Kansas Common Sense
Jun 26 2017
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Closely Reviewing the Senate Healthcare Discussion Draft
Healthcare is one of the most important issues facing individuals and families across Kansas. I was not and am not for Obamacare and have seen firsthand the negative impact the law has had on too many Kansans. I was the first member of Congress to offer legislation to repeal the burdensome law and we must make certain it is replaced with a plan that improves the opportunities for Americans and Kansans to access affordable and quality healthcare. I will fully review this legislation to gain a complete understanding of the impacts and consequences this bill would have on hardworking Kansans. If this bill isn’t good for Kansas, it isn’t good for me. Please click here for a video of my take on the bill. Text of the draft legislation can be found here.
I joined Maria Bartiromo on Fox News Sunday morning to discuss the Senate healthcare bill and what I am looking for as I continue to do a full review of this legislation. Please watch our conversation here.
Questioning Secretary Shulkin on the VA Budget and Choice Program Shortfall
As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, I convened a hearing on Wednesday to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. I appreciated Secretary Shulkin’s candor regarding the VA’s current, urgent challenges in continuing to offer veterans access to care through the Veterans Choice Program. Unfortunately, the secretary confirmed many of my fears and concerns – the VA has been unable to forecast the demand for the Choice program, and now the Choice fund is running low, putting the future of community care at risk. There is no doubt demand is high among veterans for community care, and the Choice program is critical to meeting the needs of our nation’s heroes. Several Senate colleagues joined me in calling on the VA the share more detailed information regarding the Choice Program funding and the current shortfall in a letter on Thursday – we need to fully understand the VA’s struggle to adequately budget community care in the future. I will continue to press the VA as we work toward preserving the Veterans Choice Program and making certain those who have served have access to timely, quality healthcare. Please click here to watch video of our discussion.
Supporting VA Accountability Legislation Becoming Law
On his first day in office, I called on President Trump to make increasing accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs a priority of his presidency. I am pleased that on Friday he signed into law the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, legislation I led in the Senate to make certain the VA has the tools needed to hold bad actors accountable. In Kansas we’ve seen one of the worst cases of wrongdoing and criminal behavior at the VA, where a VA employee who abused veterans was permitted to voluntarily retire and collect the same retirement benefits that hardworking VA employees who honorably serve veterans receive.
We must make certain this kind of injustice never happens again and that those who use their positions to harm veterans are held accountable. This new law includes a provision that I spearheaded to prevent future cases like what we have tragically seen in Kansas by putting in place strong consequences for VA employees and their benefits when they commit felony crimes against veterans. VA employees who work hard to serve also deserve protections from bad actors who do not share their commitment to doing what is in the best interest of veterans. The secretary of the department will now have more authority to rid the VA of those individuals and I hope this law will help put the VA on a path to being an agency worthy of the veterans it was created to serve.
Pushing the FCC to Expand Broadband Access in Rural America
I joined my colleague Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move forward with implementing the Remote Areas Fund (RAF). This fund is intended to appropriately target limited federal resources toward the most difficult-to-serve areas in our state that are still without access to broadband. Millions of rural Americans in Kansas and many other states depend on the promise of federally incentivized broadband buildout efforts. As we work to close the “digital divide,” the federal government must prioritize investments that are critical to rural economic development and competitiveness.
Advocating for NIH Funding
I questioned Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr. Francis Collins in a hearing to examine the NIH’s budget on Thursday morning. My questions for him focused on research pursuits and how these will help future generations – we need to figure out what programs, what research, and what institute would be most beneficial to helping find cures and treatments for patients throughout the United States. The NIH is at the forefront of finding groundbreaking cures, and providing adequate and sustained funding will allow them to continue this important research. My thanks to Dr. Collins for his commitment to this cause.
Spending Time with Aviation Leaders in Wichita and Manhattan
I joined a group of aviation community leaders in Wichita on Friday afternoon at Eisenhower National Airport for a discussion about ways the FAA reauthorization bill introduced in the Senate this week will aid our aviation community and the damage that could be done by proposals to privatize our Air Traffic Control system. My thanks to Wichita Airport Authority Director of Airports Victor White for arranging our visit, which included a tour of the control tower, a behind the scenes look at the baggage system and time spent in the terminal. Appreciate all who joined our conversation, including representatives of Global Parts Aero, Midcontinental Instruments and Avionics, Greteman Group, Bombardier Learjet, Flight Safety International, the Greater Wichita Partnership and the Wichita Regional Chamber, along with the air traffic control employees who spent time with me.
On Saturday morning, I toured Manhattan Regional Airport at the invitation of Mayor Usha Reddi and Airport Manager Jesse Romo. They share the concerns of those I heard from in Wichita on Friday with proposals to privatize our Air Traffic Control system, which would harm all but our largest airports. Thanks to all the staff who spoke with me and led my tour.
Speaking at the National Teachers Hall of Fame Reception
I attended the reception for the 2017 National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF) induction ceremony in Emporia on Friday afternoon. Each year, the NTHF inducts five teachers who are deemed to be among the most outstanding in the nation in to the Hall of Fame. The NTHF is located on the campus of Emporia State University (ESU), and was founded in 1989 by the University, the ESU Alumni Association, the City of Emporia, USD 253 and the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce to honor exceptional teachers throughout our nation.
The 2017 inductees are:
- Ashli Skura Dreher, Special Education Teacher, Youngstown, NY
- Jonathan Gillentine, Early Learning Resource Teacher, Honolulu, HI
- Matinga Ragatz, Social Studies Teacher, Grand Ledge, Michigan
- Joseph D. Ruhl, Science Teacher, Lafayette, Indiana
- Bob Williams, Math Teacher, Palmer, Alaska
It was a pleasure to visit with supporters of the NTHF and visit with this year’s inductees. Educators have one of the most important professions in our society. They work round-the-clock on behalf of the kids they instruct. They take on a job that requires more hours than there are in the day because they believe in their students and because they know how crucial their efforts are in seeing these students succeed. I believe the efforts of Kansas educators help to change the world one person at a time.
During the reception, I had the opportunity to provide an update to attendees on the status of legislation I introduced in the Senate to designate the National Memorial to Fallen Educators as a national memorial. The Memorial to Fallen Educators is located on the ESU campus in conjunction with the NTHF. The memorial lists the names of educators since 1764 who have lost their lives while working with students. It was built and paid for through donations, and was dedicated in June 2014.
Unfortunately, far too many educators have lost their lives in the line of their professional duty. The 119 fallen educators whose names are etched in marble taught in schools across the country. As a nation, we should recognize together the incredible sacrifices they each made because of their dedication to educating young people.
Legislation I introduced – the National Memorial to Fallen Educators Act – was recently approved by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, clearing the way for consideration by the full Senate. This legislation has no cost to the taxpayer and private funds will be used to maintain the memorial. It simply brings the site – the only one in the United States dedicated to fallen educators – the national prestige it merits. I will continue to advocate for my colleagues to join me in supporting this worthy tribute.
Visiting with Kansas Honor Flight Veterans
At the Korean War Veterans Memorial on Thursday, I had the honor of meeting American heroes traveling to Washington, D.C. as part of a Kansas Honor Flight. Our veterans provide all Americans the opportunity to live in a free and democratic society. Freedom is not free and it was a pleasure to visit with these veterans at the memorials built in their honor. My thanks to all who attended and to the chaperones who accompanied them.
Meeting Kansas Students from Frankfort
I met with a group of bright students from Frankfort High School on the steps of the United States Capitol on Wednesday. I enjoyed hearing the students and teachers share their love for small town communities like Frankfort and many others in the rural part of our state. I look forward to witnessing the successful endeavors of these students – my thanks to all who assisted in arranging their visit.
Welcoming Alan Jackson at the Kicker Country Stampede
I had the honor of welcoming legendary county music star Alan Jackson at the Country Stampede in Manhattan on Saturday evening. I appreciating hearing from so many of the Kansans in attendance, not only about their love for the musical guests we all enjoying hearing, but also about a number of the issues they’re passionate about that are being impacted by policy in Washington, D.C.
Kansans in the Office
State Treasurer of Kansas
Jake LaTurner of Pittsburg
Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association
John Federico of Topeka
MidAmerican Teachers of English Speakers of Other Languages
Adrienne Johnson of Kansas City
Michael Guffey of Overland Park
Yehoshua Othniel of Independence
Karen Siebert of Kansas City
Kansas Soybean Commission
Dennis Gruenbacher of Andale
Lance Rezac of Onaga
Craig Gogstad of Valley Falls
Dennis Hupe of Topeka
American Veterinary Medical Association
Michael Whitehair of Abilene
Kansas Optometric Association
Todd Fleischer of Topeka
Cliff Holt of Shawnee
Julie Toon of Wichita
Seth Thibault of Pratt
North American Die Casting Association
Bill Hiegel of Prescott
Steve Kennard of Olathe
The Nature Conservancy
Rob Manes of Topeka
Kelly Harrison of Lawrence
Tanja Harrison of Lawrence
Dale Trott of Lenexa
Jenny Trucano Muller of Lawrence
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas
Sunee Mickle of Lawrence
Andy Corbin of Auburn
Financial Planning Association
Martin Seay of Manhattan
Meredith Sleichter of Abilene
Emily Miller of Abilene
Blue Valley Telecommunication
Terry Force of Wheaton
Printing Industries of America, Independent Packaging Association, Fibre Box Association
Tony Schleich of Hutchinson
Mortgage Banker Association
Jason Peters of Overland Park
AW Pickel of Olathe
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Brice Edward Custer of Hays
American Optometric Association
Kendall Krug of Hays
Katrina Hess of Hays
National Association for Fixed Annuities
Randy Matzke of Topeka
Kevin Mechtley of Shawnee
Jason Robbins of Overland Park
David Wolfe of Lawrence
Financial Planning Association
Martin Seay of Manhattan
Kimberly Bridges of Leawood
Kansas State Association of Letter Carriers
Michael Kitchen of Tonganoxie
Kimberly Kitchen of Tonganoxie
Dax Kitchen of Tonganoxie
Brenda Kitchen of Overland Park
Robert Kitchen of Tonganoxie
Twyla Kitchen of Tonganoxie
Donna Adams of Tonganoxie
Roger Sparks of Salina
Lee Ann Sparks of Salina
Jeff McManus of Independence
Jennifer McManus of Independence
Jasmine McManus of Independence
Sabrina McManus of Independence
Madison McManus of Independence
Sam Emerson of Manhattan
Emily Emerson of Manhattan
Ron Chitty of Gypsum
Trina Chitty of Gypsum
Maggie Chitty of Gypsum
Molly Chitty of Gypsum
Doug Spencer of Overland Park
Karen Spencer of Overland Park
Katherine Spencer of Overland Park
Rachel Spencer of Overland Park
Seth Thibault of Pratt
Chanielle Thibault of Pratt
Quinn Thibault of Pratt
Levi Thibault of Pratt
Michael Davenport of Overland Park
Lindsay Davenport of Overland Park
Anna Davenport of Overland Park
Burke Davenport of Overland Park
Craig Newland of Parsons
Maxwell Newland of Parsons
Rachel Newland of Parsons
Mark Fritze of Andover
Melinda Fritze of Andover
Rosa Mitchell of Elkhart
Randy Dick of Rossville
Karen Dick of Rossville
Hailey Dick of Rossville
CJ Marple of Burlingame
Dustin Dick of Silver Lake
Angela Dick of Silver Lake
Aubrey Dick of Silver Lake
Melissa Horgan of Rossville
Courtney Horgan of Rossville
Madison Horgan of Rossville
Brooklyn Horgan of Rossville
Cael Horgan of Rossville
Derek Dick of Rossville
Kimberlee Dick of Rossville
Rylee Dick of Rossville
Logan Dick of Rossville
Karsyn Dick of Rossville
Dalen Dick of Rossville
Paul Christman of Pittsburg
Amy Christman of Pittsburg
Jacob Christman of Pittsburg
Jesse Christman of Pittsburg
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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