Kansas Common Sense
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.
Standing Up for the Constitution
On Wednesday, I twice joined Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on the Senate floor when he spent nearly 13 hours filibustering the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA Director. The apprehension about Brennan’s confirmation was rooted in concerns about the Obama Administration’s position regarding the constitutionality of using drone strikes to kill American citizens here in the United States without due process. The filibuster was an opportunity to question President Obama’s refusal to rule out this particular use of drones, and raised the broader issue about this Administration’s commitment to the Constitution, rule of law, and protection of individual liberties. I will continue to work to make certain Americans’ constitutional rights are protected.
Click here to watch my conversation with Sen. Paul on the Senate floor.
Working to Repeal Affordable Care Act Employer Mandate
This week, I cosponsored the American Job Protection Act (S. 399), legislation to repeal the employer mandate included in the $2.6 trillion Affordable Care Act (ACA). The provision requires businesses of 50 employees or more to provide a prescribed level of health insurance or pay a penalty between $2,000 and $3,000 for each employee working 30 hours or more a week. The ACA’s employer mandate forces business owners to provide a one-size-fits-all amount of health coverage — at the expense of higher wages and other benefits — or pay a penalty to the federal government. This policy will lead to layoffs, reduced working hours, and dropped health coverage for employees. Increasing regulations and compliance costs for businesses are no way to promote job growth and expansion, and Congress should repeal this damaging mandate. We have to reduce health care costs in this country in order to relieve families and business owners from facing health insurance premium increases every year. I continue to be concerned because data shows that the ACA is raising the cost of care and insurance coverage, while stifling economic growth. Click here to read more about the ACA employer mandate, S. 399, and to view a list of organizations supporting repeal of this mandate.
Our Kids Deserve Sensible School Lunches
This week, I sponsored the Sensible School Lunch Act, which provides school districts with greater flexibility in implementing the new rules for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. Parents and schoolchildren alike continue to voice their concerns about federally mandated nutrition guidelines, which have often left children hungry before they returned home from school. Combating obesity is important, but a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer. Instead, parents and local school districts are best able to determine what their students should eat, not the federal government. Click here to read more.
Working to Strengthen the U.S.-Israel Relationship
Dozens of Kansans who value the U.S.-Israel relationship came to Washington this week to participate in AIPAC’s Annual Policy Conference. I met many of them Monday evening and then spoke to the entire group Tuesday afternoon. Israel is one of our strongest allies, and our countries share common values and work cooperatively to address security threats. I appreciated seeing many friends this week who made the trip to our nation’s capital.
Discussing NBAF Progress and Sequestration on AgriTalk Radio
On Wednesday I joined Mike Adams on AgriTalk radio to discuss the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility as well as the federal spending cuts associated with sequestration. I explained that sequestration was a bad idea to begin with, and I voted against it last year. Across-the-board cuts aren’t the best way to address our government’s spending problem, but our debt has reached a point that cuts need to be made. Recognizing this, the Senate proposed legislation to give the President the ability to allocate the $85 billion cuts so to sustain programs that make efficient use of tax dollars while cutting those that do not. To my surprise, the President declared he didn’t want that authority and would veto the bill.
I remain willing and ready to sit down with the President and members of Congress from both parties to find smarter ways to cut this $85 billion, reduce the federal deficit, and put our economy back on the right track.
In better news, we have had two positive developments related to NBAF. After many conversations with the Department of Homeland Security, the land transfer was approved. More recently, I was notified that DHS has awarded a contract for construction to begin the Central Utility Plant for NBAF.
Supporting and Encouraging Kansas Entrepreneurs at SXSW
This weekend, I traveled to the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin to meet with Kansas entrepreneurs and to encourage the startup community to become more engaged in the policy process. This multi-day conference features presentations and discussion from some of the leaders in emerging technology, as well as special programs showcasing the best new websites, applications and startup ideas. At SXSW, I had the opportunity to visit with a group of individuals from the Kansas City startup scene who traveled by bus to SXSW. We discussed local efforts to build companies and diversify the Kansas economy.
Here's a photo of me with the entrepreneurs behind Phone2Action, a startup based in Kansas City that works to help organizations acquire and engage supporters by harnessing the power of smartphone technology.
Entrepreneurs have discovered something I’ve known for a long time: Kansas is a great place to start a business. At a time when national new business formation statistics near historic lows, Kansas is trending in a positive direction. The Kansas Secretary of State recently announced that there were a record 15,008 new businesses formed in Kansas in 2012. More startup companies in Kansas bode well for future job growth in our state. Research by the Kauffman Foundation our of Kansas City shows that between 1980 and 2005, companies less than five years old accounted for nearly all of the net new jobs created in America. The record number of startups in Kansas is good news, but there is more to do. To encourage greater levels of entrepreneurship that will lead to new jobs being created, I am working to pass the Startup Act 3.0 in Congress.
Startup Act 3.0 is bipartisan legislation aimed at removing barriers that prevent new businesses from forming in the United States. The Startup Act outlines a five-prong approach to job creation based on the proven track record of entrepreneurs. My proposal will reduce regulatory burdens, help startups attract and retain capital so they can grow, accelerate the commercialization of research so more new ideas reach the marketplace, keep entrepreneurial talent in America, and encourage pro-growth state and local policies.
In addition to meeting with Kansas entrepreneurs, I participated in a panel titled "Why Public Policy Should Matter to Your Startup," where I encouraged the audience to become more engaged in the policy process and to build relationships with elected officials. I also met with a group of leading technology experts and entrepreneurs to discuss current policy challenges - including how we can increase opportunities for innovation, the need to free up more wireless spectrum, and why crowdfunding still hasn’t been implemented despite last year’s passage of the JOBS Act. After that discussion, I met up with Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), who is the lead cosponsor of Startup Act 3.0. We spoke on a policy panel about our job creating proposal and the importance of entrepreneurship to the strength of the American economy. Thanks again to Erika Sumner, Mike McGeary of Hattery, Greg Ferenstein of TechCrunch, and Cameron Cushman of the Kauffman Foundation for their efforts in Austin.
Frankfort High School Junior Represents Kansas as a U.S. Senate Page
Trenton Kennedy of Frankfort is one of 30 high school juniors from across the country serving as a U.S. Senate Page this spring. Senate Pages primarily serve as messengers who deliver correspondence and legislation, but also help to prepare the Senate floor and get the opportunity to learn about the legislative process. In addition to their page duties, they continue their academic studies with early morning classes.
It has been great to get to know Trent both on the Senate floor and when he visits my office. After roll call votes, I enjoy talking to Trent about how I voted, the weather back home, and what my plans are for the weekend in Kansas. He’s also gotten to know my staff and tells me coming by the office is like visiting “a little piece of Kansas.” To learn more about Trent and watch a video about his experience in Washington, click here.
The Kernels 4 Kids Program
I had the opportunity to visit this week with Miss Wooded Hills 2013 Danielle Hill about her Kernels 4 Kids program. Danielle is a K-State graduate and current student at Cleveland Chiropractic College of Kansas City. Serving as Miss Wooded Hills 2013, Danielle started the Kernels 4 Kids or K4K program which supports the Children’s Miracle Network by taking donations of grain at local grain cooperatives. There are currently 19 participating locations and all the grain that is donated is sold and goes directly to benefit the three Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in Kansas. I am glad that Danielle had time to come by and tell me about this program. To learn more please visit: www.kernels4kids.com.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Kansas Association of Agriculture Educators
Joe Currau of Girard
Dawn Lindsley of Manhattan
Marla Sterling of Cherryvale
David T. Patterson of Hutchinson
John Bergin of Gypsum
Tussill Plaschka of Moran
Kansas School Nutrition Association
Cindy Jones of Olathe
Karlin Price of Topeka
Connie Vogts of Sublette
National Association of Federally Impacted Schools
Keith Mispagel of Fort Leavenworth
Kansas Humanities Council
Gene Merry of Burlington
Julie Mulvihill of Perry
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Dr. Kathryn Sawchak of Hutchinson
Dr. Verda Hicks of Overland Park
American Society of Radiologic Technologies
Marie Caldwell of Desoto
Professional Compounding Centers of America
Eric Everett of Mission
Ronald Walker of Junction City
Janet Christian of Junction City
Bob Henderson of Junction City
Kansas Association of Broadcasters
Monte Miller of Manhattan
Gordon Johnson of Wellington
Jim Ogle of Topeka
Jeff McCausland of Wichita
Richard Wartell of Manhattan
Darrin McDonald of Kansas City
Danny Thomas of Pittsburg
Doris Miller of Manhattan
Kent Cornish of Lawrence
Mayor and Commissioners of Leavenworth
Mayor Larry Dedeke Leavenworth
Laura Gasbarre of Leavenworth
Mark Preisinger of Leavenworth
Phil Urban of Leavenworth
Scott Miller of Leavenworth
Staci Penner of Newton
Laniese Penner of Newton
American Diabetes Association
Marta Howell of Gardner
Kansas-Missouri Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Bobbie Testa of Prairie Village
Philip Guries of Salina
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Ann Reed of Wichita
Kansas Funeral Directors
Justin Smith of Derby
Darin Bradstreet of Garden City
Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
Dr. Ralph Richardson of Manhattan
Kansas Chiropractic Association
Dr. Edward McKenzie of Holton
Dr. Kendall Payne of Lenexa
Dr. Travis Oller of Topeka
Brian Asbuly of Olathe
Dr. Tobi Jevrinke of Mission
Dr. Steven Gould of Cheney
Representative Tom Sloan of Lawrence
D.C. Capitol Tours
Daryl and June Meitler of Plainville
Robert and Margaret Doucette of Council Grove
R. Kent Anderson of Concordia
Brent and Kara LaTessa of Eudora
Regan LaTessa of Eudora
Amayah LaTessa of Eudora
Zoey LaTessa of Eudora
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.
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