Kansas Common Sense
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Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Monday, Americans celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. If you’re ever in Washington and have an opportunity to visit Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial it’s definitely worth your time. Inspirational messages from Dr. King’s sermons and speeches are etched into the stone of the monument. For example: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Overhauling and Simplifying the American Tax System
On Tuesday, I joined Senator David Perdue of Georgia in introducing S.155, the Fair Tax Act of 2015, legislation to overhaul and simplify the American tax system. I am pleased to lead this effort after cosponsoring this legislation since 2006. Our proposal, known specifically as the “FairTax,” replaces our complicated and costly tax system with a flat national consumption tax and closes the Internal Revenue Service. The FairTax places all taxpayers on equal footing, protects Americans from government intrusion by the IRS, and would immediately boost economic growth by incentivizing savings and investment – all while collecting revenue levels similar to those of our current mess of a tax code.
The FairTax repeals Federal corporate and individual income taxes, payroll taxes, capital gains taxes, and estate and gift taxes, and every American would be allowed to purchase goods and services tax free up to the national poverty level. Study after study shows that by placing all Americans on equal footing, a national consumption tax would increasing capital spending, productivity and job growth. The FairTax represents complete freedom for every individual, regardless of economic status. No longer would Americans be punished for working hard to support their families, and every taxpayer would know exactly how much they are sending to the federal government.
Tax Reform is not an easy undertaking, but the economic need for a leaner and fairer tax code has never been greater. By eliminating every loophole, exemption, exception, credit and deduction, the FairTax removes the power of Congress to manipulate taxpayers through the code, and takes a significant step in the direction of freedom and prosperity. The FairTax Act deserves to be debated, and given an up or down vote. This tax reform proposal would have a positive impact on millions of taxpayers, allowing Americans to once again be in charge of their lives and money. Click here to learn more.
Treasury Department Amends Cuban Assets Control Regulations
This week, the Treasury Department modified regulations related to U.S.-Cuba relations. I have long fought for the ability of U.S. farmers to sell commodities to Cuba and support the freedom of U.S. citizens to travel there. In July 2000, my amendment to allow the sale of food, medicine and agriculture products to Cuba passed the House with broad support. Yet since 2005, Treasury Department regulations have continued to hinder trade, and essentially blocked the market from our farmers and ranchers.
Cuba imports the vast majority of its food, including significant amounts of wheat each year. When we don’t sell our homegrown commodities to Cuba, they buy them elsewhere. Cuba, only 90 miles from our coast, is a natural market for our farmers and ranchers. Instead, Cuba bought $150 million worth of wheat last year from the European Union even though shipping costs were substantially higher. The ability to purchase more affordable U.S. commodities should increase the standard of living of the Cuban people, and in turn allow them to make greater demands on their repressive government for increased freedom and liberty.
For me it’s both a commonsense and a moral issue that we finally put these policies and regulations behind us and chart a new course for U.S.-Cuba relations. The Treasury Department announcement this week was a step in the right direction. Click here to read my Wichita Eagle op-ed on this topic.
Startup Act Reintroduction
This week, I reintroduced the Startup Act in the U.S. Senate. This bipartisan jobs plan would jumpstart the economy through the creation and growth of new businesses. Research and analysis by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation out of Kansas City shows that for close to three decades, companies less than five years old have created almost all net new jobs in America – averaging about three million jobs each year. But under our country’s current policies, new business formation and the rate of entrepreneurship have reached historic lows. Startup Act aims to reverse these trends by reducing barriers entrepreneurs face. Startup Act would modify the tax code to encourage investment in new businesses, accelerate the commercialization of university research that can lead to new ventures, and restrain the regulatory process. The legislation also creates both Entrepreneur and STEM Visas that would allow highly-educated entrepreneurs in the United States to remain where their talent and new ideas can fuel economic growth and create American jobs. I look forward to working with my colleagues to explore these ideas and make America more competitive. Click here to learn more.
Reintroducing the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act
The invisible wounds of war plague thousands of veterans across our country, and unfortunately some feel the only choice to deal with their wounds is to take their own life. The average suicide rate among veterans is a staggering 22 deaths each day. With epidemic-levels of suicide afflicting veterans, the VA has a duty to not only provide them the best quality mental health care services, but the VA must also do everything necessary to save their lives. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act would improve the VA efforts in supporting veterans battling these struggles.
I sponsored the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act this week upon introduction in the 114th Congress. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I am confident this critical legislation will receive consideration by the committee in the coming days. I am hopeful that the full Senate will pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act just as the House once again unanimously passed this bill on January 12, 2015. This bill would be useful in developing a VA system capable of offering first-rate mental health care services, as well as utilizing the expertise of outside organizations to provide support for those struggling from their wartime experiences. It would also provide for a new website that offers veterans information regarding available mental healthcare services; create a pilot loan repayment program for VA psychiatrists; and improve the exchange of training, best practices, and other resources among the VA, Veteran Service Organizations (VSO), and nonprofit mental health organizations to enhance collaboration of suicide prevention efforts. Click here to learn more.
Chairman of Senate Subcommittee?on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security
This week, I was selected to serve as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee for Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security for 114th Congress. The subcommittee oversees the consumer protection efforts of the following federal agencies: the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the National Highway Traffic Safety, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. It also has jurisdiction over insurance and sports.
The rapid growth of e-commerce, electronic data storage, and international trade has increased the need for Congressional oversight of agencies responsible for safeguarding consumers from harmful and deceptive practices. I look forward to taking on the subcommittee’s expanded jurisdiction related to data security. As more sensitive consumer and proprietary data are stored electronically, the risk and costs of insecure data also increase. Congress and American businesses need to be vigilant about this real threat, so the tools that make life more convenient and efficient do not put consumers at undue risk. As Chairman, I plan to put the subcommittee to work quickly.
Capitol Hill Lions Club Chartering Ceremony
This week, I had the privilege of joining The Capitol Hill Lions Club for their Chartering ceremony. I joined the Hill City Lions Club in 1977. As a fellow Lion, it was an honor to witness the chartering of a new club and to meet individuals willing to make a positive difference in the Capitol Hill community. Whether I am in Kansas or Washington D.C., the Lions I have met have always shown a strong commitment to service and a desire to make the world a better place through humanitarian efforts. Thanks to the charter’s president Bill Spencer, past-International President Al Brandel and his wife Maureen, and the other members for their hospitality and kind words.
In 2012, I authored the Lions Clubs International Century of Service Commemorative Coin Act, H.R. 2139. This legislation authorizes the U.S. Treasury to mint $1 silver coins in honor of the Lions Clubs International 100th Anniversary in 2017. The bill costs taxpayers no money, as the sale price includes the cost of designing and issuing the coins. Proceeds from the sale of commemorative coins will go toward Lions’ efforts to provide charitable services to the most vulnerable people throughout the world. The bill was signed into law by the President on October 5, 2012.
Visiting the French Embassy
This week, I visited the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., to express my condolences for the tragic loss of life resulting from the terror attacks in Paris last week. On behalf of the people of Kansas, I left the note below for the citizens of France.
Before my flight back to Washington this week, I stopped by Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. Donnelly is a Catholic, independent institution committed to “serving those who would not otherwise be served.” Donnelly College is an affordable option for a diverse group of students, and faculty and staff focus their efforts to help first-generation college students achieve a bachelor’s or associate degree. Thanks to Donnelly President Monsignor Stuart Swetland for the informative visit.
Kansans in the Office
Brian Neilson of Leawood
The Island Radar Company
Tom Hilleary of Olathe
Kansas Pharmacists Association
Brian Caswell of Baxter Springs
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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