Kansas Common Sense
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Discussing the COVID-19 Vaccine with Dr. Lee Norman
This weekend, I met with Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), and Captain John Rule, epidemiologist with KDHE, to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine and the distribution strategy throughout Kansas. Dr. Norman shared the initial strategy to distribute the vaccine to high-risk health care workers and high-risk, long-term care residents as part of the state’s Phase 1 distribution plan. As soon as the FDA authorizes the vaccine and it arrives in Kansas, KDHE will begin the distribution process.
Operation Warp Speed, developed through the CARES Act, has provided significant resources into the development and purchase of vaccines to be distributed immediately upon approval from the FDA for the coronavirus. While several companies are developing potential vaccines and conducting clinical trials, two companies – Pfizer and Moderna – have officially requested an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for their vaccines, which is the final step before the vaccine may be distributed. While a vaccine is near and on the way, it is important to remember that social distancing, wearing masks and staying home when you are sick are still the best defense against this virus until the vaccine can be widely distributed.
This week, Congress is considering a targeted COVID-19 relief package that provides the hardest-hit small businesses with a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, helps schools and colleges operate safely, and provides the necessary resources to distribute the vaccine.
Remembering the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Today, marks 79 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of America’s involvement in World War II. On this Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, let us pause and commemorate the 2,403 lives lost during the attack, as well as honor the enduring bravery of the Greatest Generation and their ultimate sacrifice.
My Bill to Help Alleviate NOAA Pilot Shortage Heads to the President’s Desk
On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed my legislation to help alleviate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pilot shortage. As the chief appropriator for NOAA, it has been a priority to address the pilot shortage while utilizing Kansas’ strong aviation programs, and I’m pleased this legislation will head to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
This legislation creates an aviation training program for the Commissioned Officer Corps of NOAA to prepare students for commissioned service as pilots. Functioning similar to Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at many universities, this program was designed in coordination with Kansas State Polytechnic due to their expertise in training pilots. Kansas State Polytechnic has a history of producing well-trained pilots and can create a pipeline of NOAA pilots ready to fly in a wide-range of weather conditions to deliver critical data to scientists on the ground.
Discussing Agricultural Futures with Kansas Farm Bureau Ahead of the 117th Congress
Earlier this week, I joined the Pre-117th Congress Virtual Town Hall hosted by Kansas Farm Bureau to discuss the future of Kansas and agriculture in the new Congress. I spoke about my role as a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds USDA, and answered questions about the next Farm Bill.
The next Farm Bill will be the first since 1981 that will be written without Sen. Roberts’ direct influence, and I want recognize and thank Sen. Roberts for his legacy and impact on farm policy. I also want to thank President Felts and Terry Holdren for hosting this town hall. I look forward to continue working with other members of the delegation to make Kansas a strong voice for issues affecting farmers, ranchers and rural communities
Discussing In-Person Instruction at West Point
This week, I joined my West Point Board of Visitors colleagues for our winter session with the U.S. Military Academy’s leadership. The board consists of select Members of Congress and presidential appointees who work with the institution to make certain West Point cadets receive the education they need to effectively lead our nation’s Army.
The board received an update on the academy’s first full semester of in-person classes during the pandemic, and it is impressive to hear how the cadets and staff at West Point have adapted to overcome the challenges associated with in-person learning. Additionally, the cadet leadership outlined their efforts to create a more just and equitable campus living environment by fostering a climate of dignity and respect among the student body.
I was also pleased to hear about the groundbreaking for the new state-of-the-art Cyber and Engineering Academic Center, which will set a new bar for engineering and computer science higher education. It will be a stunning addition to this historic campus. I look forward to joining my colleagues in the spring to review the school’s progress in our next update.
Meeting with Community College Presidents
I met virtually with community college presidents from across Kansas regarding their concerns about COVID-19 as this pandemic stretches on. We discussed the importance of Pell Grants, the need for flexibility in federal assistance to community colleges and how our community colleges are continuing to provide quality education and training to their students from all walks of life. Thanks to these institutions’ continued efforts to care for students during this difficult time; I look forward to working on their behalf as we discuss additional coronavirus funding and other education related legislation this Congress. I appreciate everyone who participated.
Receiving an Update from Kansas School Superintendents
I spoke virtually with superintendents from across Kansas this week regarding how COVID-19 is continuing to impact school operations. We discussed federal financial assistance and some of the additional needs that exist currently, as well as some important criteria regarding Department of Education programs that require revision for the upcoming school year to avoid unnecessarily punishing schools during this difficult period. I appreciate their efforts to continue educating Kansas children throughout these unusual circumstances, and I will work to ensure that our schools receive the proper assistance to allow them to do their jobs during this pandemic. Thank you to everyone who attended this discussion, and thank you for your continued efforts to keep our children safe and learning in schools across the state.
Visiting with Winfield Rotary
This week, I met virtually with fellow Rotarians from Winfield. I appreciated the opportunity to relay concerns surrounding the health and wellbeing of Kansas’ communities as we await the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. We also discussed my role on the Senate Banking Committee and recent legislation I introduced, the Remove Impediments for a Successful Economic Recovery (RISER) Act, which would extend the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) deadline to allow states like Kansas to strategically target areas of need over a longer period of time.
Thank you to President Laura Bradbury for allowing me time to speak. Thank you also to Community National Bank and Trust’s Executive Vice President Dean Kennedy, Community National Bank & Trust’s Vice President Anthony Stonerock, William Newton Hospital’s Dr. Treasure Wehner, Winfield City Manager Taggart Wall and all community leaders who attended.
Joining Coffeyville Lions Club
This week, I joined the Coffeyville Lions Club virtually to provide an update about federal issues and answer questions from club members. Our discussion focused on the effects COVID-19 has had on individuals, schools, businesses, as well as on our health care providers. We talked about the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and how it has been beneficial in keeping businesses from having to close their doors and its contributions to the economy in Coffeyville and Montgomery County.
I noted that there were some businesses who were not eligible for assistance during the first round, and I am interested in providing help to them when considering targeted future aid. Additionally, I was asked about Coronavirus Relief Funds provided to Kansas and distributed to counties through the state-level SPARK Taskforce and the upcoming deadline of December 31 to utilize those funds. My legislation, the RISER Act, would extend that timeline to ensure funding is used efficiently and effectively.
Thank you to Club President Larry Semmel for hosting this discussion, and to Superintendent Craig Correll for joining us.
This week, I visited Osborne and was able to talk with residents about the issues they face as a small community and how I can help them in Washington. One of my priorities as a United States Senator for Kansas is preserving the state’s rural lifestyle; as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Kansas, it’s important that communities like Osborne have access to the resources they need. The way residents and businesses have come together to support each other during the pandemic is commendable. Thank you to everyone who took time out of their day to speak with me while I was in town.
Remembering Max Moomaw
Robba and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Max Moomaw. Max and his wife Beverly had a significant impact on my first election to serve in the statehouse, and he provided me with his thoughts and suggestions ever since. His advice was always good common sense based on his strong understanding of right and wrong. He was a proud Kansan and someone I looked up to for his service to our country in the Navy, our state as a Kansas Representative and in the agriculture community as a lifelong farmer. He never passed up a chance to volunteer in his community and will be missed. We will be praying for his friends and family.
Read more about Max’s life from the Hays Post here.
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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