Rush Center. I visited with residents of Rush County and enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. I appreciate Mike Pivonka of Flame Engineering in La Crosse for driving me through the parade.

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

Kansas Association for Gifted, Talented and Creative
Sheri Stewart of Kansas City
Elaine Wellborn of Topeka

Kansas EPSCoR
Kristin Bowman-James of Lawrence
Jay Johnson of Lawrence
Doug Byers of Lawrence
Jack Cline of Lawrence 

City of Wichita Representatives
Janet Miller of Wichita
Lavonta Williams of Wichita
Robert Layton of Wichita
Jeff Longwell of Wichita 

The Kansas Dietetic Association
Mary Jo Johnson of Shawnee 

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association
Cindy Blythe of Burlingame
Louis Bronman of Shawnee
Gary Townson of Rose Hill 

City of Olathe Representatives
Michael Wilkes of Olathe
Jim Randall of Olathe
Brad Cornell of Olathe
Jim McKee of Olathe
Tim Danneberg of Olathe 

Kansas Psychological Association
David Hill of Prairie Village
Melissa Hopper of Wichita 

Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas
Keith Lawing of Wichita
Mark Conway of Wichita
Allison Stewart of Salina 

Kansas Respiratory Therapists
Karen Schell of Emporia
Suzanne Bollig of Hays
Debbie Fox of Wichita 

American Urological Association
David Duchene of Kansas City 

Kansas Soybean Commission
Dave Slead of Lebo
Charles Atkinson of Great Bend
Lucas Heinen of Everest
Brice Bunck of Everest
Dennis Hupe of Topeka 

South Central Kansas Economic Development District
Bill Bolin of Wichita
Kerri Falletti of Winfield 

Kansas Bank Commissioner
Ed Splichal of Topeka
Judi Stark of Topeka 

City of Manhattan Representatives
Loren Pepperd of Manhattan
Ron Fehr of Manhattan
Peter Van Kuren of Manhattan 

Kansas Municipal Utilities
Colin Hansen of Kansas City
Bob Poehling of Overland Park
Mark Chesney of Wichita
Don Gray of Kansas City
Tim Maier of McPherson
Greg DuMars of Lindsborg
Joe Dick of Kansas City
David Alvey of Kansas City
William Johnson of Kansas City
JD Lester of Chanute
Randy Riggs of Newton
Bob Peter of Ellinwood
Robert Milan Sr. of Kansas City
Don L. Gray of Kansas City 

Great Bend Regional Hospital
Roger Marshall of Great Bend
Victor Marshall of Great Bend 

Kansas Geological Survey
Rex Buchannan of Lawrence 

Society for Human Resources Management
Mindy McPheeters of Wichita

Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors
Ryan Branfort of Salina
Scott Perkins of Overland Park 

Kansas Bioscience Organization
Angela Kreps of Lenexa
Wayne Carter of Kansas City
Gregory Kopf of Kansas City
Don Stewart of Kansas City 

Kids: Transforming Lives in Crisis
Mark Siegmund of Olathe
Bob Drummond of Olathe
Joan Johnson of Olathe 

Apartment Association of Greater Wichita
Tisha Cannizzo of Wichita
Marianne Lee of Wichita
Leah Thibault of Wichita 

Builders Development Corp
Michael Snodgrass of Kansas City 

Kansas Head Start Association
Miriam Gandarilla of Overland Park
April Slimp of Baxter Springs
Terrie VanZandt-Travis of Shawnee Mission
Penny Stoss of McPherson
Lori Alvarado of Lawrence 

Society of General Internal Medicine
Tracie Collins of Wichita 

Small Business Investors Alliance
Steven Swartzman of Mission Hills 

City Manager of Newton Kansas
Randy Riggs of Newton

Missouri and Associated Rivers Association
John Patrick of Lenexa
Tom Roberts of Overland Park
Deuce Livers of Overland Park 

American Osteopathic Association
Michelle Arneson of Roeland Park 

Epic Touch
Becky Scott of Elkhart
Mike Shannon of Elkhart 

Oxford House Outreach
John Agnew of Haysville

National Down Syndrome Society
Paula Doran of Overland Park
Jawanda Mast of Olathe
Rebecca McCaulley of Wichita
Anita Raghavan of Wichita
Tavrick Lawless of Wichita
Rachel Mast of Olathe
Jonathan Mast of Olathe

Representatives from Garden City
Dan Fankhauser of Garden City
Ashley Freburg of Garden City
Lona DuVall of Garden City
Randy Parington of Garden City 

Kansas PTA
Tammy Bartels of Tonganoxie
Denise Sultz of Overland Park
Karen Wagner of Shawnee 

National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
Tony Lubbers of Wichita
Deb Byers of Wichita 

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Fred Britten of Hays
Jane Wegner of Lawrence 

Dialysis Patient Citizens
Mike Guffey of Overland Park
Jim Anderson of Topeka 

Heart to Heart International
Krystal Barr of Olathe
Stacy Hanson of Overland Park
Jame Copple of Garden City 

National Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
Natasha Parker of Wichita 

National Newspaper Association
Cynthia Haynes of Oberlin
Steve Haynes of Oberlin 

City of Great Bend Representatives
Mike Allison of Great Bend
Howard Partington of Great Bend
Allene Owen of Great Bend
Ken Roberts of Great Bend
Jan Peters of Great Bend 

City of Dodge City Representatives
Joyce Warshaw of Dodge City
Chris Boys of Dodge City
Gene Dole of Dodge City
Ken Strobel of Dodge City
Cherise Tieben of Dodge City
Dan Schenkein of Dodge City 

Edward Jones Grass Roots Task Force Team
Jeff Seibel of Hays 

Spirit Aero Systems
Rufus Forrest of Wichita
Brian Olsen of Wichita
Marwan Hammouri of Wichita
Nick Reinke of Wichita
Ron Thompson of Wichita 

City of Liberal Representatives
Jane Harding of Liberal
Jerry Harding of Liberal
Sally Cauble of Liberal
Rozelle Webb of Liberal
Darrel Webb of Liberal
CJ Wettstein of Liberal
April Warden of Liberal
Sheena Schmutz of Liberal
Mark Hall of Liberal 

AutoMotive Recyclers Association
Paul Davis of Wichita 

City of Hays Representatives
Kent Steward of Hays
Ron Mellick of Hays
Bob Muirhead of Hays 

American Short Line and Regional Railroad
Ben Jones of Kansas City
Kevin Keller of Olathe
John D. Smith of Johnson 

American Medical Student Association
Melissa Turner of Tonganoxie

D.C. Capitol Tours
Jeff Chalk of Mission
Emma Chalk of Mission
Matt and Nancy Johnson of Hugoton
Elizabeth Johnson of Hugoton
Sarah Johnson of Hugoton
Rebecca Johnson of Hugoton
Jennifer Creed of Leawood
Jill Hogan of Leawood
Deb Ballard of Stanley
Haley Ballard of Stanley
Kim Pentico of Topeka
Steve Moten of Topeka
Rena Bell-Bila of Overland Park
Brock Bila of Overland Park
Brenda Russell of Cimarron
Kyla Russell of Cimarron
Quentin Russell of Cimarron
Daley Childers of Chanute
David Childers of Chanute
Tara Cunningham of Wichita
India Cunningham of Wichita
Mark Hughes of Towanda
Scott and Geralyn Krist of Shawnee
Ashleigh Krist of Shawnee
Alexis Krist of Shawnee
Gus and Meg Knauth of Overland Park
Ethan Knauth of Overland Park
Aidan Knauth of Overland Park
Wendi Fox of Clay Center
Nathan Fox of Clay Center
Maddison Fox Clay Center
Rex and Mayetta Poole of Cherryvale

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 the debt crisis 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.

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