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.
New Beginnings on Capitol Hill
Tomorrow, the 114th Congress will convene and the new Senators will be sworn into office. For the first time in eight years, the Senate will have a Republican Majority. You can expect to see the Senate return to a state of “regular order” in which committees function, amendments are considered, and votes are cast in support or opposition of legislation. This has not been the norm in Washington for some time and the political process has suffered as a result. I look forward to this better functioning Senate and the opportunity to provide every Kansan a strong and clear voice in our nation’s capital.
Kansas Listening Tour Continues
This week, I continued my Kansas Listening Tour with six stops in Pawnee, Hodgeman, Ness, Brown, Scott and Lane Counties. The issues I focus on and work I do in Washington, D.C., are largely based on the conversations I have with Kansans so making certain I make it back home to visit with folks is my top priority. You can visit my website for upcoming Kansas Listening Tour stops in your community.
On Monday morning, about 40 Pawnee County residents came by Burdett Senior Center to share their thoughts and concerns with me on topics including agriculture, rural healthcare, education, and the importance of a functioning U.S. Senate. Thanks again to Mitch Rucker, a former intern in my Washington, D.C. office, for the kind introduction. It was good to see so many familiar faces in Burdett today, a community I’ve represented since I was first elected to the Kansas State Senate. I ran into Anne Graner of Larned, Stan Finger of the The Wichita Eagle – who was home for Christmas and in attendance with his mom – and Craig Schartz. As always, the potluck lunch at the Burdett Senior Center was delicious. Thanks again to everyone who came out to visit with me.
From Burdett, I headed to Hodgeman County where about 25 residents came the King Center in Jetmore for my town hall meeting. Topics included hopes that the new Congress will tackle tax reform, the lesser prairie chicken, overreach by the EPA, executive orders and rural healthcare. It was good to see everyone who took the time to visit with me, including State Representative John Ewy, Hodgeman County Commissioner Marsha Ewy, and Kansas State Fair Board Member Harmon Bliss. Thanks again to Former State Senator Larry Salmans for the kind introduction, and to City Clerk Deb McKivergan for helping organize the town hall.
I ended the day Monday in Ness City at my Ness County Courthouse Listening Tour stop. Attendees shared concerns about the postal service and the ability for veterans to access the care and services they deserve. It was good to see Ness County Commissioner Fred Flax and Gary Foos of the Kansas American Legion. Also in attendance was Steve Phelps, past VFW state commander.
On Friday, I kicked off my first Kansas Listening Tour stop of the year in Scott City. I was asked a number of questions and given feedback about trade with Cuba, rural health care and Farm Bill implementation. Thanks to Scott County Hospital CEO Mark Burnett for hosting the event, as well as State Senator Mitch Holmes, State Representative Don Hineman, Scott County Commissioner Jim Minnix and Kansas Wheat Commissioner Richard Randall for attending.
On Wednesday, I closed the year in Fairview with my final town hall meeting of 2014 at the Community Building - my 74th this year. Thanks to the 35 residents of Brown County who attended to visit and offer their ideas and suggestions as I prepare to return to Washington this January for a new session of Congress. Topics of discussion ranged from hopes for a fully functioning Senate, the importance of passing a budget to our nation’s fiscal health, Veterans issues and the Farm Bill. Thanks again to Joann Keim for helping to organize my visit.
From Scott City, I headed to Lane County. In Dighton, area residents shared feedback and concerns about a number of issues including the omnibus vote and the future water needs of our state. Thanks to State Senator Mitch Holmes, former State Representative Max Moomaw and Lane County Commissioner Jon Risley for attending.
I appreciate these opportunities to hear from Kansans. I have an upcoming Listening Tour stop on Tuesday in Lenexa at Fire Station #3. You can find out more about these town hall meetings in the sidebar of this newsletter. As I continue to schedule Listening Tour stops, I look forward to hearing from folks across the state.
Meeting with Kansas Conservation Experts
On Saturday, representatives from Kansas Wildlife Federation, Ranchland Trust of Kansas, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the Kansas Land Trust and I met to discuss a number of issues that impact Kansans. Our discussion centered around the Farm Bill conservation title funding, conservation easement donation tax incentives, federal agency conservation budgets, Land and Water Conservation Fund Reauthorization, North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Lesser Prairie Chicken Recovery.
It is critical for me to hear directly from Kansans about the impact and implementation of these policies. Hopefully, we can work together to make certain farmers and ranchers may continue farming and ranching practices while conserving Kansas' natural resources for the next generation. Thanks to Rob Manes with The Nature Conservancy for helping to organize this productive discussion.
Rooting on the Shockers
It was great to cheer the Wichita State Men's Basketball Team on to victory on Sunday. Here, Robba and I are pictured with Wichita State University President John Bardo, National Institute for Aviation Research Director John Tomblin and Wichita State University Executive Director of Government Relations Andy Schlapp.
Kansas Leads the Nation in Teenage Volunteerism
The special way of life we live in Kansas would not be possible without Kansans committed to giving back to improve their own communities. A great example of this service is the tremendous effort of Kansas teenagers volunteering at home. According to the most recent “Volunteering and Civic Life in America” study by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship, more Kansas teenagers volunteer actively in their communities than in any other state. This study notes that nearly 41 percent of Kansas teens volunteered between 2011 and 2013, the highest rate in the country. Furthermore, two-thirds of Kansans of all ages engaged in “informal volunteering,” such as assisting a neighbor, and more than 36 percent of Kansans formally volunteered through an organization. It is inspiring to highlight acts of kindness and selflessness, especially during the holiday season, and I commend all the Kansans that volunteer in our communities and the parents, teachers, friends, and family members that set shining examples of service to others in our state. This commitment to service enriches our own homes and strengthens our nation.
On Friday between listening tour stops in Western Kansas, I stopped in Healy to visit with local residents. I received updates from folks at the Healy Oil Company, Sharp Brothers Seed, the post office, First State Bank of Healy and Sharp’s Shooting Supply.
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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