Kansas Common Sense
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Happy 155th Birthday Kansas
Happy Kansas Day! Friday marked our state’s 155th birthday. The history of Kansas is one replete with humble but aspirational men and women who work hard every day to improve our communities and state for the next generation. This year, I spotlighted the entrepreneurs at Leawood-based Blooom, the more than 4,200 Kansans who came together to support Fort Riley, and the determined Greensburg residents who brought about the reopening of the Twilight Theatre. Kansans like these men and women are who make our state such a special place to call home. Click here to read my op-ed on Kansas Day, and click here to watch my tribute video.
Olathe Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting
It was fitting that on Kansas Day, I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the Olathe Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting. The event’s nearly 500 attendees represented Olathe’s business leaders, City officials and citizens, and was an opportunity to reflect on the community’s impressive growth and vision for the future. The city has such a bright future because the people of Olathe have figured out – they realize that success in life is not about “me,” it’s about what you can do for your neighbors and people you may never meet. Americans could learn a lot from Kansas communities like Olathe.
I was glad to have the opportunity to share several stories with the audience highlighting Olathe’s small town values, and was able to announce to the audience that the Olathe Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund raised a record $157,000 and counting in 2015 – a true sign of the compassion and generosity of Olathe residents. Because of community partners, every cent of the generous donations to the Fund goes directly to 18 local charities that meet the most critical needs of Olathe children – from food and health care, to clothing, shoes and school supplies.
Congratulations to the Chamber members who were presented with service awards during the luncheon, including: retired businessman Dyce Bonham, who was named “Citizen-of-the-Year;” TVH Parts, which was selected “Corporate Citizen-of-the-Year;” Harlan Parker, who was named “Volunteer-of the-Year;” Kathy Musgrave and Garry Poore, who were presented with the Bartlett-Olson-Poore Award for recruiting new members; and Andy Darling, who was named “Ambassador-of-the-Year.”
Thanks again to Chamber CEO Tim McKee, Chairman Jason Peters and the entire Board of Directors and Chamber staff for hosting me and for their hard work to make this special event possible. The year-round hard work and spirit of community by its citizens is what makes Olathe a truly special place to call home.
Overland Park City Council and Managers
I started the week on Monday morning meeting with the Overland Park City Council and Managers. Our conversation covered a range of topics from federal transportation funding – specifically for repairs to Highway 69 – to entrepreneurship promotion to deficit and debt reduction. We also talked about the importance of Congress returning to regular order in order to better do the people's work. Thanks to City Manager Bill Ebel, Deputy City Manager Kristy Stallings, Assistant City Manager Kate Gunja, Communications Manager Sean Reilly, and Councilmembers Terry Happer-Scheier, Rick Collins, John Thompson, Terry Goodman, Dave Janson, John Skubal, Dan Stock and Curt Skoog for coming out to visit with me.
Kansas Electric Cooperatives Annual Meeting
On Tuesday, while they cleared the roads and runways in Washington, I spoke at the Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (KEC) Annual Meeting with more than 200 Kansans representing electric cooperatives throughout the state. The conversation focused on environmental regulations, health care access, how to best preserve the special way of life we enjoy in Kansas and foster a business-friendly economic environment. Thanks again to Bruce Graham for organizing my visit.
This past June I spoke on the Senate floor about the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Youth Tour, which gives more than 1,500 students the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., each year and my experience with the young men and women from Kansas who I had the pleasure of visiting with in my office. Click here to watch my remarks.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter Confirms Illegal to Transfer GITMO Detainees
I was pleased that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter confirmed this week that it is illegal to transfer detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to the United States. His statement echoes the remarks by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who testified before Congress last month that transferring detainees from GITMO to Fort Leavenworth or anywhere else on American soil is against the law. Congress has repeatedly passed legislation to prevent the transfer of detainees, yet this administration continues to ignore the law and Cabinet-level officials by seeking the reckless closure of GITMO. Our national security strategy, deserves critical thought and careful planning, not eleventh-hour attempts to fulfill campaign promises. I will continue to see that the letter of the law is upheld and prohibit any effort by the administration to transfer GITMO detainees to Kansas or anywhere else in the United States. Click here to read more.
Kansas Listening Tour Continues
Due to weather-related travel delays back to Washington I was able to spend time in Kansas this week. This gave me the opportunity to visit with Greenwood County residents at the Eureka Public Library and listen to their concerns. We discussed the water concerns of our state, common core and other education issues, and EPA regulations regarding lead-based paint. In all I received a good dose of Kansas common sense. Thanks to all who came out for the conversation.
Later, I hosted a conversation with folks from Woodson County in Toronto. Veterans issues and the importance of rural health care topped the list of topics discussed. We also visited about crop insurance and water concerns. Following the town hall meeting, I had the opportunity to tour the Toronto Library. The individuals working there were proud of the library and its involvement with children in the community. I can see why! Librarian Debra McClain loves the facility, the town and its children. A great place to visit before heading back to Washington, D.C. for votes.
Upon my return from D.C., my Kansas Listening Tour took me to Eudora where I held a town hall meeting with Douglas County residents. I appreciate folks from Douglas County and the region coming out to take part in a discussion about the many important issues facing our nation. Some of the topics of our discussion included VA accountability, the serious implications of a growing deficit and national debt, national security and the threat of ISIS, and the need for Congress to return to regular order in appropriations. Thanks to Eudora Mayor Tim Reazin, City Manager Gary Ortiz, Assistant City Manager Barack Matite, and all of the Eudora city administrative staff for facilitating our conversation at City Hall.
Touring Olathe Northwest High School
Before the Olathe Chamber of Commerce lunch on Friday, I was happy to visit with students and educators at Olathe Northwest High School. I appreciate each of them taking time to share a discussion with me about the important work being done each day to prepare our children in Kansas for their future. I particularly enjoy visiting with high school students because that was the time when I discovered my own interest in government and history. Thanks again to Assistant Principal Greg Smith and the students of Olathe Northwest for hosting and coordinating my visit.
Haskell Indian Nations University
On Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence. Only one of two universities funded directly by the Bureau of Indian Education, Haskell is a unique treasure for our state, serving about 1,000 Native American students from around the country. I spoke with the school’s leaders and faculty about the university’s vision for improving its education to Native students, including funding for construction and goals for enhancing STEM education. As a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I will continue to work with Haskell to making their vision a reality. Click here to read more about my visit.
Native Sons and Daughters Banquet
On Friday evening, I attended the Native Sons and Daughters Banquet in Topeka where Dr. Jim Hoy, a Professor of English at Emporia State University, was honored as Kansan of the Year. Dr. Hoy is a professor, historian, writer, rancher and friend of the Flint Hills. Also honored as Distinguished Kansan was Dr. Jerry Farley, President of Washburn University. Under Dr. Farley’s leadership, Washburn University has undergone a renaissance including new academic programs, reinvigoration of the Student Life program, and construction of major new buildings on campus. Congratulations to Dr. Hoy and Dr. Farley. You represent the best of Kansas.
Kansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference
I enjoyed speaking at the Kansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference on Saturday morning. We discussed a number of issues focused on investing in policies that are vital to Kansas’ rural communities. Now, more than ever, there exists a need for producers, agriculture leaders and elected officials from rural areas to educate legislators and folks from urban areas about the importance of modern agriculture. One of my top priorities in the Senate is working to preserve our way of life in Kansas. As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee it is good for me to remain connected to farmers and ranchers in our state, and this provided me with that opportunity. These young farmers and ranchers are to be commended in taking time out of their busy schedules to continue to learn and grow their knowledge about agriculture so they can become advocates for the industry. Thanks to Kansas Farm Bureau’s Ryan Flickner for inviting me to speak to the group.
Hosting NIA Director, Dr. Richard J. Hodes in Kansas
On February 15, Dr. Richard J. Hodes, Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) will join me in Kansas to learn about promising medical research occurring in Kansas. As part of our visit, we will tour the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center (ADC) and receive an overview of exciting NIA-supported Alzheimer’s research taking place in Kansas. Following our visit at KU ADC, Dr. Hodes will speak before an audience of Alzheimer ’s disease and medical research advocates about the current state of Alzheimer’s disease research. Our afternoon will include visits with student and faculty researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Alzheimer's disease affects more than 5 million Americans. Experts predict that with the aging of the U.S. population, the number of Alzheimer's cases may triple by the year 2050. Thankfully, medical research offers hope to those individuals and families affected by this terrible disease. As a member of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's disease, I support this research because if we can find effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease and dementia, we can extend quality of life for patients and also significantly reduce the cost of caring for them in years to come.
I’m grateful that Dr. Hodes has accepted my invitation to Kansas, and I look forward to the opportunity to highlight for him several important medical research initiatives in our state.
Pittsburg Community Expresses Faith, Love for Country
This week, The Pittsburg Post Office was required to remove a “God Bless America” banner from the side of the building after a complaint claimed the banner violated the separation between church and state. It is outrageous that some would aim to divide a community over a banner that has been proudly displayed since Sept. 11, 2001. I commend the Pittsburg community for rejecting this decision and I stand with them.
The Constitution guarantees a right to freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. This banner is not only an expression of faith, but of love for country. Expressions of patriotism, faith, and community should be welcome in our society and I have contacted USPS officials to express my concerns about their decision and to request their reconsideration. If the local post office branch is unwilling to display the banner, then I would be proud to hang it at my own office in Pittsburg.
Cheering on the Jayhawks vs. Kentucky
After watching the KU men’s basketball team beat Texas the prior weekend, I was back in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday night to see the Jayhawks take on Kentucky. After losses in 2014 and 2012 it was exciting to see the Hawks defeat Kentucky in overtime. What a great game for the KU faithful!
Apply to be a Summer 2016 Intern
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works.
I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today where I have interns year-round who have a unique opportunity to work closely with my staff on behalf of Kansas. Applications are already being accepted for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Manhattan, Kansas, office for the summer 2016 term. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence.
Kansans in the Office
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
Dr. Hal Hoxie of McPherson
Dr. Amy Bragg Carey of Wichita
American School Counselor’s Association
Robert Lundien of Prairie Village
Matt Rathban of Hays
Cheri Faunce of Topeka
Donnovan Karber of Wichita
Wichita State University
Andy Schlapp of Wichita
Peter Perna of Wichita
John Tomblin of Wichita
Nick Levendofsky of Courtland
Sam Sackett of Wichita
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 form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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