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.
Thank you all for your calls, emails and engagement regarding healthcare over the past few weeks. I am still reviewing the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal with my staff, discussing the bill with Kansans and talking to my colleagues about how the latest draft and concepts would impact our state. I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind as conversations continue.
Advancing the National Defense Authorization Act
On Monday, the Senate approved the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes national defense programs and funding in support of the U.S. armed forces. The NDAA is critical legislation that supports servicemembers, civilians and their families who work hard to keep us safe at home and abroad. This legislation will help rebuild our military by prioritizing modernization, enabling the Department of Defense to procure vital equipment and increasing manpower of our active and reserve forces.
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, I’m proud the NDAA includes provisions that support critical housing, infrastructure and facilities for U.S. military forces and their families and increased funding for veterans’ health care and benefits. This bill authorizes critical funding for military construction and VA priorities that reflect the bill passed by my appropriation subcommittee in July to make investments in infrastructure at home and overseas. I will continue working in the years to come to make certain Kansas soldiers and their loved ones benefit from these changes.
The final text of the Senate version of the bill included three amendments I authored:
- The first amendment is my Gary Deloney and John Olsen Toxic Exposure Declassification Act, which would permit veterans to have access to military records regarding their exposure to toxic substances. This will help veterans establish their service-connected conditions and secure a disability rating that makes them eligible to receive the care and benefits they deserve.
- The second amendment is my Modernizing Government Technology Act, which would modernize outdated federal technology, eliminate wasteful spending and strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity measures.
- The third amendment calls for the Department of Defense to support national security innovation and entrepreneurial education programs to benefit the defense sector.
I am pleased that these three amendments were included in the Senate version of the bill, and I hope to see them included in the final bill sent to the president.
Visiting Kansas Midshipmen at the Naval Academy
I spent the lunch hour on Monday with midshipmen from Kansas at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
One of my most special responsibilities as a Senator is nominating Kansas students to military academies; currently, there are 29 Kansans enrolled at the Naval Academy, and I'm proud of how well they represent our state.
Thanks Madeline Ward of Lenexa and Abigail White of Wichita, class of 2018, Richard Zirkle of Jacksonville Beach, class of 2019, Fritz Porter of Neodesha and Ben Powers of Louisburg, class of 2020, and Eric Wilson of Girard, class of 2021, for having lunch and discussing your experience at the Naval Academy with me.
Academy nominations for this year are due this Friday, September 29. If you’re interested in learning more about academy nominations or sending an application, please see here.
Meeting with Major General Martin
On Friday, I met with Major Gen. Joseph F. Martin, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, to discuss my recent visit to Germany, Poland and Afghanistan.
Members of the Dagger Brigade, the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, recently arrived in Poland for a nine-month rotation to provide a manpower boost in Europe on a year-round basis. I’m proud to see Kansans will continue this deterrence mission in Europe. Read more about their mission here.
Celebrating Allen County’s Culture of Health Grant Prize
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – the nation’s largest public health philanthropy – this week awarded Allen County its Culture of Health Prize for the remarkable work being done in the county, including the opening of a new hospital, miles of new biking and hiking trails, and community commitment to engaging in tough issues such as poverty, hunger and homelessness. Thrive Allen County was one of 200 applicants nationwide for this prestigious $25,000 grant.
Thanks to David Toland with Thrive Allen County for inviting me to participate in this event. I look forward to returning soon to hear more about how this grant will impact the community.
Touring Orizon Aerostructures in Chanute
After the grant announcement, I visited Orizon – a major aircraft subassembly manufacturing plant whose products serve commercial, military/defense and general aviation industry needs in Chanute.
We discussed the company's current expansion project, which will bring even more jobs to the community. We also discussed Orizon’s recent announcement regarding a plan to move its manufacturing plant in Missouri to Olathe, bringing additional quality jobs to Kansas.
Thanks to the following community leaders for joining me and sharing their perspectives on the positive impact Orizon has made in Chanute: Mayor Phil Chaney, Chanute Regional Development Authority Director Matt Godinez, Chamber Director Jane Brophy, Community National Bank CEO Dan Mildfelt and President Chad Estes. Thanks to Orizon owners Charlie and Henry Newell for inviting me on this tour.
Visiting a Student Showcase at Yates Center High School
I wrapped up my day in southeast Kansas with a great visit to Yates Center High School. A group of impressive students showcased their school to me while sharing their personal educational experiences and the value they are gaining from their studies.
Thanks to Braydon Gaulding, Colin Bedell, Dalton Brittain, Allison Pringle, Carli Masiarczyk, Josh King, Kobe Forsyth and Jordan Smith for spending part of their school day with me.
Surprising Dr. Flinchbaugh’s class at K-State
I made a surprise visit to Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh’s agriculture policy class at Kansas State University – my sixth surprise visit during my time in the Senate. Dr. Flinchbaugh is a leading authority in agriculture policy and has assisted in the development of every farm bill since 1968.
Every year, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with his students about the Senate’s role in agriculture. The success of agriculture and our ability to feed the nation and the world is crucial for the next generation, and it's great to know that many of our nation's agriculture leaders start right here in this classroom.
Taking Healthcare Questions from K-State Students
Prior to visiting Dr. Flinchbaugh’s class, I enjoyed meeting passionate K-State students who had insightful questions and perspectives to share about our healthcare system. Those in attendance included several members of RESULTS, who have visited with me in Washington as well.
Completing my Annual Kansas Conservation Tour
I spent time in Riley, Wabunsee, Geary and Pottawatomie Counties this week meeting with farmers, ranchers and many representatives of some of our state’s agricultural and natural resource associations during my Conservation Tour, an event I have held frequently since beginning my time in Congress. Conservation Tour gives me the opportunity to learn more about ongoing conservation efforts across the state, including water and soil conservation, grassland prairie preservation and river sustainability, and a variety of practices important to the Kansas agriculture industry.
This was my 12th Conservation Tour and this year we highlighted efforts supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as private landowner stewardship practices.
We began the day with a discussion of the conservation efforts of Colbert Hills Golf Course in Manhattan, where landscape maintenance and preservation are essential to their success, and learned more about how golf courses throughout the country prioritize environmentally-conscious land management.
Our group then journeyed to Tuttle Creek, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Nature Conservancy briefed us on their ongoing efforts to improve reservoir management through the Sustainable Rivers Program, which is utilized nationwide.
From Tuttle Creek we moved on to Dibben Farms in Junction City, where father-son owners Craig and Brandon Dibben talked us through how their usage of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has allowed them to install a sub-surface drip irrigation system, increasing crop yields and improving water conservation.
Over the lunch hour, we visited Moyer Ranch in the Flint Hills, where owner Rod Moyer and his wife, Dara, shared his efforts to secure a conservation easement for the 6,700 acre ranch, making certain it will remain a working cattle ranch, protecting the native species living on the property and even helping to lessen the chances that the important work being done at Fort Riley nearby is inhibited by the concerns of private landowners during training exercises. We also discussed the importance of seasonal burning to prevent the spread of sericea lespedeza, which has become a growing threat for many Kansas landowers.
We concluded our tour at Downey Ranch in Alma, where Joe Downey and his wife, Barb, gave us an up-close look at their controlled burning practices to preserve the Flint Hills ecosystem from the sericea lespedeza.
Thanks to USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Acting Chief Leonard Jordan for joining me on this tour and to all who participated in sharing their best practices and learning from one another.
Speaking at the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce
Friday morning, I was the featured speaker at an Overland Park Chamber of Commerce Breakfast on numerous issues that impact the local business community. We discussed several topics, including healthcare and NIH, tax reform, our nation’s infrastructure and immigration, and I took questions from Chamber members.
Thank you to all who attended the breakfast and to Celia Fritz-Watson for helping organize this event. I appreciate the input attendees shared with me on issues important to the Kansas business community.
Sending a Letter to the FTC Regarding Recent Hurricanes
Americans from across the nation have come together to provide support and aid for victims of recent hurricanes; in these times, I am encouraged by the compassion shown by everyday people who want to make a difference.
Unfortunately, natural disasters like these provide an opportunity for scam artists to take advantage of the goodwill and compassion of citizens and victims. American consumers lose money to these deceptive and heinous practices each year.
As the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, I joined my Senate Commerce Committee colleagues in urging the FTC to remain vigilant in its efforts to protect American consumers from fraud and scams that may arise in the aftermath of these storms. Read the full letter here.
Kansans in the Office
Advocates for Youth
Tracia Banuelos of Wichita
Susan Metzger of Manhattan
HOSA Future Health Professionals
Lisa Stouffer of Kansas City
Rachel Ruiz of Pittsburg
Sadie Revell of Winfield
Start Perez of Pittsburg
University of Kansas Health System
Dr. David Wild of Leawood
Kenny Wilk of Basehor
Johnson County Developmental Supports
Lori Feldkamp of Manhattan
Lara McGrew of Arkansas City
Tim Cunningham of Chanute
Chad VonAhnen of Overland Park
Kidney Community Advocacy Day
Nicole Harr of Overland Park
Americans for Tax Reform
Tom Stouble of Salina
National Bison Association
Dick Gehring of Moundridge
Larry Schmidt of Hays
Derek Tamson of Wichita
Kate Tamson of Wichita
Bob Lovell of Kansas City
Dottie Lovell of Kansas City
Janelle Morel of Norton
LeAnn Hansen of Wichita
Arlo Unruh of Galva
O.J. Aviks of Wichita
Debbie Aviks of Wichita
Denise Scott of Topeka
Lt. Col. Deb Balentine of Wichita
Lt. Col. Michell Neugent of Wichita
Maj. James Bilby of Derby
Capt. Darral Garner of Derby
Bob Monroe of Overland Park
Katherine Monroe of Leawood
Jacqueline Ehler of Lenexa
Ron Neugent of Wichita
Michelle Neugent of Wichita
Natalie Neugent of Wichita
Luke Neugent 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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