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.

Ongoing Investigation into the Safety of U.S. Olympic Athletes
As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce subcommittee with jurisdiction over the health and safety of USA Gymnastics, US Olympic and NCAA athletes, I joined my colleague Sen. Richard Blumenthal in seeking information from the remaining 53 National Governing Bodies (NGB) this week. We are broadening our ongoing investigation and preparing for hearings regarding the reporting failures following reports, including a Wall Street Journal article, which revealed two USOC executives were alerted of possible sexual misconduct by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar a year before he was suspended from treating athletes.  

Last week, Sen. Blumenthal and I sent letters questioning whether USA Gymnastics (USAG) and Michigan State University (MSU) tried to silence gymnasts with non-disclosure agreements and what the US Olympic Committee (USOC) is doing to prevent future atrocities. We requested a response to those inquiries by February 9, 2018. 

The reports indicated that two USOC executives were alerted of possible sexual misconduct about a year before the initial allegations against Dr. Nassar became public in September 2016. This alarming development requires a broader inquiry on the systemic reporting mechanisms in place throughout USOC and associated National Governing Bodies (NGB).

We must be vigilant in making certain no similar atrocities can occur in the future — the brave young women that came forward and suffered at the hands of someone who shouldn’t have been able to see patients deserve nothing less.

The State of the Union
Following every State of the Union address, I’ve always zeroed in on, “did the president talk about things that matter to rural America, things that matter to Kansans?” I appreciated the president’s comments about issues that have an impact on the everyday lives of the American people, such as making much-needed updates to our infrastructure, good-paying jobs, caring for our veterans and putting our national security first.

I was pleased to hear the president emphasize giving veterans real Choice in their health care decisions. We must continue working to make certain our heroes have greater access to the care they deserve and hold the VA accountable.

Additionally, I was encouraged to hear the president speak about a number of important national security priorities and reiterate his commitment to keeping Americans safe from terrorists, including by keeping enemy combatants captured on the battlefield detained at GITMO.

I also remain committed to conveying to the administration that Kansas farmers, ranchers and manufacturers need certainty, rather than the threat of a NAFTA withdrawal. I will urge the president to renegotiate and modernize NAFTA to benefit our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.

On the Importance of NAFTA to Our State
In 2016, Kansas exported more than $4.5 billion worth of agricultural products, which supported more than 36,000 jobs and generated more than $5.7 billion in economic activity. NAFTA supports 14 million jobs, representing thousands of jobs in each of the 50 states.

Along with 35 of my Senate colleagues, I sent a letter to the president this week highlighting how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) benefits the United States and outlining how the agreement can be improved.

Despite all of its benefits, we can do better and there are opportunities to improve the agreement. Modernizing NAFTA to increase market access, expanding energy exports to maximize domestic energy production and including provisions on intellectual property and e-commerce will make this agreement even more beneficial to the United States.

Please click here to view the letter.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association 
At the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual convention this week, I spoke about issues facing cattle producers from across the nation. I used the opportunity to further call on agricultural organizations to continue to be vocal about the importance of trade and the harm that would be done by withdrawing from NAFTA. I spoke about my concerns regarding the potential of losing market share in Japan, our largest beef export destination, due to TPP moving forward without the United States. It’s important for the administration to focus on modernizing NAFTA without doing harm to agriculture markets and to engage other countries, like Japan, in efforts to improve trade relationships. 

I was pleased to help announce during the conference that Sen. Jeff Flake had lifted his hold on Gregg Doud, a native Kansan, nominated to be Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative. I will continue to urge Senate leadership and my colleagues to move forward on Doud’s nomination so he can go to work on behalf of American agriculture in trade negotiations.

At the convention, I also spoke about my efforts to improve livestock disaster programs in the next Farm Bill. Following the fires in southwest Kansas last year, we saw firsthand some of the problems and inadequacies of the existing programs. I introduced legislation that would speed up assistance to producers in the event of disaster for rebuilding fences and increase the level of support for those ranchers who lost hundreds of head of cattle. 

I especially enjoyed the conversations I had with the hundreds of Kansans in attendance and will take back the issues they raised to me as I continue my efforts on behalf of farmers, ranchers and rural America in Washington. 

Continuing My Kansas Listening Tour in Sedgwick and Butler Counties
This week, I hosted townhall meetings in Wichita and El Dorado, where I spoke with nearly 200 Kansans about infrastructure, immigration, ag, trade, NIH and healthcare. I also shared my belief that Congress must get out of the continuing resolution business and back to funding the government through regular order. 

I appreciate all of the Kansans who attended and shared their thoughts with me. Thank you to Wichita City Councilman Pete Meitzner for attending my Wichita townhall. Thank you to Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Susie Carson for arranging my visit to El Dorado, and special thanks to El Dorado Mayor Vince Haines and Butler County Commissioner Mike Wheeler for attending.

Outlining the Benefits of Modernizing Government Technology
In Monday’s special Cybersecurity edition of the Washington Times, I penned an op-ed about my Modernizing Government Technology Act. The MGT Act, which was signed by the president in December of last year, will propel our inefficient, outdated federal IT systems into the 21st century to promote productivity and strengthen cybersecurity. The MGT Act will modernize our IT infrastructure and establish working capital funds in federal agencies to incentivize the replacement of these technological vulnerabilities. Providing this funding flexibility to IT management experts within agencies – with strong built-in oversight by Congress – positions the federal government to effectively and expeditiously upgrade our systems according to the continuously evolving cybersecurity threats at home and around the globe.

In addition, nearly 75 percent of the $80 billion we are spending annually on federal IT systems is going toward maintaining and operating legacy IT rather than making lasting improvements. These improved efficiencies will end that practice and ultimately save billions of taxpayer dollars by reducing long-term spending. As Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, I’m pleased my colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree that IT investment reforms are an important step toward a more efficient, effective and secure government. Please click here to read the column.

Calling for an Investigation into Company Selling Fake Social Media Followers
Following an investigative report into companies that sell fake social media accounts, deceiving clients and consumers alike, I wrote to the Acting Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Maureen Ohlhausen, seeking an investigation into deceptive and fraudulent practices that “have the effect of distorting the online marketplace and creating a false sense of celebrity, credibility, or importance in people, companies, or institutions that may not deserve it.” I urge the FTC to use its authority to protect consumers from what appears to be identity theft, protecting Americans from companies that purport to help clients increase their social media presence while actually selling fake followers and interactions. My Commerce subcommittee has jurisdiction over consumer protection, and I will continue to seek opportunities to make certain the American people aren’t being misled by deceptive online practices. Please click here to read our letter. 

Spending Time with the Manhattan Lions Club
On Saturday, I spent time with members of the Manhattan Lions Club to participate in a biscuits and gravy feed benefitting area charities. Thanks to all those who joined the event and shared their perspectives with me.

Now Accepting Summer Internship Applications
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works. I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today, where I have interns year-round working closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans.

Applications for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for Summer 2018 are due Friday, February 23. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information.

Kansans in the Office

Kickapoo Nation In Kansas
Lester Randall of Horton
Amelia Holmes of Horton
Casey Gormny of Hiawatha

University of Kansas
Doug Girod of Lawrence
James Girod of Roeland
Jack Cline of Lawrence

Council for Opportunity in Education
Kaye Monk-Morgan of Wichita

Kansas Corn Commission
Dennis McNinch of Utica 
Erin Rios of Garnett

Children’s Mercy Hospital
Dallas Polen of Overland Park

Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations
Bruce Lopez of Lawrence

MO/KS Committee to Protect Pensions
Tom Schwarzenberger of Olathe
Cynthia McDaniel of Kansas City
Connie Marascuilo of Kansas City
Jim Mason of Kansas City

Building Owners & Managers Association of Kansas City
David Schecher of Olathe
Steve Moore of Lenexa
Jeannette Vahle of Mission Hills
Sam Alpeat of Kansas City
Melanie Bellinger of Overland Park

National Federation of the Blind
Tom Page of Wichita
Nicole Taylor of Wichita
Renee Morgan of Lawrence
Tom Anderson of Overland Park
Ken Ruda of Overland Park

American Physical Society
Kristan Corwin of Manhattan

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 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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