Kansas Common Sense
Jun 01 2020
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.
Calling for Justice
Whoever the victim and whoever the perpetrator, brutality and unjust killing must be recognized as evil worthy of condemnation. The actions that killed George Floyd were deeply disturbing and wrong, and those involved must be held accountable.
Sadly, the ability to say that this is a rare or unusual circumstance in our country does not exist, and Americans cannot look the other way. We must speak out against what happened and call for justice, and do so in a way that does not result in additional violence against our communities and their citizens.
This weekend, I spoke with Kansas law enforcement officials and they strongly agreed the actions by the police officers in Minneapolis were unacceptable and do not represent the values of the men and women who serve in law enforcement.
We must strive harder to further our nation’s pledge: One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.
Helping Distribute Food to Kansans
Helping Distribute School Lunch Program Meals at Hays High School
Schools across Kansas make sure students are fed while they are at school, and during this pandemic, many schools have received waivers from USDA to adjust to drive-thru meal distribution and make other service changes to make certain the kids in their communities continue to receive nutritious meals. On Wednesday, I joined Hays High School to help distribute meals to students.
Throughout COVID-19, it’s important that the nutritional needs of young people who rely on the school lunch program are being met. I am pleased to see so many districts in our state step up to make sure their students continue to have access to nutritional food. Thank you to Superintendent Ron Wilson and Director of Nutritional Services Jessica Younker for the opportunity to help today, and the many dedicated staff members of USD 489 and all Kansas schools for your dedication to keeping this critical program operating.
Visiting Wichita’s Our Daily Bread Food Pantry
On Thursday, I visited Our Daily Bread Food Pantry in Wichita to learn more about their operation and to help with food distribution. Our Daily Bread is funded by Catholic Charities of Wichita, and I want to thank their leadership team, including Mary Beth Chambers, LeAnne Miller and Joe Seitz, for the informative tour and conversation. Kansas food banks have seen a drastic influx in Kansans seeking food assistance due to COVID-19, and it was reassuring to hear that funding from the CARES Act helped meet the 40 percent increase in demand for the Wichita area. A special thanks to the volunteers at Our Daily Bread who work hard to help fellow Kansans during these difficult times.
As co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus and a member of the appropriations subcommittee that provides resources to the USDA, I recognize the importance of food banks in Kansas. During this pandemic, I have worked with the USDA and my Senate colleagues to make certain relief was distributed quickly to food banks across the country in this time of need, and I look forward to continuing to work with Kansas food banks to help them continue meeting the increased demand.
America Has Launched!
The successful launch of the Falon 9 and Dragon Endeavour Spacecraft on Saturday was made possible by the hard work of NASA, SpaceX, Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, and thousands of others.
This weekend, I spoke with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to congratulate him on the successful launch of American astronauts from American soil for the first time since 2011. This achievement is another step forward down the path of exploration, and I look forward to our next great accomplishment that will lead us to the moon and someday even farther.
I watched liftoff during a hiking break at the Konza Prairie Nature Trail with Trevor McKeeman, local entrepreneur and founder of Hitch Pin, a company focused on connecting farmers with products and services.
Click here to watch NASA and SpaceX’s historic launch or visit NASA’s YouTube page for additional videos.
A Special Message to 2020 Graduates
I teamed up with Kansan and NASA Astronaut Nick Hague to send graduates a special congratulations message. This year’s graduates have persevered through a difficult semester unlike any other, and I’m proud of their hard work and success. Take a moment to listen to Astronaut Hague’s advice here or by clicking below.
Recognizing A Hero in Leavenworth
U.S. Army Master Sergeant David Royer’s remarkable act of bravery saved countless lives on Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth on Wednesday. His selfless act of heroism stopped an active shooter who was indiscriminately targeting passing cars on the bridge. I had the honor of speaking to Sgt. Royer this week to thank him for taking action and saving others from harm.
Read more about his act of bravery here in the Leavenworth Times.
Coronavirus Update: Connecting with Kansans
As we mark the beginning of summer, please take precautions to keep you and your families safe, and please call your primary care physician if you are experiencing symptoms related to the coronavirus. It is important as individuals we each take a personal responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve, including washing our hands regularly, avoiding touching our face, sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of our elbow and disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible. Please also remember to social distance by staying six feet apart from people outside of your home.
Tour Envision’s Manufacturing Facility
On Thursday, I visited Envision Inc.’s manufacturing facility which offers meaningful employment to more than 250 visually impaired Kansans. Under normal circumstances, Envision employees provide high quality products to our veterans and military members. However, throughout this pandemic, Envision has stepped forward to manufacture urgently needed PPE, including cloth masks and hand sanitizer dispensers, which I am especially proud to see. Thank you to CEO Michael Monteferrante, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing Buddy Sell, Executive Director of Workforce Innovation Joel Leftwich and Plant Manager Margie Bradley for taking time out of their busy schedules to provide the informative tour.
Discussing the Need for Rural Broadband with KSN
COVID-19 has illustrated how important access to broadband is in rural areas for sustaining the way we work and live. While progress has been made, this pandemic has shown it is still insufficient to meet the needs of Kansans. Whether students taking classes, people working from home or someone trying to join a video conference, lack of broadband hinders our ability to learn, work and connect. Hear more about rural broadband in Kansas here in KSN.
Joining RFD-TV and Phillips County's The Tadpoll Episode
This week, I joined RFD-TV to discuss meatpacking plants, my legislation to help small packers and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to provide relief to farmers and ranchers. I also joined Tad Felt's live episode of The Tadpoll (starting at 17:00) hosted out of Phillipsburg to discuss reopening Kansas, the availability of testing and the potential for a vaccine, federal relief resources and how the federal government cannot continue to support this level of spending.
Speaking at An American Farm Bureau Federation Meeting
On Wednesday, I joined the American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall and state presidents to discuss the state of agriculture during the COVID-19 crisis. Our producers and ranchers continue to face tough economic circumstances. In an effort to increase support for those who supply the nation with food and our essential workforce, I introduced the Small Packer Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief COVID-19 Act to support small meatpacking plants that are operating longer hours during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our supply chain moving. This legislation will reduce inspection costs for small and local meat processors that have supported the increased demand for processing amidst this pandemic. I look forward to continue working with the AFBF and other agriculture groups to ensure Americans will continue to have access to food. Thank you to President Duvall for allowing me to speak with AFBF members.
Joining KWCH to Discuss Reopening Kansas
When it comes to reopening our economy, Kansas is not New York and Johnson City is not Johnson County. Decisions need to be made locally and people must feel secure in their health so they can return to work and our economy can recover. Read more about my conversation here in KWCH.
Presenting to the Ottawa Rotary Club
On Tuesday, I was pleased to join the Ottawa Rotary Club to give them an update on the federal response to COVID-19. Our conversation was focused on Paycheck Protection Program loans, funding for the Ottawa Airport, as well as other portions of the CARES Act relief funding that helped Ottawa. My fellow Rotarians had new ideas for the Senate to consider as Congress reconvenes to discuss future coronavirus relief efforts. Thank you to Club President Katie Butts and all the Ottawa Rotarians who participated on the call.
Meeting with the Leawood Chamber of Commerce
On Tuesday, I joined the Leawood Chamber of Commerce for a discussion on federal efforts related to COVID-19. Over the past several months, small businesses have faced a number of challenges due to coronavirus, but it was reassuring to hear from the chamber members how the Paycheck Protection Program was helping. We also discussed the road to reopening Kansas and the availability of testing and PPE. This pandemic has shown high speed internet is critical for businesses, school, and staying connected to our friends and loved ones, and I will continue to advocate for broadband access to those areas that are underserved across Kansas. Special thank you to Chamber President Kevin Jefferies and Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn for hosting this important discussion.
Joining the El Dorado Rotary Club
I spoke with the El Dorado Rotary Club during a video conference call to share an update on federal resources provided to combat COVID-19. Our conversation focused on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that provides loans to small businesses to keep them open during this time. I received good feedback on the success of the PPP in El Dorado. I appreciate everyone who joined the called and shared their ideas and advice on ways we can continue to help Kansas communities during this pandemic.
Discussing the Aviation Industry with the Sunrise Rotary Club of West Sedgwick County
On Thursday, I joined the Sunrise Rotary Club of West Sedgwick County bright and early for an online meeting to discuss federal relief efforts during COVID-19. We discussed the importance of defense work for Wichita’s aviation industry, including the Space Force, recent federal grants to the Eisenhower National Airport, private industry stepping up to meet testing demand, the potential for a COVID-19 vaccine by October and the importance of investing in public health care at the local level. Thank you to Rotary President Matt Byrum for the invitation and Pat Gallagher for the introduction.
Meeting with the Olathe Chamber of Commerce
On Friday, I met with the Olathe Chamber of Commerce for a discussion of federal COVID-19 relief and answer questions. We discussed improvements needed for the Paycheck Protection Program, the potential of a Phase IV federal relief package and the importance of supporting infrastructure, which supports the economy by meeting transportation needs and creating jobs. Thank you to President Tim McKee and Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland for inviting me to join your meeting.
Joining Goodland Rotary Club
I met with members of the Goodland Rotary Club to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on rural Kansas, the impact the virus and shutdowns are having on agriculture and the need to provide a safe way for students to return to school in the fall. A major part of reopening schools is access to widespread testing so parents can feel safe sending their children to school. I appreciate everyone who joined the call and offered feedback on the Paycheck Protection Program and ideas on how to support rural Kansas during this time. Thank you to President Sami Windle for the invitation to join Friday’s program.
Connecting with Kansas Law Enforcement
On Saturday, I hosted a meeting with the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police and the Kansas Sheriffs' Association to hear what they are facing while responding to COVID-19, what they experience daily while working to keep our communities safe and discuss federal grants that support their work. These firsthand accounts are valuable to my work in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Kansans.
Our law enforcement officers continue to show up for work every day during this pandemic despite the added risk of contracting COVID-19, and Congress must continue to support their mission. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, I will remain steadfast in my efforts to provide our law enforcement professionals with the resources and tools they need to protect Kansans and our communities.
During the meeting we discussed the brutal death of George Floyd and the law enforcement officials on the call expressed that the actions by the police officers in Minneapolis were unacceptable and do not represent the values of the men and women who serve in law enforcement.
Speaking with Ambassador Lighthizer
On Friday, I spoke with United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Robert Lighthizer. We discussed the current trade situation with China, including purchases of American products being made by the Chinese. Ambassador Lighthizer told me that China has significantly increased their purchases of US products since February, and he is confident that China will continue to increase their purchases this year. I told Ambassador Lighthizer about the importance of agricultural trade to Kansas and that I will continue to urge the administration to improve markets for our agricultural products.
I also asked Ambassador Lighthizer to work to resolve the ongoing dispute between the US and the European Union (EU) regarding civil aircraft subsidization. Thousands of skilled aerospace manufacturing workers have been laid off or furloughed since the beginning of the year due to the grounding of the 737 MAX and the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing dispute with EU will add another burden to an already suffering industry that is integral to the US. Ambassador Lighthizer was optimistic about the prospects of resolving this conflict and believes that a resolution would help the flow of trade in the aerospace sector. As the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds USTR, I will continue to work with Ambassador Lighthizer to increase and improve trade markets for our products.
Lawrence Transit System Receives Federal Grant
On Wednesday, I was pleased to announce a $3.7 million Federal Transit Authority grant awarded to the Lawrence Transit System toward the acquisition of low-emission buses and supporting supplies and facilities. Kansans in the Lawrence community, including thousands of students at the University of Kansas, depend on the Lawrence Transit System, and this grant is an important investment into the health of the community and continuing to provide pivotal transportation service to Lawrence.
NSF Award Supports Continuation of K-State’s CyberCorps Program
Kansas State University (KSU) received a $3.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to continue the CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program that invests in students and KSU to produce high-quality graduates trained to fill cybersecurity roles around the country. KSU has already seen success in this program, and the university is uniquely situated close to Fort Riley to recruit veterans and active duty servicemembers to the program.
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.
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