Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks 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.

The House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. In my opinion, neither the original House bill nor this bill is the right solution. To truly fix our healthcare system, it’s essential that we have a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to give us more information about the legislation’s impact. That updated score of the House’s bill has not yet been released.

I will be continuing my conversations with individual Kansans as well as doctors, nurses, community providers and hospitals as we consider reform legislation. I’m also hopeful that the Senate will allow for committee hearings, expert witness testimony and the chance for senators to offer amendments to any healthcare reform bill under consideration. This process will allow for an honest, open debate on how best to improve our system to make care more affordable and to empower individuals to make their own healthcare decisions.

Annual Appropriations Bill Passes, is Signed by President
This week with my support, the Senate passed a bill to fund the government through the end of this fiscal year. This bill reflects priorities set through 11 individual appropriations bills crafted over the last year including essential funding for military pay, defense spending, fighting the opioid epidemic, infrastructure investment and medical research at the National Institutes of Health. While there’s more work to be done, these are priorities worth funding.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have repeatedly urged my colleagues to work together to return to the full appropriations process. This process enables Congress to set specific, common-sense funding priorities shared by the American people and to better control the actions of the various federal agencies and departments.

Focusing on NIH Funding and Food Security Programs
The omnibus allocates funding for a number of priorities that are important to me and to Kansans. The bill includes an additional $2 billion for NIH funding along with $1.39 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, an increase of $400 million, and $5.7 billion for the National Cancer Institute, an increase of $475.8 million. The legislation also includes $1.1 billion for opioid addiction treatment and prevention, which will help implement the 21st Century Cures Act that became law with my support last year.

In addition, the omnibus funding bill allocates $1.9 billion for Food for Peace Title II, a USAID initiative that provides in-kind donations of American agriculture commodities to countries with critical food needs. It maintains funding for McGovern-Dole Education, a program that promotes education for children by providing meals at schools located in areas in need. Our contributions to fighting global hunger don’t just have an impact on those living in foreign nations – they make our nation more secure.

Marking the 10-Year Anniversary of the Greensburg Tornado
The community of Greensburg remembered a tragedy and celebrated its recovery on Thursday as it observed the 10th anniversary of the devastating E-F5 tornado that destroyed 95 percent of the city. Survivors, residents, neighbors and friends gathered in Greensburg on Thursday evening to remember the 11 lives lost on May 4, 2007.

This anniversary also served as an opportunity to celebrate the community’s incredible rebuilding. A lot happened in that short amount of time when the tornado struck, but more has happened to rebuild and recover each day since then. Through the community’s perseverance and the generosity of so many Kansans and others from across the country, Greensburg stands tall today. Here is a video that highlights the recovery.

Working to Ensure Kansans Have Access to Local Financial Services
I introduced bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana along with Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota this week that would allow hometown lenders to better serve their communities. The Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory (CLEAR) Relief Act, S. 1002, is designed to create a better financial regulatory environment that would foster growth in communities across Kansas and the United States. Our small main street lenders have been disproportionately harmed by the rules and regulations originally intended for large, complex financial institutions. To enable more Kansans to start or expand a business or buy or sell a home, we must have capable community-based lenders to provide the necessary credit. I appreciated having members of the Community Bankers Association of Kansas in my office this week to discuss the challenges facing community banks. As Congress considers proposals to grow our economy, I will be working with my colleagues to ensure that ideas like the CLEAR Relief Act are considered and ultimately signed into law so that we can get more Americans back to work. Click here to read the text of the bill.

Highlighting the Impact of Kansas Winter Storms
I spoke to the Senate this week to highlight the snow storms that hit western Kansas and surrounding states last weekend, destroying crops and killing livestock. I have heard from farmers who lost their entire wheat crops and seen reports of thousands of cattle that were lost across Kansas. These storms are another vivid reminder of the challenges faced each day by farmers and ranchers trying to produce a crop or raise cattle. In agriculture, a family’s economic situation can change at a moment’s notice. A weekend weather event causes a simple inconvenience for most people – for ag producers, it is the difference between having a crop to harvest or having nothing to sell at the end of the year. As families dig out of the snow, I’m reminded of the importance of protecting crop insurance and farm programs in the upcoming farm bill.  

Discussing Russia and the European Reassurance Initiative with General Scaparrotti
As chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, I chaired a hearing on Tuesday with General Curtis Scaparrotti – Commander, United States European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe – to discuss the risks and challenges prevalent throughout the European Command area of responsibility. I questioned General Scaparrotti on the European Reassurance Initiative, which requires additional military construction to optimize the U.S. military presence and readiness in Central and Eastern Europe. I also had the privilege of welcoming to the hearing Army War College students who were selected for the Carlisle Scholars Program and represent military partner nations.

Learning About Telehealth at the Department of Veterans Affairs
I chaired a second hearing this week in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs to discuss the growing field of telehealth within the VA. Telehealth creates a bridge between our rural and urban centers – providers at an urban site are now able to diagnose and provide care plans for veterans who are hundreds of miles away. This program can offer a veteran the means and flexibility to access care through the VA, especially when they struggle to physically visit a VA hospital. Additionally, telemedicine can improve health outcomes and lower costs at the VA. I look forward to learning more about how the VA plans to increase accessibility to telemedicine across the nation.

Honoring Veterans at the World War II Memorial
I caught up with a group of Kansas City area veterans who traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of an Honor Flight this week at the National World War II Memorial on Tuesday. I was honored to meet with the Korean, Vietnam and WWII vets who made the trip and to have the chance to thank them for their service. I also had the pleasure of meeting one of the group’s most distinguished members – a 99-year-old WWII veteran visiting the memorial for the first time. My thanks to the chaperones and organizers who work hard to make Honor Flight trips a once in a lifetime experience for those who protected our nation.

Discussing Kansas Exports with U.S. Trade Representative Nominee Robert Lighthizer
I met with the nominee to be the next U.S. Trade Representative, Mr. Robert Lighthizer, on Thursday to discuss the importance of trade policy for the Kansas economy. Approximately 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside America’s borders. To reach these consumers, America must pursue trade policy that grows existing export markets while continuously building and developing new ones. I stressed the importance of maintaining strong economic relations with Mexico and Canada, our state’s two largest export markets. We also discussed the need to enforce current trade rules and reduce non-tariff barriers to make sure that our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers are competing on a level playing field with others across the globe. Mr. Lighthizer recalled his tenure working for the Senate Finance Committee under the leadership of Senator Bob Dole, and I was pleased to hear that he continues to value his strong ties to the state of Kansas.

Touring KU Medical Center
On Friday, I toured the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) to meet with doctors and researchers and learn more about the promising medical research taking place in our state. The omnibus bill I supported this week includes $2 billion in new National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding – this was top of mind during our discussion about the positive opportunities this investment will create for KUMC. I appreciated meeting the talented professionals and post-doctorate investigators and hearing about the projects they’re pursuing. Medical research saves and improves lives, reduces health care costs and drives economic growth. I’m proud to see that our nation’s investment in biomedical research is having such a profound impact here at home. My conversations with researchers and students on Friday reaffirmed the importance of sustained funding for the NIH. Thank you to KU Medical Center for hosting my visit and to Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Richard Barohn; School of Medicine Senior Associate Dean for Research Dr. Peter Smith; Cancer Center Director Dr. Roy Jensen; Alzheimer’s Disease Center Director Dr. Russ Swerdlow; and Alzheimer’s Disease Center Co-Director Dr. Jeffrey Burns for meeting with me.

Celebrating the Grand Opening of Hillsboro Community Hospital
I helped celebrate the grand opening of the new Hillsboro Community Hospital (HCC) on Saturday morning. This state-of-the-art facility will increase access to quality healthcare to the greater Hillsboro community. As a Critical Access Hospital (CAH), HCC will provide around-the-clock care in their new building, which includes specialty clinics, inpatient and emergency services. I am confident that this new location for the hospital will play a vital role in strengthening the Hillsboro Community. The hospital, which was constructed with the help of a $9.7 million USDA-Rural Development guaranteed loan, is a testament to the importance of the USDA’s mission to aid in rural healthcare. It is a great and rare occasion for a rural Kansas town to get a new hospital and new pharmacy in the same year, and this was achieved due to the hard work on HCC CEO Marion Regier and staff, along with Mayor Dalke and the community leaders who have dedicated so much time and energy to getting this new facility built.

Speaking with Tech CEOs in Kansas City
I spoke with business executives from technology firms based in and around Kansas City on Friday morning. We covered a variety of topics important to American innovation, economic competitiveness and the prospective job opportunities we can support by creating an entrepreneur-friendly regulatory and tax environment. I asked the group for their assistance in identifying barriers to starting new businesses that could be addressed by the federal government. 

In past Congresses, I have introduced bipartisan legislation known as the Startup Act, which is based on the Kauffman Foundation’s proposal and would jumpstart the economy by helping new businesses thrive. I am working to develop an updated version of this bill to account for new entrepreneurial hurdles that have become more pronounced in the last few years. A number of other important topics to job creators were also covered in the conversation, including healthcare, broadband infrastructure buildout, veterans’ affairs and telecommunications policy. Thank you to President Ryan Weber of the Kansas City Tech Council for inviting me to the discussion. I appreciate the input of the innovative leaders who participated.

Accepting Applications for Fall Internships – Deadline: June 2
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 Kansans. Applications are already being accepted for internships in my Washington, D.C., and Kansas offices for the fall 2017 term. The deadline for the fall is Friday, June 2. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information.

Kansans in the Office

Kansas Association of Insurance Agents
Dave Hulcher of Lawrence
Brock Elliott of Louisburg
Scott Strong of Cheney
Bob Fee of Hutchinson
Shelby Davidson of Delphos
Amanda Davidson of Delphos
Lyle Davidson of Delphos
Cooper Chapia of Lenexa

National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association
Mark Shepard of Overland Park
Jim Bell of Shawnee

Kansas Food Dealers Association & Retail Grocers Association
Jon McCormick of Shawnee 

Scott Whittington of Burlington
Ron Rahjes of Kensington
Janet Bailey of Manhattan

K-State Center for Engagement and Community Development
David Procter of Manhattan

Ambulatory Surgery Center Association
Jared Abel of Lawrence

Urban League of Kansas
Melody McCray-Miller of Wichita

Association of American Cancer Institutes
Roy Jensen of Kansas City

Cerner Corp
Peter Henry of Fairway

Kansas Library Association
Gina Millsap of Topeka
Robert Banks of Topeka
Marie Pyko of Topeka

Kansas Community Bankers Association
Calvin Coady of Wichita
Ryan Gilliland of Topeka
Steven Handke of Everest
Blake Heid of Paola
Timothy Hills of Sedan
Tanner Johnson of Courtland
Irv Mitchell of Wilson
Galen Pelton of Ulysses
Jeremy Small of Osawatomie
Jim Wayman of Emporia
Brad Yaeger of Wichita
Stuart Little of Topeka
Shawn Mitchell of Topeka
Mikie Bowman of Topeka

Henry Lipari of Overland Park
Jo Lipari of Overland Park
Ellianna Lipari of Overland Park

Online Lenders Alliance
Steve Hutz of Overland Park

Safe States Alliance
Nicole Stejskal of Bison

The Association for Advanced Life Underwriting
Phillip Sarnecki of Leawood
Brandon Paulseen of Wichita
Dexter Umekubo of Salina
Audrey Umekubo of Salina

Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association
Kevin O’Malley of Lawrence
Steve Beykirch of Pittsburg
Drew Demo of Independence
Andrew Demo of Independence
Matt Stoathman of Topeka
Colton Stoathman of Topeka
Dan Demo of El Dorado
Rick Albrecht of Wichita
David Fleming of Wichita
Terry Parr of Wichita
Brad Demo of El Dorado
Jason Watkins of Wichita

Children’s Mercy
Kara Dorssom Larson of Kansas City
Ramon Fyffe of Kansas City

Religious Action Center
Elena Nemitoff of Overland Park
Daniel Kirzane of Overland Park

International Foodservice Distributors Association
Danielle England of Shawnee

Alliance for Patient Access
Darby O’Donnell of Leawood

Construction Employees of America
Andy Phelps of Shawnee

Camp Wood YMCA
Ken Wold of Elmdale

General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Doug May of Wichita

The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals
Irene Hoheusle of Wichita
Candye Daughhetee of Wichita

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Jeffrey Carlstedt of Shawnee
Leesa Gabel of Olathe

American Land Title Association
Randy Barbour of Prairie Village
Annie Malave of Wichita
Dave Scott of Topeka
John Stauffer of Olathe
Jerilyn Stull of McCracken

Kansas Hospice
Karren Weichert of Topeka
Sandy Kahlman of Phillipsburg
Chad Wilkins of Topeka

Emergency Nurses Association
Elizabeth Gerhardt of Holton

Adam Aron of Leawood

The Associated General Contractors of America
Mike Morrand of Overland Park

Smiths Detection
Kevin Schmidt of Kansas City

Capitol Tour
Rick Albrecht of Wichita
David Fleming of Wichita
Terry Parr of Wichita
Robert Rech of Wichita
Mary Rech of Wichita
Jim Bell of Shawnee
Mark Shepard of Overland Park
Devin Smith of Olathe
Gary Smith of Olathe
Matthew Rathbun of Wichita
Gabe Rathbun of Wichita
Mel Kopf of Topeka
Bonnie Kopf of Topeka
Adam Freking of Wichita
Keely Freking of Wichita
Lydia Freking of Wichita
Cesar Godinez of Wichita
Karen Godinez of Wichita
Tom Chaput of Manhattan
Dorothy Chaput of Manhattan
Denny Hammerschmidt of Manhattan
Vicky Hammerschmidt of Manhattan
Leon Gooden of Overland Park
Dave Mclutire of Wichita
Addie Stultz of Wichita
Masha Yakubovich of Wichita
Adam Stultz of Wichita
Ben Rivers of Wichita
Jennifer Stultz of Wichita
Tammi Beck of Shawnee
Colton Gibson of Kansas City

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.

Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking 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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