Kansas Common Sense
Sep 07 2021
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.
Wishing You a Happy Labor Day
Labor Day is a time to celebrate the significant contributions of the American worker and to reflect on the progress our state and country have realized because of the sacrifices of those working to push the economy forward. I hope you were able to spend time with your friends and loved ones yesterday. Happy Labor Day!
The Administration’s Failed Withdrawal from Afghanistan
As the United States transitions from a military mission to a diplomatic mission upon the departure of all military personnel from Afghanistan last Monday, it remains necessary to continue working to protect our nation’s interests there. The Biden administration should spare no effort to evacuate the Americans and Afghans who have assisted our country but were left behind during the chaotic and disastrous withdrawal. My office remains closely engaged with the State Department and others to gain safe passage for those with ties to Kansans. I also expect President Biden to work with allies and partners to ensure the homeland’s safety from any terrorist threat inside Afghanistan, as well as to provide vital humanitarian assistance and to pressure the Taliban to respect human rights. By doing so, we will honor the sacrifices of those who have served in Afghanistan the last 20 years to defend our nation.
Veterans of Afghanistan, Your Service Has Left a Lasting and Unparalleled Impact on This World
Supporting the Veterans of Afghanistan
Following the United States military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan earlier this week, as leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator Jon Tester and I expressed our unyielding support and gratitude in a bipartisan letter to veterans of Afghanistan and their families.
Over the past two decades, veterans, their fellow servicemembers and their families have sacrificed greatly while fulfilling their mission in Afghanistan. As our hearts ache for the future of the Afghan people and for our Afghan allies, we will work to see that this war is ended responsibly. As Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, we want each veteran to know that they not only have our support, but also our admiration and confidence for what they have achieved and what they will go on to achieve for our country. Read the full letter here.
Demanding Answers Regarding U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan
This week, I joined my Senate colleagues in demanding information from President Biden regarding the Americans and allies who were left behind in Afghanistan and on the vetting process for evacuees who are being brought to the United States.
While my colleagues and I may have differing opinions about whether the United States should have maintained a military presence in Afghanistan, we all agree that the arbitrary and poorly-planned method by which the Biden administration withdrew from Afghanistan caused this crisis. We requested thorough, unclassified answers to our questions that can be made available to the general public. The full letter can be found here.
Checking in with Servicemembers and Veterans This National Suicide Prevention Month
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and ensuring servicemembers and veterans have access to mental health resources is more important than ever. For those who may be struggling, click here to be connected with a list of resources provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
This National Suicide Prevention Month and every month, it’s vital that we continue to check in with our servicemembers and veterans, and Fort Riley is leading that charge. Major General Douglas Sims’ “Victory Wellness” program began last year at Fort Riley to provide soldiers time to work on their mental fitness, no matter their rank or position.
Click here to learn more from Stars and Stripes about how Commanding General Sims and Fort Riley are taking initiatives to tackle mental health issues and setting an example as they work to prioritize sevicemembers’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
Combatting Drug Abuse, Violent Crime with DEA SAC Zimmerman and Kansas Law Enforcement
I invited U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Todd Zimmerman to Wichita to visit with local law enforcement. As reports of opioid abuse and overdoses are spiking in Kansas due in large part to the rising use of fentanyl, it will take effective partnerships between all levels of government and law enforcement agencies to reverse this trend.
Our first visit on Tuesday was at the local DEA office where SAC Zimmerman and I met with the Resident Agent in Charge Greg Anderson and Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay to discuss the importance of the partnership between the DEA, Wichita PD and other local law enforcement as they work to combat drug abuse and crack down on violent crime in Kansas.
From there, we went to Wichita State University’s Law Enforcement Training Center, where SAC Zimmerman and I heard from the Wichita Metro Crime Commission about its work to curb opioid abuse and overdose through community outreach and education, like Operation Engage. Operation Engage is a DEA-led, comprehensive law enforcement and prevention initiative aimed at reducing drug use, abuse and overdose deaths. Thank you to Chairman Mike Hill, President Jeff Geoffroy, Vice President Norris Slupianek, Treasurer Marc Ward and Secretary Steve Cohlmia.
Finally, I invited police chiefs, sheriffs and law enforcement leaders from across Kansas to join us for a round table discussion. We discussed how DEA and local departments collaborate across departments and agencies, such as with Task Force Officers who work with the DEA on a daily basis, to disrupt drug trafficking. They provide each other a much needed force multiplier against cartels which are sending drugs like fentanyl throughout the country.
I want to thank SAC Zimmerman for coming to Kansas and for his continued efforts to combat drug trafficking and opioid abuse. I would also like to thank Resident Agent in Charge Greg Anderson, Assistant SAC Rogeana Patterson-King, Public Information Officer for DEA’s St. Louis Division Andree Swanson as well as the Metro Crime Commission and WSU Law Enforcement Training Center for being a part of yesterday’s discussions. As the lead Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the DEA and the Department of Justice, I remain committed to ensuring these individuals have the tools they need to keep our communities safe.
Urging Increased Access to Steel and Aluminum Supplies
This week, I urged Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to take steps to increase American manufacturers’ access to vital world supplies. As our nation’s economy rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, many Kansas manufacturers are struggling to take part in the recovery as the availability of steel and aluminum has plummeted and prices for raw materials have surged. While consumer prices have risen by about 4 percent in the past year, steel prices have risen by nearly 400 percent. I support our nation having a strong and reliable domestic steel and aluminum industry. However, U.S. steel and aluminum producers simply cannot meet the current demand. As the lead Republican on the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, I look forward to working with Secretary Raimondo and Ambassador Tai to provide relief for manufacturers from high prices and shortages in supply of steel and aluminum. The full letter can be found here.
Discussing the Eviction Moratorium and Housing Issues with the Kansas NAHRO Chapter
I was pleased to gather in Salina on Monday with the Kansas Chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) to learn from those in attendance how I can help with housing issues across the state.
Housing is a multifaceted issue that receives attention from a variety of groups including local businesses and chambers of commerce, as well as county and city officials. As a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), I am invested in reducing the regulatory burdens for Kansans working with HUD. We had the opportunity to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision to block the unconstitutional eviction moratorium. This eviction moratorium has upended the livelihoods of landowners, the majority of whom are small business owners with just a few properties. I thank Kansas NAHRO chapter members, including Sheila Barnett, Kansas NAHRO President and Executive Director of Goodland Housing Authority and Bradley Gamber, Executive Director for the Winfield Housing Authority, for the invitation to speak with them this week.
Read more about our conversation from the Salina Journal here.
Joining the Annual McPherson County Farm Bureau Meeting
This week, I joined the annual McPherson County Farm Bureau Meeting where I had the opportunity to speak with farmers, ranchers and community leaders from the area. We spoke about the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan and the tragic deaths of our servicemembers, as well as the importance of supporting Afghans pursuing freedom. We also discussed the importance of rural Midwest values to the success and moral integrity of our country. The sensible and sound judgement that comes from Kansans is important to the country as a whole, and Farm Bureau is an important part of making sure those ideas are shared nationwide. Thank you to President Landon Shaw and County Coordinator Mitz Fawl for letting me speak with you this week.
Update from Washburn President Dr. Jerry Farley
On Wednesday, I met with Dr. Jerry Farley, President of Washburn University, where he provided me with university updates and showed me around the newly completed Indoor Athletic Facility and the new School of Law construction site. These structures bring welcome upgrades to Washburn’s campus, and I was impressed to see the progress of ongoing construction. I am looking forward to seeing the completion for Washburn students and faculty to enjoy. President Farley also provided me with a COVID-19 update, where we discussed how the pandemic is influencing higher education and stressed the importance of getting vaccinated.
Thank you to Dr. Farley for driving the “Bod Mobile” and for his time as Washburn begins a new academic year.
Meeting with Civic Club Members Across Kansas
It was good to be back in Wellington on Tuesday to visit with Rotary club members. I appreciated the opportunity to see the Technology and Innovation Center at Cowley College’s Sumner campus, which offers manufacturing, agricultural studies, computer science and information technology programs.
Our conversation centered around concerns regarding rural health care and the labor shortages affecting communities across Kansas. Wellington lost its hospital in early 2020, and the community has struggled maintaining health care services ever since. I appreciated the Rotarians providing me an update on what life has been like since the hospital’s closure and how they have adapted. Thank you to Jan Grace and the Rotary for allowing me to visit, as well as to Representative Bill Rhiley for attending this discussion.
I met with Rotary members in our state’s capital to discuss the issues important to the Topeka community. We also discussed my work on the Senate VA committee and the need to support our veterans and sevicemembers in whatever way we can. I thank members for their time speaking with me on Wednesday.
On Friday, I visited with members of the Belleville Lions Club. We discussed the increase in calls, texts and chats to the Veterans Crisis Line following the events in Afghanistan. We also discussed rural broadband, as well as the growing concern that some in Congress may seek to change step-up in basis, a tax provision that allows farmers and ranchers to pass land to the next generation without a burdensome tax liability. Any change to this provision will hurt family farms and ranches across Kansas, and I will oppose any efforts to change step-up in basis. Rural America makes our county what it is, and I will continue to work to keep rural Kansas and its special way of life alive.
Participating in Longford Rodeo Parade
Thank you to all the folks I saw in Longford this weekend at the parade. Started in 1955, I enjoyed being a part of this longstanding Kansas community tradition.
Meeting with Yellow Corporation Leadership
This week, I had the opportunity to meet with the leadership team of Yellow Freight CEO Darren Hawkins, President Darrel Harris and Vice President of External Affairs Mike Kelley. During our meeting, we discussed their need for CDL drivers and programs they are instituting to increase the training and hiring of workers. We also discussed my legislation, the Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act. This bill would establish a Women in Trucking Advisory Board to drive new opportunities for women and promote equality for those who are currently working in the trucking Industry. Additionally, we discussed my support of the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act which works to address the driver shortage in the trucking and logistics industry and enhance safety training and job opportunities for young truckers. Thank you to Darren Hawkins and Darrel Harris for hosting me. I look forward to continuing to work on addressing these important issues at the federal level.
Visiting with High School Students in North Central Kansas
Washington County High School and Concordia High School
One aspect of serving Kansans that I enjoy greatly is hearing from and meeting with Kansas students. This week, I visited Concordia Junior-Senior High School and Washington County High School where I received tours from student leaders and learned about their classes and curriculum as they begin a new school year.
I believe having students physically present in classrooms for safe, in-person instruction is vital to help students better develop interpersonal skills and ensure academic growth is not diminished. I commend all students, teachers and faculty for being resilient through this difficult time and am committed to making certain that every Kansan has access to quality educational opportunities.
Thank you to Makenna, Garrett, Kady, Emily and Coy of Washington County High School and to Aiden, Jenna and Ashley of Concordia Junior-Senior High School for showing me around your classrooms and hallways this week. Thank you as well to USD 108 Superintendent Denise O’Dea, Board President Rod Stewart, WCHS Principal Brock Funke, CJSHS Principal Kale Katt and teacher Keaton Snavely for your time.
Visiting Bradbury Company in Moundridge
On Tuesday morning, I stopped into Moundridge to reconnect with Bradbury Company, which began manufacturing roll tooling for customers involved in metal forming in 1959. Their product lines include roll forming equipment, levelers and automated production systems, and they have branches located across the world. Thank you to CEO David Cox for the discussion we had about government policies that impact Bradbury’s capabilities and learning of his support for infrastructure investments.
Visiting Bennington and Hannover
Thank you to everyone I spoke with when I stopped in Bennington this week. My conversations with folks at city hall, the post office, bank, school and local businesses guide the work I do in Washington, D.C, and I appreciate anyone who took time out of their day to speak with me.
I also visited Hanover this week and chatted with people I met at the hardware store, bank, hospital, post office, convenience store and insurance agency. Thank you to everyone who spoke with me in Washington County on your Friday morning.
Wishing Kansans and those around the globe celebrating Rosh Hashanah a healthy and joyful new year.
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.
Newsletter Sign-up Form
Note: Fields marked with an * are required.