Kansas Common Sense
Celebrating 41 and a Life of Public Service
I was honored, on behalf of Kansans, to attend a memorial service for President George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. During this beautiful service, numerous individuals, including former President George W. Bush, spoke to his compassion, deep commitment to public service, care and concern for the nation, work to make our country safer, dedication to his family and God, and sense of humor.
I am grateful to President Bush for his years of leadership in various capacities. As the last president from the Greatest Generation, we will miss his perspective and sage wisdom.
“O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, Be Thou our guard while life shall last, and our eternal home.”
Urging the VA Inspector General to Investigate Allegations of Underpaid Benefits to Veterans
I joined a bipartisan group of congressional colleagues in calling for a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Inspector General investigation into allegations that the VA would not reimburse veterans for missing or underpaid benefits. The VA must make every effort to restore confidence with veterans by delivering the care and benefits they have earned. The technical and staffing shortages that caused these significant problems with the implementation of the Forever GI bill must be resolved immediately, and the VA must take action to ensure these mistakes are not repeated. Further delays are unacceptable and will burden those veterans impacted who deserve a VA that is worthy of their service and sacrifice. To view the letter, click here.
Requesting Information from Marriott Following Data Breach
As chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, I sent a letter with Senate colleagues to President and CEO of Marriott International Arne Sorenson on Monday requesting further information on a data breach the company suffered, affecting up to 500 million consumers. Marriot International announced the week before that it discovered unauthorized access of its Starwood guest reservation service in early September, and its subsequent investigation revealed that there had been unauthorized access to the network since 2014.
This is yet another example of why it is essential to protect Americans from data misuse and breaches. In an increasingly connected economy, Congress and federal regulators must protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices, including those involving their personal data. To read the letter, click here.Speaking at the Home Away from Home Holiday Reception
On Saturday morning, I spent time with Ft. Riley soldiers and local community members at the C.L. Hoover Opera House in Junction City. Former Big Red One soldier and Junction City Vice-Mayor Phyllis Fitzgerald created the Home Away from Home program to help connect incoming soldiers with local families. Fifty local families made the commitment to treat over 100 young soldiers as their own.
Over the past year, civilian families and their soldiers have spent countless hours together in an effort to ease the difficulties of moving to a new duty station. I applaud Phyllis’s commitment to creating such a program and the local families that make our Ft. Riley soldiers a priority. This is an example of why the Ft. Riley community is unique and truly is the best place to live, train, deploy from and come home to. I appreciate Ft. Riley Garrison Commander Colonel Steve Shrader for supporting the program and attending the reception.
Announcing DOT Grants to Critical Surface Infrastructure Projects in Kansas
I am pleased to share that the City of Hays and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City have received awards from the U.S. Department of Transportation as a part of two grant programs.
Through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City was awarded a $13.8 million for its Turner Diagonal Project. This project will replace the existing interchange at Interstate 70 and Turner Diagonal with a diverging diamond interchange. This new interchange will be safer and more efficient, help facilitate economic growth, and attract commercial activity to the area. It’s estimated to create 2,500 jobs and generate over $3 billion in economic growth for the area over the next several years, further highlighting the importance of surface transportation to expanding the workforce in our metropolitan areas.
In addition, the City of Hays was awarded $6.05 million for infrastructure improvements along U.S. Highway 183 as a part of a new grant program known as Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD). The BUILD grant program places greater emphasis on rural infrastructure than prior federal transportation grant programs. Hays is a growing community that is critical to our state, and I was pleased to help secure federal funding to maintain and improve an important portion of Kansas’ rural surface infrastructure.
These grants are positive developments for both communities, and I’ll continue working with my colleagues and local leaders to build on this progress and to advocate for more federal dollars to return to Kansas for improvement projects right here at home.
Commending K-State for Securing EDA Grant Award
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, I commend the announcement of a $745,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) 2018 Regional Innovation Strategies program competition awarded to Kansas State University to launch the Global Food Systems Economic Prosperity Accelerator. This grant will grow the knowledge-based food systems economy of Kansas, will produce more university-industry partnerships and create jobs in the region.
I’ve been a supporter of EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies program and have proposed increased resources for this program in my FY2019 appropriations bill. Additionally, I’ve advocated for this program in my bipartisan Startup Act, which would modernize and increase its annual authorization level. I extend my congratulations to all those working at K-State on securing this grant and my thanks for all the work they do to increase the sustainability of our global food supply, as well as the economic success of the Manhattan region. I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with K-State and the community on this important work.
Speaking to Marysville Rotary Club
On Monday, I joined the Marysville Rotary Club during their regular meeting to discuss various issues I’m working on in Washington, D.C., and to hear an update on happenings in the Marysville community. Rotary Clubs across Kansas serve as places for local leaders, business owners and passionate citizens to come together and help serve their communities. I’m grateful for my own experience as a Rotarian, and the collective impact the organization has on communities and on our state. Thank you to folks in attendance for the warm welcome and conversation, and thank you to Paula Landoll-Smith for arranging my visit.
Touring Hayden High School
Early last week, I also toured Hayden High School in Topeka and visited with students, faculty, staff and administration officials. I appreciated the many updates I received from students on upcoming final exams, winter break plans and on the various winter sports in season. Thank you to Hayden student leaders Carline Setter and Mac Piles for leading the tour of the school and for introducing me to their fellow students. Thanks also to Hayden High School President and Shawnee County Commissioner Shelly Buhler for arranging my visit and for our conversation.
Visiting Quinter Following the Fire at Formation Plastics
Recently, the community of Quinter suffered a major loss following a fire at Formation Plastics. I’m grateful that everyone is safe and no one was injured in the fire, and I’m continually appreciative of the many volunteer emergency responders across our state who assist during such times of need. Upon my return to Kansas, I visited Quinter to meet with city and county officials to discuss state and federal resources that may be available to help the community and those affected by the fire.
I remain committed to assisting the community in any way I can as they recover. Thank you to Quinter Mayor Dwight Tummons, Gove County Commissioners Mike Gillespie and Duane Vollbracht, Gove County Clerk Shelly Holaday and Gove County Economic Development Board Member Mitch Gillespie for taking time to meet with me. Robba and I have the community in our thoughts and prayers.
To Infinity and Beyond!
One of my goals as a United States Senator is to create and foster an environment where young Kansans interested in STEM can receive a quality education and enjoy robust career opportunities right here at home.
As part of this mission, I hosted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and NASA Astronaut Don Pettit on December 1 in Wichita to speak with students interested in STEM and space exploration. Over 150 Kansas students, educators and families heard from Astronaut Pettit on his path to becoming an astronaut and his many missions to the International Space Station. Astronaut Pettit shared exciting stories from his time in space and encouraged students to “find their frontier” and chase after their dreams. I am certain that we had numerous future scientists, engineers, mathematicians – and even astronauts! – in the room with us. To view a recap of the day’s events, click here.
Honoring K-State Coach Bill Snyder on the Senate Floor
This week, I gave remarks on the Senate floor honoring retiring K-State Head Football Coach Bill Snyder on an extremely successful career at K-State, as well as his many contributions to and impact on K-State, the city of Manhattan and the state of Kansas. His legacy is deeply etched into the university and surrounding region, and his commitment beyond the football field has improved the lives of others. An extremely caring and talented developer of young men, we all hope to make the kind of positive impact that Coach Snyder has. Robba and I wish Bill, Sharon and the entire Snyder family all the best in this new chapter. To watch my floor remarks, click here.
Kansans in the Office
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Marcus Ruff of Lawrence
Diana Carlin of Kansas City
Leon Huser of Victoria
Galen Huser of Victoria
Russ Jones of Miltonvale
Cindy Jones of Miltonvale
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 letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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