Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you 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. I will be returning to Washington, D.C., today where Planned Parenthood funding and cyber security will be considered in the Senate.
Highway Trust Fund Legislation
Since the days of President Dwight Eisenhower, our nation’s interstate highway system has been the backbone of our economy. Today, hundreds of thousands of jobs depend on our nation’s transportation system. For Kansas farmers and manufacturers, our nation’s highways and rail system are vital to move and distribute goods to market, and almost every American depends on stable roads and bridges to get where they need to go each day. Despite this, federal transportation funding was set to run out on Friday, July 31.
On Thursday, the Senate passed two pieces of legislation to prevent this lapse in federal transportation funding. The first bill, H.R. 22, represented the first long-term highway reauthorization bill passed by the Senate in nearly a decade. Since 2009, Congress has passed more than 30 short-term patches to the Highway Trust Fund, but H.R. 22 reauthorized transportation programs for six years and provided three years of guaranteed funding without raising taxes or adding to the deficit. This long-term highway reauthorization is critical to providing state and local governments with much-needed certainty in planning infrastructure projects.
Unfortunately, with the House of Representatives having departed for August recess after passing only short-term extensions of highway funding, the Senate was compelled to also bring up and pass H.R. 3236, legislation to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through October 29, 2015. On Friday, this legislation was signed by President Obama, ensuring that the two chambers of Congress will have to work diligently toward a compromise long-term solution this fall. I am hope the House will follow the Senate’s lead and pass a fiscally responsible, multiyear highway bill as soon as possible.
Before heading back to Washington this week, I visited Garmin in Olathe to learn more about their presence in Kansas and what we can do to foster an environment where innovation can flourish and American businesses of all sizes can grow and succeed. Garmin started in 1989 as a small entrepreneurial venture. Today, the company employs about 3,500 people in Olathe and thousands more across the globe designing and manufacturing a range of products – from complex aviation and marine navigation systems to consumer fitness wearables. One of the things that makes Garmin unique is that carries out all stages of product development from concept to market. I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the work that happens here in Kansas. Thanks to CEO Cliff Pemble and Communications Director Ted Gartner for hosting my visit and also to Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland for joining me on the tour.
Supporting our Nation’s Veteran Entrepreneurs
Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act
Last week I introduced the Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act (VET Act). Our veterans face a daunting mission when they separate from service and transition into civilian life—career development and the threat of unemployment. While some veterans will choose to use their GI Bill Benefits to pursue higher education, more often than not these men and women are looking to enter the workforce. The VET Act is a common sense program to offer veterans a choice in accessing resources, training and support to pursue the American Dream to start a small business, create jobs, and generate growth in our economy. The VET Act would start a three-year pilot program through the Small Business Administration for up to 250 eligible veterans who wish to use their educational benefits as a small business grant. In order to receive this grant, veterans would have to complete an SBA approved entrepreneurial training program — such as Boots to Business, Patriot Boot Camp, or the Kauffman foundation’s FastTrac program — where they would receive the training and mentorship needed to be successful in their small business venture. After their business plan had been approved they would receive their GI bill benefit to purchase an already existing small business, become a franchisee, or fund a start-up idea.
Currently, nearly one out of 10 U.S. small businesses are owned by veterans, and there are thousands who aspire to achieve the same goal. Veterans gain unique skills during their time in the service, and many believe those skills would be best utilized by owning and operating a small business. The VET Act is an effective way to expand the opportunities available to our veterans, and I am proud that it was unanimously approved by the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee this Wednesday. I hope it will move swiftly through the full Senate in the near future.
I’m pleased to share a unique opportunity for veterans interested in entrepreneurship. Vets2Ventures is a local, three-day boot camp offered by the University of Missouri-Kansas City Henry Bloch School of Management that helps veterans translate the skills they developed in the military toward success in starting a business. If you are interested in participating in Vets2Ventures, or further pursuing entrepreneurial programs such as Kauffman FastTrac or the startup incubator for veterans The Bunker - Kansas City, click here.
Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act
I am pleased the Senate maintained our commitment to improving the lives of our veterans by passing the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act, legislation I introduced with Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana to help our nations disabled veterans. This legislation will help make certain our nation’s heroes can pursue a career in the federal service and support their families, while also addressing their medical treatment needs. The bill provides first-year federal workers with flexibility to receive the medical care they need without forcing them to take unpaid leave in order to do so. Service-disabled veterans have demonstrated tremendous bravery in their selfless service, and we have a duty to make their civilian life as seamless as possible. I am pleased that the Senate has continued to show it is a top priority by passing the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act.
On Wednesday, I attended a reception celebrating Taiwan’s financial pledge to help fund the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. The event was a special reminder of the enormous impact the Abilene native had not only on our country but on the world. President Eisenhower greatly increased ties between our two countries, an important relationship that continues to this day. Taiwan’s substantial gift advances the prospects of the Memorial being built to honor Ike’s achievements as Supreme Allied Commander of Europe in World War II and as president of the United States. The Memorial will serve as a fitting reminder to Kansans and those across the country and world of the legacy of Kansas’ favorite son.
Kansas Listening Tour Continues
Thanks to everyone who came out to visit and share their thoughts at my Emporia Listening Tour Stop Friday morning. I met with about 60 residents of Lyon County for a town hall meeting at the Trusler Business Center in downtown Emporia. It was good for me to hear the concerns and comments about several important issues facing our state nation, include including VA reform, trade issues, education and the Iranian nuclear agreement. We also discussed presidential authority, rural telecommunications issues and the recent vote to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. Thanks again to Jeanine McKenna and the Emporia Chamber of Commerce for hosting this meeting. Thanks also to State Senator Jeff Longbine and Representative Peggy Mast for joining me, as well as Lyon Co. Commissioner Dan Slater, Emporia Vice-Mayor Rob Gilligan, and City Councilman Jon Geitz.
Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association
On Sunday, I participated in the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association's (KIOGA) 78th annual meeting in Wichita. KIOGA was established in 1937 to promote and improve the economic conditions for the Kansas independent oil industry. I appreciated the opportunity to visit with our state’s independent oil and gas producers about policies taking shape in Congress that affect our national energy policy, their businesses that employ so many Kansans and consumers at the pump.
Farewell Reception at Fort Riley
On Saturday, I attended a Farewell Reception for Major General Paul Funk and Dr. Beth Funk. General Funk has been the Commanding General of the Army’s oldest Division, the Big Red One, since May 2013. He recently returned home from a deployment with roughly 500 soldiers from Fort Riley headquarters, who spent time in the Middle East combating the ISIS regime. Funk has been a vital leader at Fort Riley during his time in command by helping maintain the base as the best place to train in the Army. During his time at Fort Riley, General Funk was instrumental in keeping Big Red One soldiers, Brave, Responsible and On-point. Dr. Beth Funk served on my Service Academy Selection Committee. I wish the Funk family the best as they continue to serve our nation’s military. It has been a privilege to work with the General and Mrs. Funk over the past two years.
Meeting with Girls Nation Representatives
I visited Wednesday afternoon with Hanna Watson of Wichita and Abigail Taylor of Iola, Kansas’s two senators in this year’s Girls Nation program. We had a good discussion on education policy. Girls Nation provides young leaders with an opportunity to experience firsthand how the federal government works. Congratulations to these two impressive young women on their election to Girls Nation. I am certain they will make Kansas proud as they pursue their interests in law, political science, writing and public speaking.
Kansans in the Office
Stanley Sutton of Topeka
Colonel Michael Erwin of Topeka
Michelle Whitman of Topeka
Quentin Miller of Haysville
Alexis Erwin of Topeka
Eric Schmitz of Haysville
Laura Schmitz of Haysville
Brooklyn Schmitz of Haysville
Ayden Schmitz of Haysville
David Pearlman of Roeland Park
Rhonda Pearlman of Roeland Park
Wyatt Pearlman of Roeland Park
Scarlett Pearlman of Roeland Park
Tracy Bearb of Overland Park
Tom Hemmer of Salina
Maggie Hemmer of Salina
Calvin Hemmer of Salina
Brady Hemmer of Salina
James McClain of Bennington
Karen McClain of Bennington
Brianna McClain of Salina
Larry Jarrett of Mulvane
Rebecca Wray-Jarrett of Mulvane
Morgan Jarrett of Mulvane
Dawson Jarrett of Mulvane
Patrik Goss of Salina
Cole Gillman-Goss of Wakeeny
Douglas Bruggeman of Hays
Lacy Bruggeman of Hays
Noah Bruggeman of Hays
John Bruggeman of Hays
John Vosseller of Lyndon
Johnnette Vosseller of Lyndon
Johnna Vosseller of Salina
Jayden Vosseller of Shawnee
Frank Friedman of Leawood
National Council on Independent Living
Roger Frischenmeyer of Hutchinson
Lou Ann Kibbee of Hays
Maureen Phillips of Russell
Shawn Walkers of Valley Center
Ruth Cartagena-Ortiz of Wichita
Evie Curtis of Overland Park
Audrey Schremmer-Phillip of Wamego
Marie Clement of Mayetta
Bob Clement of Mayetta
The Whole Person
Julie DeJean of Topeka
Carol Katzman of Overland Park
Andy Ernstein of Overland Park
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Grace Scott of Hutchinson
National Rural Health Association
Jodi Schmidt of Olathe
Hanna Watson of Wichita
Abigail Taylor of Iola
Andrew Fawcett 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.
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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