Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” This week, the Senate was out of session so Senators could spend time back in their states. I took the opportunity to travel across Kansas to visit with students, business owners, veterans, members of the military and community volunteers. I learn something from every conversation I have with Kansans and those conversations impact the work I do in Washington.
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Meeting with Military and Veterans Advisory Committee
On Thursday afternoon, members of my Military and Veterans Advisory Committee met at the Kansas National Guard’s Great Plains Joint Training Center (GPJTC) in Salina. This was our fifth meeting since I formed the Committee in 2009 to ensure that our state’s veterans, service members, and defense communities have a strong voice in Washington.
We began the afternoon with a tour of the Smoky Hill Range, the largest and busiest Air National Guard bombing range in the country. We also toured Crisis City, which was recently built to provide first responders a first-class training complex to improve their ability to respond to disasters, emergencies, and terrorist attacks. I was pleased to see firsthand the significant number of training capability enhancements the state of Kansas, Kansas National Guard, congressional delegation, and Salina community has made in recent years that make the GPJTC a truly unique and vital training center for civilians and military alike to better protect our country and keep Americans safe.
The Advisory Committee is made up of Kansas leaders with expertise in military and veterans issues. Additionally, we were joined by Kansas Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli, John Armbrust of the Governor’s Military Council, and Rachel Hinde and other members of the Salina Military Affairs Council. We discussed the increasing role the Guard is playing in national and homeland defense, efforts to protect and grow Kansas military installations during future budget and base closure discussions, and caring for veterans returning from overseas. Our service members and veterans have always been a priority for me, and I greatly appreciate the advice given by these leaders on a number of issues facing Kansas and our country. Click here to view a photo from the meeting.
Hearing from Community and Business Leaders in Salina
During much of this week back in Kansas, I met with business and community leaders to get an update on the latest in their community and to hear how decisions being made in Washington are affecting them back home. On Thursday, I sat down with business and community leaders in Salina to hear their thoughts. Economic uncertainty coming from government overregulation and an unpredictable tax code has made it difficult for these leaders to plan for the future of their business, school, or hospital. Though despite the difficult economic conditions, I was encouraged to hear some stories of growth and ways the community is moving forward. Thanks to all the business and civic leaders for joining me for this educational conversation.
Discussing Economic Growth with Kansas Chamber CEOs
Friday afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting with Kansas-based CEOs for a roundtable hosted by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Uncertainty about the tax code and our regulatory environment continues to hamper investment and job creation. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking with a farmer, a small business owner, or a CEO, the story remains the same: we need certainty from the government to unleash the potential of our free market. I renewed my pledge to fight for a fairer tax code and a regulatory structure that is predictable and based on common sense.
NBAF Update Meeting in Manhattan
On Monday in Manhattan, I stopped by a planning meeting for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) taking place at Kansas State University. I met with officials from the Department of Homeland Security Office of National Laboratories and Kansas State to discuss NBAF construction and planning. A reminder of how critical it is to move NBAF forward came recently with the latest version of the Bio-Response Report Card by the Graham-Talent WMD Commission, which gave our country failing grades in several areas of bioterrorism preparedness. In October, I participated in a hearing on this topic in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where the importance of NBAF to the security of American agriculture was highlighted.
U.S.-Israel Relationship Remains Constant in Shifting Middle East
The Middle East looks much different today than it did a year ago. Long-time rulers are gone and governments that once seemed to have a firm grasp on power have turned violently against their own citizens. Amidst all the change, the U.S.-Israel relationship remains constant. Backed by shared values and interests, America’s alliance with Israel remains key to the United State’ security interests in the region. On Monday, I joined Kansans who care about our relationship with Israel at an event hosted by Governor Sam Brownback in Topeka. I was honored to join Governor Brownback and U.S. Senator Pat Roberts in welcoming AIPAC President Emeritus Howard Friedman to Kansas.
Congratulating Leadership Kansas Graduates
On Friday evening, I had the opportunity to join some of my fellow alumni for the graduation ceremony of this year’s class of the Leadership Kansas program. As one of the oldest statewide leadership programs, Leadership Kansas is focused on equipping Kansas leaders to make a difference in their communities. Throughout the six month program, the class has the opportunity to learn from experts in communities across our state on topics including: business, education, agriculture, public policy, societal health and development, economics and government.
The Leadership Kansas program is a great opportunity for Kansans to learn about their entire state – because it’s easy to grow up in one part of the state and never learn about other regions besides your own. All too often there can be a divide between urban and rural communities in Kansas and my own participation in this program years ago helped open my eyes to the wide variety of issues, businesses and perspectives within our entire state. To help move our state forward, we need to be developing leaders in Kansas communities who are willing to lead by example and make a difference. Leadership Kansas helps equip Kansas leaders to do just that. Special thanks to the members of the Board of Trustees, Executive Director John Federico, President & CEO Kent Beisner of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and the many alumni for their ongoing support of this unique leadership program.
Visiting with Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce
On Tuesday, I met with members of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors and Federal Affairs Committee. We discussed a range of topics, including the need for more jobs, economic growth and support for medical research at the National Institutes of Health that provides hope for millions of Americans. During the visit, I also discussed legislation called the Startup Act that I will soon be introducing in Congress to help boost job creation in our economy. Many of the principles included in the bill are supported by the Kaufmman Foundation, located in Kansas City. A special thank you to Cathy Bennett for the invitation to meet with Chamber members and for hosting the event at the Chamber Office. Click here to view a photo from the meeting.
Visiting with Agriculture Policy Students at Kansas State University
Earlier this week, I stopped by Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh’s agriculture policy class for a surprise visit during their class on Monday in Cardwell Hall at KSU. Dr. Flinchbaugh has served on numerous national boards and commissions and is a leading authority in agriculture policy. I appreciated the opportunity to speak with his students about the role agriculture plays in national policymaking, as well as address the need for future leaders to continue to focus on agriculture as global food demands rise. Thanks to Dr. Flinnhbaugh and his class for allowing me to participate in their discussion. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
Putting an End to Hunger with Numana and KSU
Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to join my daughter Alex in participating in the SWIPE Out Hunger event in Manhattan, sponsored by K-State and Numana, Inc. from El Dorado. Alex served on the College of Agriculture’s planning committee for this great event. More than 280 volunteers from the College of Agriculture and K-State raised over 15,000 dollars, and together we bagged more than 70,000 packages of food to feed 420,000 hungry people. The food will be shipped to the Horn of Africa through the Salvation Army World Service Office to assist in the famine relief efforts for Somalia refugees. SWIPE is the first ever state-wide packaging event held in Kansas. Congratulations to K-State students for working to make a difference in a hungry world. Click here to learn more about SWIPE and Numana and click here to view a photo from the event.
Speaking with Students at my High School Alma Mater
On Wednesday I traveled to my high school alma mater, Plainville High School, to visit with students and hear about what they are learning. I stopped by Travis Dixon’s U.S. History and American Government class and enjoyed visiting with the students. We discussed a range of topics including troop levels in Iraq, the U.S. economy and what we need to do to create more jobs within our country. I was impressed with the questions the students asked. Thanks to Travis for allowing me to stop by. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
Visiting with Students at Wamego High School
On Friday, I traveled to Wamego to visit with students at Wamego High School, home of the Red Raiders. During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet with students in Mr. Troy Hemphill’s AP American Government class. Mr. Hemphill is from my hometown of Plainville where his father was a teacher at our middle school. The students and I discussed a variety of issues currently affecting our nation, including the rising costs of higher education, and agricultural policy, and the economy. We also visited about the importance of young Kansans staying in our state to live and work after they graduate from school. I was impressed with the students’ questions and their interest in the future of our country. Thanks to principal Tim Winter and Mr. Hemphill for hosting my visit. Click here to see a photo.
Visiting Kansas Kiwanis Clubs
This week, I had the pleasure of visiting two Kansas Kiwanis Clubs: the North Topeka Kiwanis Club on Tuesday and the Tecumseh Kiwanis Club on Saturday. Just as I have always believed that we change the world one person at a time, members of Kiwanis Clubs strive to help one child at a time and I strongly support their mission.
Before the program began on Tuesday, I joined the North Topeka members for a brief discussion about a range of topics including foreign aid and our country’s economic uncertainty. Chris Mammoliti from Westar Energy was the guest speaker and I enjoyed learning more about his role as a biologist and how he works to increase reliability in electrical transmission while protecting wildlife in Kansas. Thanks to North Topeka Kiwanis President Pat Wieschman for inviting me to attend the meeting. Click here to view a photo from the event.
On Saturday, I stopped by the Tecumseh Kiwanis Club, just east of Topeka. The Club hosted a pancake feed and silent auction on Saturday morning to benefit Kiwanis children’s and community programs. Thanks to President Tom Sirridge and the local Kiwanis members for hosting such a great event.
Participating in Homecoming at Kansas State University
This weekend I watched the nationally ranked Kansas State Wildcats take on the Oklahoma Sooners at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats surprised college football fans across the country with their first 7-0 start since the 1999 season. As I walked through the stadium greeting fellow Wildcat fans, the excitement of this season’s success was evident. I am thankful that Bill Snyder, his assistant coaches, the team, and the University are such great ambassadors for the state of Kansas. Special thanks to KSU President Kirk Schultz for hosting me. Click here to view a photo from the game.
Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Coffee
On Thursday I was pleased to join members of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce for their weekly coffee. We have many wonderful communities in Kansas, and Great Bend is certainly one of them. At the coffee, I enjoyed speaking with local folks about issues of interest and concern to citizens. Attendees gave me a good picture of what is happening in the community and gave me some marching orders for when I return to Washington next week. Because of local leadership and citizen involvement good things have and will continue to happen in Great Bend. Thanks to Nex-Tech for hosting the coffee – I appreciated the conversation and hospitality of the Great Bend community during my stop.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office from across the state, including the Kansans listed below.
Barlett Milling Company
Rod Geiger of Kansas City
John Gilcrest of Kansas City
American Association of Colleges of Nursing
Monica Scheibmeir of Topeka
Nelda Godfrey of Kansas City
Kathleen Harr of Topeka
Health Care Access Clinic
Nikki White of Lawrence
Eric Haar of Topeka
IAM&AW Union Steward
Joe Kerr of Wichita
Alton James of Wichita
Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City
Mayor Joe Reardon of Kansas City
Many Kansans stopped by the office to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including: Judith McElroy of Prairie Village; Marilyn Harper of Shawnee; Jon-Michael & Brandi Mitchell and son, Bryce of Overland Park; Chris and Alyssa Hermreck and Roy Wilson, Jr. of Kansas City; William and Evelyn Johnson of McPherson; Teresa Harris of Wichita; Tamara Holthus of Basehor; Eric and Randall Newton of Hays; John & Barbara Withrow of Hutchinson; Sam Kinnamon and William Livingston of Olathe; Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Panos of Leawood and Christine Tuck of Meriden. Visitors from Topeka included Joan Frazier; Alicia Padilla and children, Aysia and Jaxon; Molly McKinley and Emmy Goldberg; and Dan Fox.
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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