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. Last week, our great state celebrated its 153rd birthday. On January 29, 1861, Kansas was founded on the ideals of freedom and individual responsibility. We have much to be proud of – from our rich heritage, to our talented leaders, to our diverse industries. I believe even brighter days lie ahead, and will work hard to make certain we leave behind a stronger, freer and more prosperous state and nation for the next generation.
Emergency Care Halted for Topeka Veterans
On Friday, the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) announced the decision to halt emergency room services at the Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center and convert to urgent care services only until the current physician shortage is remedied by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). Veterans who have served our nation with duty and honor deserve access to quality health care when they need it. Because Kansas is a rural state, many of our veterans are already forced to travel long distances to visit a VA hospital. Now, Topeka veterans are losing access to the emergency care services they could need at any moment.
It is far past time for Secretary Shinseki and the VA to do their job. I have asked time and again about their failure to address the tremendous shortage of VA physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. It is causing a new VA backlog – a backlog of our nation’s heroes who are not receiving the health care they need. Friday’s decision reaffirms my belief that the VA must take action to solve their failure to secure the services of the required professions to meet the health care needs of our nation’s veterans including those served by Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center.
The VHA has directed veterans who are having a medical emergency to call 9-1-1. The VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System is working with local hospitals and ambulance services to make certain veterans get the emergency care they need. Click here to learn more about the decision.
State of the Union Address
On Tuesday night, Americans heard President Obama’s latest pitch for the same failed policies we’ve dealt with for five years: higher taxes, overregulation and irresponsible spending. Since the President took office, there are 1.1 million fewer jobs, median household income has fallen each year, less than half of Americans have full-time employment, and one in four part-time workers are living below the poverty line. The President and Senate Democrats have done next to nothing to promote pro-growth policies that would truly help individuals reach their full potential.
The goal of our economic policies should not be increased reliance reliant on the minimum wage, unemployment benefits and government aid. Rather, the goal should be fostering an environment that allows individuals to find ennobling, meaningful jobs that can support themselves and their families.
Opportunities for Americans will only come when Washington puts policies in place that promote economic growth rather than hamper it. A growing economy will create new opportunities for the most every American to find valuable work, start a business, increase their income, and advance up the economic ladder.
I am hopeful the “year of action” means the President will stop the stonewalling that has resulted in a stagnant economy and limited opportunities. President Obama could start by finally approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and Majority Leader Harry Reid could start by finally allowing votes on a number of bills aimed at jumpstarting the economy. Many of these bills have already passed by the House of Representatives, and – if given a vote in the Senate – would help Americans find purposeful work, climb the economic ladder, and freely pursue the American Dream.
Bipartisan Amicus Brief Against Obamacare HHS Mandate
Also on Tuesday, I joined my colleagues in filing a bipartisan amicus brief with the Supreme Court asking the Court to protect religious freedom as it considers arguments in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Department of Health and Human Services has mandated employer-sponsored health plans cover contraception and abortion-inducing drugs for their employees. The mandate creates an exemption for religious employers, but it is so narrow that many such employers are forced to violate their moral beliefs.
Congress has a long tradition of protecting religious liberty, including enacting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993, which requires future legislation to explicitly state that the RFRA does not apply. The ACA makes no mention of the RFRA. Since our nation’s earliest days, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently affirmed our First Amendment right to exercise our religious beliefs freely. This threat to religious liberty caused by federal overreach should be of concern for all Americans – whether or not they ascribe to a particular set of beliefs. I urged the Supreme Court to protect the principle of religious liberty upon which our country was founded. Click here to learn more about this issue.
State Department Issues Final Keystone XL Pipeline Environmental Assessment
On Friday afternoon, the U.S. State Department released the Final Environmental Impact Statement of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which showed the project likely wouldn’t increase oil production from the Canadian oil sands, and would have little environmental impact. The release of this final analysis should bring us closer to moving this job-creating, domestic energy-producing project forward. Despite the Administration’s continued unwillingness to approve this important project, the overwhelming majority Americans agree that we should proceed immediately.
After five years of delay by the White House, President Obama is out of excuses. His decision should be about the energy security of our country and job creation. Instead of throwing away this opportunity to do something good that won’t cost taxpayers a dime, it is time to take action, approve the project, progress through the permitting process, and allow the American workforce to move our country toward greater energy security with the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. Click here to learn more.
Skyping with Teachers at Sunflower Elementary
This week, I visited with administrators and teachers at Sunflower Elementary School in Andover from my office in Washington, D.C., through Skype. The teachers were demonstrating ways to utilize technology to enhance student learning at a faculty meeting, and I appreciate them asking me to demonstrate a Skype call. Technology is such a big part of our lives today, and it was great to see these teachers’ commitment to incorporating it into their classroom activities.
In order to be successful, a school needs students who want to learn, dedicated teachers who are committed to helping each student, administrators who are goal-oriented, and supportive parents and community members who reinforce the concepts and expectations taught at school. I am inspired when I visit with Kansas educators about the creative ways in which they teach their students and motivate them for the school day. They change the world for the better one student at a time. Thanks again to Sunflower Principal Rita Decker for inviting me to Skype and to Andover Middle School teacher, and 2013 Kansas Teacher of the Year, Dyane Smokorowski for facilitating the call.
Calling on President Obama to Stop Punishing Most Vulnerable Kansans with Higher Utility Bills
In response to the rising cost of utilities, 21 of my senate colleagues and I reached out to the White House to reiterate our concerns about how the ever increasing regulatory burden on power providers is negatively affecting ratepayers. The President’s “Climate Action Plan,” released in June of last year, is a very real threat to home and business owners who are struggling with utility costs. Our outreach sought to elevate the concerns of individual ratepayers so that the Administration can better understand the economic and human cost of their desire to increase regulations. The cost of these regulations means fewer dollars in the pockets of Kansans, and the Administration needs to keep that fact in mind when they are weighing the issue of regulating utilities. Click here to read my letter to the President.
Southwest Airlines Adds Service from Kansas City to Washington
Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced their plans to allow Southwest Airlines to temporarily operate the route from Kansas City International Airport (MCI) to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). Following the decision by Frontier Airlines to discontinue daily nonstop service between the two airports after January 31, 2014, DOT’s announcement ensures no interruption of service will occur.
Southwest will officially take over service on a temporary basis beginning Feb. 15, 2014. In the very near term, the route will be service by its subsidiary, AirTran. In the coming weeks, DOT will begin formal proceedings to permanently reallocate the routes vacated by Frontier.
In December, Frontier Airlines was sold to new ownership that opted to discontinue several nonstop routes, including daily service between MCI and DCA, as part of their conversion to an ultra-low cost carrier. The seamless transition following Frontier’s departure is good news for Kansas air travelers, as maintaining access to air service is essential to connecting Kansas families and businesses to the rest of the country. Southwest is the nation’s largest domestic airline with a national route structure.
Upcoming Kansas Listening Tour Stops
Please see below a listing of upcoming Listening Tour stops that may be in your area.
Friday, Feb. 7 at 10:15 a.m.
Friday, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.
Kansans in the Office
Eric Melgren of Wichita
Kansas Head Start Association
Lair Gilbert of Wichita
Jessica Lambert of Wichita
Francesca Chavira of Wichita
Suzie Bustos of Wichita
Kansas Campus Compact
Joshua Mosier of Manhattan
Family Advisory Council
Donna Yadrich of Kansas City
Deanna Gaumer of St. Mary’s
Lola Loredo of Wichita
Kansas Global Trade Services
Karyn Page of Wichita
Kansas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Steve Splichal of McLouth
Kansas Head Start
Scott Henson of Topeka
Casandra Bowden of Topeka
David Reighard of Topeka
Lacey Deruy of Topeka
Pew Charitable Trusts
Leigh Ann Winnard of Overland Park
Matthew Larimer of Overland Park
National Federation of the Blind
Rob Tabor of Lawrence
Renee Morgan of Lawrence
Anna Avramenko of Emporia
American Association of Orthodontists
Scott Hamilton of Topeka
Doug Scott of Wichita
Kansas Wheat Growers
Gary Millershaski of Lakin
Kyler Millershaski of Lakin
Michael Jordan of Beloit
Ken Wood of Chapman
David Schemm of Sharon Springs
Ron Suppes of Dighton
Shirley Suppes of Dighton
Jay Armstrong of Muscotah
Scott Van Allen of Clearwater
Donna Van Allen of Clearwater
Justin Gilpin of Manhattan
Dalton Henry of Manhattan
Colleen Wachter of Mission
David Wurth of Mission
Wichita State University
Andy Schlapp of Wichita
Debbie Gann of Wichita
Barby Jobe of Wichita
Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics
Sandra Lawrence of Kansas City
Genny Nicholas of Kansas City
Chad More of Kansas City
K-State Department of Agronomy
Chuck Rice 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 form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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