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.

Comprehensive Tax Reform Long Overdue
If our convoluted and confusing tax code doesn’t already give you a headache this time of year, now you also have to worry that your personal information could be stolen from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is further proof that comprehensive tax reform is long overdue. I am hopeful that in the coming year, with a new administration, Congress will have an opportunity to replace our tax code with a commonsense system that is far simpler and more growth-oriented. I believe the best approach is what is known as the FairTax – legislation (S. 155) I introduced in January 2015. I penned op-eds that ran in USA Today and Wichita Eagle to make the case for FairTax and comprehensive tax reform.

Championing Policies to Benefit Down Syndrome Community
As co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Down Syndrome, I was happy to welcome advocates from the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) to Washington on Tuesday morning. I was honored to give remarks and receive their 2016 “Champion of Change” award from my friend Rachel Mast at the NDSS luncheon. We discussed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, the ACE for Kids Act, and important initiatives for the Down syndrome community. I also agreed to cosponsor the ABLE to Work Act, which would expand ABLE accounts to assist an individual with a disability in building an account to pay for qualified disability expenses. It gives me great pride to share in NDSS’ mission and fight for the well-being of the Down syndrome community.

Advocating for Veterans, Case by Case
I took to the Senate floor this week to advocate on behalf of veterans who continue having a difficult time utilizing the Veterans Choice Program through the VA. I shared the story of Mr. Michael Dabney of Hill City. After Mr. Dabney reached out to my office for assistance, my staff investigated his case and what we’ve learned is outrageous. After being advised he was eligible to use the Choice Program, the VA errantly billed Mr. Dabney for his approved surgery, ignored the facts of his consultation, blamed him for their miscommunication and then demanded he pay for the thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Cases like this are far too common and I will continue to fight for veterans case by case. But the VA must commit to improving Choice and execute the words the VA repeats so frequently: “Do what is in the best interest of the veteran.”

Meeting with KLA Members
It was great to meet with members of the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) this week including National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President and longtime KLA-member Tracy Brunner. Our conversation focused on helping farmers and ranchers impacted by the Kansas wildfire, EPA regulatory overreach, opening new markets to export U.S. beef, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) reauthorization. Cattle producers have faced especially volatile markets over the past several months, which coupled with the largest grass fire in Kansas history, have made for challenging times for many of our state’s producers. As chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees funding and operations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), I will continue to use my role to support Kansas livestock producers.

Encouraging a New Generation of Farmers and Ranchers
I was proud to introduce the Agriculture Students Earn Act this week, legislation that amends the tax code to exclude from gross income the first $5,000 earned by students who are 18 years old or younger on agricultural projects completed under the supervision of 4-H or FFA. For agriculture and our rural way of life to thrive, it is essential for a new generation of young people to return to rural America to live, work and raise their families. According to the latest agricultural census, the average age of the U.S. farmer is over 58 years old and trending upward. By lowering the tax burden on projects, this bill would encourage more students to complete agricultural projects under 4-H and FFA. The hands-on experience that supervised agricultural projects provide aims to inspire a new generation of farmers and ranchers.

Agricultural projects may include showing animals at local and state fairs, growing and harvesting crops, building agricultural mechanic projects, and many other possibilities. The projects encourage personal growth and responsibility, while also providing the opportunity for students to generate modest revenues. The money earned by a student is often used to finance future agricultural projects, deposited in savings or used to fund a college education. To read more about this legislation, click here.

Appropriating Funds for Military Construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to advance the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill last Thursday. I'm proud to lead the effort through the Senate appropriations process to make certain critical military construction projects – at McConnell Air Force Base for the arrival of the KC-46A and at Fort Leavenworth for National Guard training – are fully funded. These investments underscore the importance of Kansas’ military installations to the Armed Forces, and I will continue working to prioritize funding that supports our Kansas servicemen and women.

Additionally, a number of my priorities were included to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Most notably, the bill directs the VA to partner with the National Academy of Medicine to conduct an assessment of current and potential research on health conditions related to the toxic exposure of servicemembers and the impact on their children and grandchildren. This has long been a priority of mine and I am very pleased that the committee supported this important issue for veterans and their families in the FY17 appropriations bill. Other issues and priorities I have led in the U.S. Senate that were added to the FY17 appropriations bill include: a 2-year extension for Project ARCH to maintain access to community healthcare for veterans in the program, developing educational and training opportunities for veterans in agriculture, assessing the Choice Program by seeking insights from community providers to assess veterans’ struggles using the program, and encouraging the VA to utilize public-private partnerships such as an opportunity to expand care at the Leavenworth VA Medical Center. To read more about this legislation, click here and here.

Discussing Army University at Fort Leavenworth
Providing quality military education for our nation’s servicemembers is one of Fort Leavenworth’s greatest missions, and I’m pleased the Fort will lead the way overseeing Army University as the Intellectual Center of the Army. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the university’s first-ever Provost Brigadier General John Kem, who explained how Army U. is working to help mid-career non-commission officers (NCOs) with accreditation for skills and training as they transition into civilian life and higher education. We also discussed the critical role the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College has in facilitating invaluable relationships among the international military officers who study there. Yet another reminder that keeping terrorist detainees at GITMO is instrumental to our strategic and military partnerships worldwide. I’m pleased to welcome BG Kem back to Fort Leavenworth as Army University Provost.

Advancing Kansas River Levee Project
In this week’s mark-up of the Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill, I supported continued funding for the long overdue Kansas River Levee Project in Topeka. Investing now in this long overdue project will help protect thousands of Kansans and Topeka-area residents from future flooding events while providing additional opportunities for economic development in the area. I am pleased that the committee shares my commitment to ensuring the federal government fulfills its obligation to the residents of the Topeka area who stand to benefit from the correction of deficiencies in the local flood risk management system. To read more, click here.

Meeting with High School Engineers
As finalists in the SourceAmerica Design Challenge, students from Gardner Edgerton High School were in Washington last week to compete for the top spot. Partnering with Johnson County Developmental Supports, they designed and built a device that would help improve workplace productivity for individuals with disabilities in their local community. Their design is impressive, but even more impressive is their desire to put their skills to practice to help their neighbors. It was great to hear their passion in discussing their career hopes, enjoyment of engineering and dedication to helping other people in their community. If you’d like to learn more, I encourage you to watch the video they made about their project.

Legislation to Assist Veterans With Opioid Addictions
As Frontline reports, the national opioid crisis disproportionately impacts veterans who may have incurred injuries during service that require pain management. The threshold between pain management and opioid addiction, however, is far too easy to cross, as we see from the high number of veterans currently diagnosed with an opioid use disorder. That is why it is critical that we lower barriers to access naloxone kits for our veterans – an important resource to protect against the worst-case scenario of an overdose – and last week I sponsored legislation to do just that. S. 2772 will eliminate the copay for naloxone kits, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and save lives. To read more, click here.

Leading the Protections Against Terrorist Transfer Act
I continued to lead the fight this week against transferring dangerous detainees held at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) by introducing the Protections Against Terrorist Transfer Act, S. 2780. This legislation would prohibit the transfer or release of any individual detained at GITMO who is a continuing threat to the security of the United States. Any individuals who would put American lives at risk is a threat to our way of life and should remain detained at GITMO. As this administration works to deplete the number of detainees at GITMO to achieve a campaign promise – a promise that is in clear violation of the law – it is critical to our national security and protecting Americans that Congress has a role in the transfer authorization process. Unfortunately, the current process has led to high-risk detainees being transferred to foreign nations with limited Congressional involvement or oversight. Creating more risk for Americans and our servicemembers overseas when our country faces security challenges worldwide is irresponsible, and I will continue fighting to keep these detainees at GITMO. To read more, click here.

Talking with Kansas Interns
It was great to meet last week with a group of students interning in Washington, D.C., through the University of Kansas – Washington D.C. Internship program. We discussed a wide array of issues that affect our state and country ranging from tax reform to healthcare policy. As a former intern myself, I enjoy encouraging young Kansans to engage in their interests through their work here. I found this spring’s group to be an impressive bunch and wish them the best. If you’re interested in interning in my offices in Washington or Kansas this fall, applications can be found here.

Visiting an Olathe Business
Before heading back to Washington on Monday, I stopped by Terracon, a consulting engineering firm headquartered in Olathe. I was happy to be joined by Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland and Olathe Chamber CEO Tim McKee for my visit with Terracon CAO Gayle Packer, CFO Don Vrana and CEO David Gaboury. Under David’s leadership, Terracon has grown into a national leader and centerpiece of the Olathe business community. I appreciate David, Gayle and Don taking the time to show me the company and discussing their entrepreneurial successes and challenges.

Now Accepting 2016 Service Academy Applications
Even as students are beginning their summer breaks, I want to remind them of the opportunity to apply to a United States Service Academy. Appointing Kansans to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, is one of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator.

To find out the requirements and apply, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by September 2, 2016. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, September 24, 2016, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

Kansans in the Office
Karen Deaver of Augusta 
Elaine Wilson of Leawood 
Jim Wilson of Leawood 

City of Great Bend 
Mike Allison of Great Bend 
Allene Owen of Great Bend 
Vicki Berryman of Great Bend 
Jan Peters of Great Bend 

City of Liberal 
Darrel Webb of Liberal 
Rozelle Webb of Liberal
Nathan McCaffrey of Liberal
Joe Denoyer of Liberal
Tony Martinez of Liberal
Al Sill of Liberal
Mark Hall of Liberal
Debbie Giskie of Liberal

City of Dodge City  
Corey Keller of Dodge City 
Mollea Wainscott of Dodge City
Joyce Warshaw of Dodge City
Cherise Tieben of Dodge City
Gary Johnson of Dodge City

City of Garden City 
Janet Doll of Garden City 
Phil Escaieno of Garden City
Steve Dyer of Garden City
Chris Law of Garden City
Nicole Lucas of Garden City
Jennifer Cunningham of Garden City

Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace 
Matthew Joyce of Derby 
Donna Lehane of Wichita 

Kansas Resteaurant and Hospitality Association 
Ron Oberg of Wichita 
Scott Redler of Wichita 
Ben Simon of Wichita 
Al Hinman of Overland Park 
Adam Mills of Wichita 
Scott Schneider of Wichita 
Bill Goodlatte of Wichita 
Mario Quiroz of Wichita 
Dale Schmitt of Olathe 
Bob Carmichael of Topeka 

National Phontonics Initiative
Derrek Wilson of Manhattan 
Adam Summers of Manhattan 

Chamber of Lawrence 
Hugh Carter of Lawrence 
Larry McElwain of Lawrence 
Bonnie Lowe of Lawrence 
Calvin Karlin of Lawrence 
Beth Easter of Lawrence 
Tom Markus of Lawrence 
Matthew Herbert of Lawrence 

Kansas State University 
President Kirk Schulz of Manhattan
John Floros of Manhattan 
Tammy Beckham of Manhattan 
Tim DeNoble of Manhattan 
Ralph Richardson of Manhattan 
Kevin Gwinner of Manhattan 
Asher Gilliland of Topeka 
Ron Trewyn of Manhattan 
Jeff Morris of Manhattan 
Peter Dormont of Manhattan 
Tammy Beckham of Manhattan 
Dean Dawson of Manhattan 
Verna Fitzsimmons of Manhattan  

Kansas Livestock Association 
Matt Perrier of Eureka 
David Clawson of Englewood 
Jaret Moyer of Emporia 
Will Basham of Garden City 
Harry Moser of Wheaton 
Ken Grecian of Palco 
Mike Beam of Topeka 
Aaron Popelka of Topeka 
Matt Teagarden of Topeka 
Dustin Aherin of Garden City 
Tracy Brunner of Ramona 

BlueCross/BlueShield of Kansas 
Sunee Mickle of Topeka 

American Water Works Association 
Michael Armstrong of Lenexa 
Darci Meese of Lenexa 
Angela Buzard of Wichita 

National Down Syndrome Society 
Erin Davis of Olathe 
Paula Doran of Overland Park 
Rebecca McCaulley of Wichita 
Sara Meitner of Hays 
Julia Meitner of Hays 
Abe Meitner of Hays 
Jennifer Ross of Leawood 
Rachel Mast of Olathe 
John Buckwalter of Manhattan 
April Mason of Manhattan 
Carol Shanklin of Manhattan 

Missouri-Kansas City Committee to Protect Pensions 
Tom Schwarzenberger of Olathe 
David Scheidt of Olathe 

Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau 
Mark Raymie of Leawood 
Weston Burcham of Hays 

Kansas Beer Wholesalers 
Steve Beykirch of Pittsburg 
Bill Goodlatte of Wichita 
Casey Mussatto of Osage City 
Drew Demo of Independence 
John Bogner of Dodge City 
Andrew Demo of Independence 
Kevin O’Malley of Lawrence 
Bob Bush of Hutchinson 
Scott Schneider of Wichita 
Jason Watkins of Topeka 

Mennonite Housing 
Bryon Adrian of Topeka 

Faisal Assad of Olathe 

American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 
Greg Wolf of Lenexa 
Melanie Wolf of Lenexa 
Marcus King of Overland Park 

Kansas Respiratory Care Society 
Karen Schell of Emporia 
Elissa Williams of Gardner
Crystal Irwin of Topeka 
Sandy Johnson of Goodland 

Kansas Water Environment Association 
Joe Foster of Olathe 
Kurt Bookout of El Dorado 

National Association of Rail Passengers 
Mark Corriston of Olathe 

Kansas Council on Development Disabilities 
Elizabeth Moran of Kansas City 
LaRae Santiago of Wichita 
Lindsey Krom-Craven of Great Bend 

Kansas Cable Telecommunication Association 
John Federico of Topeka 
Megan Bottenberg of Topeka 

Dennis Ridenour of Fairway 
Jonny Kot of Leawood 

America Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons 
Douglas Fain of Olathe 
Matthew Lowe of Pittsburg 
Bill Wiklilow of Hutchinson 
Karin Swihart of Sterling 

National Shooting Sports Foundation 
Tom Shepherd of Overland Park 

Kansas Council of the Military Officers Association of America 
Patrick Murphy of Olathe 
Tony Pimetel of Wichita 

Mortgage Bankers Association 
A.W. Pickell of Olathe 
Jason Peters of Overland Park 
Jake Kearney of Overland Park 

Council of Extension Professionals PILD Conference 
Nozella Brown of Kansas City 
Kylie Ludwig of Edna 
Karla Hightower of Osawatomie 
Dennis Patton of Overland Park 
Bruce Chladney of Bonner Springs 
Larry Justice of Olathe 
Dave Twiner of Pratt 
Marvin Beesley of Gove 
Paula Peters of Manhattan 
Daryl Buchholz of Manhattan 
Greyson Collins of St. John 
Mikey Hughes of Ellinwood 

American Supply Association 
Mark Zimmerman of Salina 

University of Kansas 
Kevin McCarthy of Lenexa 
Sarah Herman of Overland Park 
Tim Churchill of Lawrence 
Gabriella Murnan of Pittsburg 

Susan G. Komen Foundation
Kirsten Bruce of Lindsborg
Carli Good of Leawood 
Peggy Johnson of Wichita 
Theresa Osenbaugh of Leawood 
Kelsey Hampton of Roeland Park 

American College of Gastroenterology 
Stanley Brand of Overland Park 

Kansas Association of Insurance Agents 
Austin Rean of Wellington 
Cindy Hower of Holton 
Dusty Davis of El Dorado 
Lyle Davidson of Delphos 
Amanda Davidson of Delphos 
Spencer Davidson of Delphos 
Kevin O’Brien of Leawood 
Kent Anthony of Sterling 
Dan Murray of Lawrence 
Cooper Chapin of Lenexa 

Ryan Gilliland of Topeka 

American Academy of Ophthalmology 
William Clifford of Garden City 
Paul Weishaar of Wichita 
Derek Harkey of Lenexa 
Frances Clifford of Garden City 

American Society for Cell Biology 
Kellyann Jones-Jamtgaard of Kansas City 

American College of Surgeons 
Scott Coates of Chanute 
Denise Lantz of Topeka 
Joshua Broghammer of Kansas City 
James Hamilton of Topeka 
Lyndsey Kilgore of Kansas City 

Gardner Edgerton High School 
Ethan Eccles of Gardner 
Samantha Marcote of Gardner 
Logan Wakley of Gardner 
Joseph Corbin of Gardner 
Amaranta Gonzales of Gardner 
Larry Ward of Gardner 

Groundwater Management District 3 
Mark Rude of Garden City 
Clay Scott of Ulysses 
Jason Norquest of Garden City 

Kansas Housing Association 
Pat Michaelis of Topeka 
Jan Peters of Great Bend 
Matt Gillam of Overland Park
David Rhodes of Olathe 
Tony Krsnich of Lawrence 
Fred Bentley of Topeka
Suzanne Rhodes of Olathe  

Capitol Tour 
Jim Adams of Manhattan 
Debbie Mercer of Manhattan 
Kadence Mercer of Manhattan 
Anna Newman of Wamego 
Nathan Staatz of Wamego 
Harriet Petersilie of Ness City 
Justin Zohner of Hill City 
Courtney Zohner of Hill City 
Geoffrey Zohner of Hill City 
Vincent Zohner of Hill City 
Isabella Zohner of Hill City 
Carl Zohner of Penokee 
Ruth Zohner of Penokee 
Cynthia Steeples of Palco 
Barb Coffey of Baldwin 
Erin Petersilie of La Crosse
Michelle Masoner of Lenexa 
Paul Masoner of Lenexa 
Marcus King of Stilwell
Phillip Woods of Lenexa 
Kathleen Woods 
Brian Todd of Olathe 
Miles Todd of Olathe 
Dick McDermott of Dexter 
Pearl McDermott of Dexter 
Lisa Breese of Maple Hill 
Aaron Popelka of Maple Hill
Allison King of Stilwell 

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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