Kansas Common Sense
Apr 21 2014
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I traveled in Kansas this week as Congress is out of session for the spring district work period. I had the opportunity to visit several businesses, universities and civic organizations during my travels throughout Kansas.
Easter Sunday and Passover
I hope you and your family celebrated a meaningful Easter. I spent the day with family in Manhattan, where we joined the congregation of First Presbyterian Church and Robba played piano during the Easter Sunday service. Also this week, families and friends around the world gathered to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover. At the traditional Passover meal, the Seder, Jewish people recall the experience of Israelites in ancient Egypt and the Exodus lead by Moses. During this annual holiday, the story and lessons of the Exodus are passed from one generation to the next.
Tragic Violence in Johnson County
I was shocked and sickened by the violence that occurred in Overland Park and Leawood last week. Kansas is a place where every person of every kind should be safe from violence or persecution. My deepest regrets are with the victims’ loved ones and my thoughts are with the entire community, which has had its sense of comfort and safety threatened by these events.
Hosting the NIH Director in Kansas
On Monday, I hosted National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins in Kansas to visit with researchers and highlight biomedicine and bioscience initiatives in our state. NIH is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world, supporting thousands of scientists in universities and research institutions in every state across the country. As NIH Director, Dr. Collins oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. He is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007, and received the National Medal of Science in 2009. Thanks to University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, KU Medical Center Executive Vice Chancellor Dr. Douglas Girod and their great teams for hosting Dr. Collins and I at the following events in Lawrence and Kansas City:
- Presentation on the Kansas Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program – The IDeA program broadens the geographic distribution of NIH support for biomedical research by fostering research at institutions located in states that have historically been underrepresented in NIH research participation. The following Kansas universities participate in our state’s IDeA program: the University of Kansas, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Haskell Indian Nations University, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, Wichita State University and Washburn University.
- “Champion of Science” Award – I was honored to receive the Champion of Science Award from the Science Coalition, a nonprofit organization of more than 50 of the nation’s top research universities, including KU. This award, which recognizes support of science research conducted at universities and national labs across the country, was presented to me by Chancellor Gray-Little at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence. Click here to read more about the Science Coalition. By investing in research, we are investing in our future. Given the vast amount of progress made over the last century and the great potential current research holds, now is not the time for our nation to waiver on its commitment to advancing scientific research. This support for scientific research benefits our children and our country for generations to come by saving lives, improving health, growing the economy, reducing health care costs, and strengthening America’s role as a global leader in innovation. Dr. Collins delivered keynote remarks at the event. Click here to see my remarks at the event.
- University of Kansas Medical Center Research Update – We met with KU Medical Center researchers in Kansas City to discuss current research initiatives, including work being done at the Kansas Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Research Center, Frontiers: The Heartland Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, and Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation. I was very impressed with the young and innovative minds at the research center. Click here to see my interview with WIBW about the importance of their work.
Unique Qualities of Community Banking Requires Familiar Oversight
This week, I joined several of my Senate colleagues in requesting that President Obama nominate someone with community banking experience to the last remaining vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. With the growing regulatory compliance required of smaller lenders, it is important that the Federal Reserve has a person who understands the nature of community banking. I have used my position on the Senate Banking Committee to advocate for common-sense regulation of the community banking industry. Having a member of the Federal Reserve with a community banking background would provide the necessary expertise in dealing with the complex economic and regulatory issues facing smaller lenders. Click here to read about this effort.
Touring LDF Companies
This week, I also had the opportunity to spend time with successful entrepreneur Larry D. Fleming — founder, chairman and chief executive officer of LDF Companies. Nearly 40 years ago, Larry opened his first Wendy’s restaurant in Wichita and today has expanded that footprint to include locations throughout Kansas and Oklahoma. With LDF recognized by Wendy’s International as its two time Marketer of the Year and having received the company’s Founders Award, in 1998 Larry was inducted into the Wendy’s Hall of Fame.
During a tour of company headquarters, Larry and his management team shared that an uncertain business environment — including regulations, the tax code and healthcare costs — present challenges. Even so, the company continues to enjoy steady growth and now employs more than 1,500 people. LDF also contributes generously to the quality of life in the communities in which it is located including founding “Wendy’s Wonderful Kids,” a national adoption program that is now a model for Wendy’s International.
Thanks to Larry for an informative and enjoyable visit. Thank you also to Bill Goodlatte, senior vice president of human resources and Larry’s son David, strategic growth manager, for taking part in the tour. It’s exciting to see the next generation involved in such a successful family owned business.
Speaking to Downtown Wichita Lions Club
On Wednesday, I gave remarks and took questions at a noon meeting of the Downtown Wichita Lions Club. It was great to spend time with approximately 40 fellow Lions and to hear about the many service projects in which the club is involved. Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with 1.35 million members in more than 45,000 clubs, including more than 270 clubs in Kansas. In addition to its efforts to conquer blindness, the organization has made a strong commitment to community service, disaster relief, and helping youth in Kansas and throughout the world. To help support that mission, and in partnership with the Greater Wichita YMCA, the club will hold its 56th Annual Pancake & Sausage Day on Thursday, April 24 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at Century II Exhibition Hall.
Thanks to incoming president Park Worthington and outgoing president Vance Garwood for their leadership. Thank you also to Ron Badger for the invocation and Loleta Staver for helping to arrange my visit. And congrats to all members as the downtown club prepares to celebrate its 95th anniversary later this year.
Visit to McConnell Air Force Base
It was very beneficial to spend time with my Military and Veterans Advisory Committee on this week to discuss a myriad of issues facing Kansans in the military, both those currently serving and honorable veterans. I formed this committee in 2009 to make certain that our state’s veterans, service members, and defense communities have my attention so I can be a strong voice in Washington.
While we had good news to discuss such as the arrival of the KC-46A tanker at McConnell Air Force Base, we also discussed the dysfunction of the Veterans Administration and the paramount need for change to give veterans the care they deserve. Additionally, we talked about the increasing role the Guard, specifically the 177th Information Aggressor Squadron, has in our national cyber defense and protection. The Members shared insights to protect and grow Kansas military installations during future budget and force reductions discussions, and caring for veterans returning from overseas. Our service members and veterans have always been a priority for me, and I greatly appreciate the advice given by these leaders on a number of issues facing Kansas and our country.
Speaking at Wichita State University’s Entrepreneurship Forum Series
It was great to be in Wichita last week and give remarks at Wichita State University’s (WSU) Entrepreneurship Forum Series. The event honored Rent-A-Center and Flint Hills National Golf Club Founder Tom Devlin who keynoted the event and understands that entrepreneurship and innovation are key to growing the economy. Thanks to Tom and Myra Devlin along with their sons, Tom, Jr. and Tim; Dr. Fran Jabara, former WSU College of Business Administration Dean and founder of the WSU Center for Entrepreneurship; WSU President John Bardo; WSU W. Frank Barton School of Business Interim Dean Cindy Claycomb; WSU Center for Entrepreneurship Interim Director Lou Heldman; WSU Professor Don Hackett and Meritrust CEO James Nastars.
Meeting with Spirit AeroSystems Representatives
While in Wichita I met with representatives of Spirit AeroSystems. During the visit, I had the opportunity to speak with a large group of leaders and representatives of the company, some of whom were teleconferenced in from Oklahoma and North Carolina. While many important topics were discussed, including the need for immigration reform, a tax code overhaul, and maintaining a strong national defense, of particular focus was simply the importance of getting involved in the political process.
Spirit is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of aircraft parts and structures, and a lynchpin behind Wichita’s proud designation of being the “Air Capital of the World.” Thanks to Larry Lawson, Debbie Gann, Sam Sackett, Jarrod Bartlett and the entire team at Spirit for their hospitality.
Kansas Hospital Visits: Morris County and Osborne County Memorial
This week, I had the opportunity to visit and tour two rural Kansas hospitals. Visiting hospitals in our state and listening to health care providers is important to helping me learn more about the ways federal policies affect how health care is provided in Kansas. On Tuesday I visited Morris County Hospital (MCH), a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital in Council Grove and, at the request of the Kansas Hospital Association, I brought Senate Appropriations Committee staff members to see and learn about Critical Access Hospitals (CAH). On Saturday, I visited Osborne County Memorial Hospital (OCMH) – also a Critical Access Hospital – in Osborne.
During the visits, administrators and staff shared with me the challenges rural hospitals face providing care to patients across wide areas. We discussed how the hospitals are implementing new technology to improve patient care as well as how they are working to address federal regulatory burdens, workforce shortages, and Medicare reimbursement challenges. Hospitals face unreasonable and inflexible Medicare physician supervision rules relating to the provision of outpatient therapeutic services. These regulations are making it difficult for many hospitals in Kansas and other rural states to provide these services to patients. In February, the Senate passed S. 1954, legislation I introduced to prevent the federal government from enforcing these burdensome supervision regulations for CAHs and other small, rural hospitals in 2014. I continue to urge the House of Representatives to take up this bill.
As Ranking Member of Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, I continue to advocate for reasonable regulatory flexibility for rural hospitals and other health providers to deliver the care that is essential to Kansas communities. Thanks to MCH CEO Jim Reagan and OCMH Administrator Kiley Floyd for hosting my visits. Click here to see a photo from Morris County with Physical Therapist Dawn Palmquist, and Mel and Elizabeth Koegeboehn of Council Grove.
Hillsboro Kiwanis Club
After my town hall meeting in Harvey County, I enjoyed having lunch with 35 members of the Hillsboro Kiwanis Club. I appreciate Club president and Hillsboro City Manager Larry Paine for changing the date of their weekly meeting to accommodate my visit. I was especially honored that Larry and Mayor Delores Dalke presented me with the key to the city.
We had a good conversation about how agriculture, health care and education — the basics — are critical to the future of our state, and I was glad Tabor College President Dr. Jules Glanzer was in attendance. It was also great to hear about the club’s service activities. Civic organizations like Kiwanis Clubs do so much to enhance the quality of life in Hillsboro and communities across Kansas.
Kansas Listening Tour Stops in Kingman and Harvey Counties
This week, I continued my Kansas Listening Tour in Harvey and Kingman Counties. On Wednesday, nearly 20 area residents turned out to the Livingston Family Center in Kingman to discuss rural telecommunications, aviation, manufacturing, federal regulations and student loan debt. Thanks again to Tim Price for opening up the Livingston Family Center for my visit.
On Thursday in Harvey County, nearly 70 area residents stopped by the Halstead City Council Room to share feedback and concerns on a wide array of topics including agriculture, health care, rural telecommunications, education and how to keep Main Street alive and well. Thanks again to J.R. Hatfield, Halstead City Administrator, for opening up the city council chambers and to my friend Larry Williams for helping promote my visit throughout the community. And thanks to all the folks who came out to share a good dose of Kansas common sense. Click here to see a photo with 2012-13 Kansas American Legion Department Commander Paul Sanford, who I was glad to see at the Harvey County town hall meeting.
Kansans in the Office
Thales Air Traffic Management
Ron Peck of Overland Park
Samuel Corona of Fort Leavenworth
Angel Rivera of Fort Leavenworth
Michael Nnadozie of Fort Leavenworth
Amaja Andrews of Fort Leavenworth
Anna Loch of Fort Leavenworth
Bryan Phillips of Fort Leavenworth
Sheela Kishore of Parsons
Jimmie Slate of Glen Elder
Janis Slate of Glen Elder
John Dorsey of Salina
Patricia Dorsey of Salina
Jessica Dorsey of Salina
Jayne Neeley of Leawood
Brian Wood of Leawood
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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