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.

I hope you were able to spend some quality time with friends and family this weekend in celebration of the Easter and Passover holidays. Robba and I attended Easter services at First Presbyterian Church on Sunday, where Robba played the piano – we appreciated the music and sermon celebrating the Savior.

More Townhall Meetings
I held townhall meetings this week in Cuba, Washington and Hoxie and was pleased to see some much-needed rain in north central Kansas. In Cuba and Washington on Monday, I encouraged veterans wishing to enroll in the Choice program to continue seeking out my office, as the Department of Veterans Affairs has done a poor job of enrolling folks in the Choice program and repaying community providers. I also reiterated my commitment to making certain the administration knows the importance of trade and that we make a living in Kansas by exporting our goods and commodities to other countries. As I’ve explained to administration officials, while the tax bill was a positive step forward, tax rates won’t matter if markets don’t exist to provide an income to farmers and ranchers.

We also discussed the importance of border security and curbing drug cartels, the Farm Bill and nutrition funding, the need for a bipartisan legislative fix on net neutrality, how education is best handled at the local level, community banking regulations as they relate to agriculture and advocating for rural America so our children may choose to earn their educations and raise their families here. Thank you to the Washington Rotary for opening up their meeting to community guests and to the folks who came out to participate in conversations with me in each city this week. 

On the way to my Hoxie townhall meeting on Wednesday morning, I walked Main Street in Grainfield and visited with Nancy Heir at The Bank and Kay Haffner at M&A Barnett Trucking – the business she created in the town she grew up in. I also stopped by Eberle Insurance and City Hall.

At the townhall meeting, I discussed the Veterans Choice Program and ways we are working to make veterans’ care more effective and efficient, especially in rural areas. We also discussed economic development and the importance of operating local hospitals and grocery stores in rural communities, my bipartisan push to secure a year-long ELD delay and reach a permanent ELD solution for livestock haulers, the work local farmers are doing to conserve water, trade and the importance of strengthening NAFTA. Our conversation also touched on DACA and my belief that, while it has been difficult, Congress must agree upon a bipartisan solution to provide certainty to DACA recipients.

Impressed by Chase County High School Students
I toured Chase County High School to meet with some of the school’s 22 seniors and thank their teachers for educating Kansans on Tuesday. We had an engaging discussion on the importance of STEM and technical education and college affordability and I was glad to hear that many of these impressive students plan to continue their education in Kansas after graduation. The dedication I saw from the students, teachers and administrators at the school was encouraging and gives me hope about the future of our state and our country. Read more about my visit here.

Thanks to Chase County KAY President Jacob Tubach; Chase County FFA President Meghan Eidman; Chase County Student Body President Ryan Kohr; and National Honor Society President Claudia Fillinger for leading the tour. My gratitude also to Principal Travis Githens and Superintendent Jeff Kohlman for hosting me. I look forward to seeing Chase County High School's completed renovations.

Touring Fanestil Farms with SBA Administrator
On Tuesday, I joined Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Linda McMahon for a tour of Fanestil Meats in Emporia. Fanestil, owned by Dan and Jan Smoots, was recognized in 2016 with the Small Business Administration Wichita District Small Business Persons of the Year award for their outstanding contributions to the Emporia and Lyon County community.

Dan and Jan have owned Fanestil Meats for over 20 years and the company has recently experienced significant growth, opening a new retail and meat processing facility in Emporia, and growing from 62 to 100 employees. It is important that the SBA recognize the importance of small business growth in our mid-size and rural communities and I’m glad Fanestil has successfully utilized SBA loans in pursuit of this growth. I appreciate that Administrator McMahon took the opportunity to see firsthand the positive impact Kansas entrepreneurs and small business have, especially when equipped with the right resources to grow and provide quality job opportunities.

Read more about our visit and the importance of entrepreneurship in Kansas here. Thanks to Dan and Jan Smoots for coordinating and hosting our visit.

Veterans Deserve a VA Worthy of their Sacrifice

Veterans deserve the best our nation has to offer and a VA worthy of their sacrifice, which requires leadership at the top that is focused on changing the bureaucracy on behalf of our nation's heroes. This week it was announced that the president has nominated Rear Admiral Ronald “Ronny” Jackson, who has a career in service, to serve as Secretary of the VA. Rear Admiral Jackson needs to demonstrate that he has the qualifications and the capabilities to manage the VA despite his lack of experience in managing a big operation. Leading the VA is a tough job and it requires strong leadership to put the needs of the veterans first, rather than the institution of the department.

It is concerning to me that allegations of “privatizing” VA healthcare are being used as a distraction from the VA’s solemn responsibility to support those the department was created to serve. This false narrative diverts attention from the very real problems that persist at the VA. I am not advocating for privatization, I am advocating for veterans to have greater choice in their healthcare and have proposed legislation to achieve this goal. I look forward to discussing the Rear Admiral Jackson’s plans for the VA to make certain veterans receive access to care they deserve. I applaud the appointment of Under Secretary of Defense Robert Wilkie to serve in the interim – he is a strong choice to entrust with oversight of the VA. Please click here to read the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board’s take on legislation I’ve introduced to reform the VA.

Water Conservation Efforts at NWKTC Goodland
I visited Northwest Kansas Technical College (NWKTC) Water Technology Farm in Goodland – a public/private partnership with the Kansas Water Office to educate local landowners and precision agriculture students on how irrigation technology can help conserve local water supplies for a sustainable future. NWKTC’s Water Technology Farm consists of 15 fields in Sherman County and was one of the three new projects implemented in 2017, along with Circle C Farms in Lane and Scott Counties and Hatcher Land & Cattle in Seward County. There are now a total of seven Water Technology Farm projects on 35 fields overlying the High Plains Aquifer.

Not only does this program conserve water in the Ogala, it creates jobs and provides work in the area. To continue and enhance these conservation efforts, I am working to make certain farmers have access to broadband, which helps them gather data to better apply water and chemicals by targeting the right areas and decreasing waste.

Thank you to NWKTC President Ben Schears and Chief Information Officer Brad Bergsma for leading the tour, and to Director of Precision Agriculture Weston McCary and Precision Agriculture instructor Mike Wetter for highlighting the benefits of this program.

Celebrating Tom Tunnell’s Retirement
For many years, Tom Tunnell has been working on behalf of the businesses that support Kansas farmers and ranchers leading the Kansas Grain & Feed Association and the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association. His decades of dedication and deep knowledge of the needs of our ag community have made him an effective advocate for so many of our state’s priorities, and I am grateful to have worked so closely with him. I wish him the very best in his retirement.

Kansans in the Office

American Association of Colleges of Nursing
Cheryl Giefer of Girard
Ken Giefer of Girard
Jenny Manny of Girard

American Veterinary Medical Association
Erin Strathe of Manhattan

Workforce Alliance and Workforce Partnership
Mary Johanning of Topeka
Keith Lawing of Wichita
Dee McKee of Topeka
Michael Portorti of Olathe
Amanda Ramsey of Atchison
Gabe Schlickau of Wichita
Keely Schneider of Leawood
Barbara Stapleton of Topeka

Capitol Tour
Kathleen Borck of Manhattan
Julie Carter of Olathe
Anthony Dake of Auburn
Marissa Dake of Auburn
Laura Drees of Mission
Taylor Drees of Mission
Stacie Gram of Overland Park
Bartholomew Kooiman of Hutchinson
Cael Kooiman of Hutchinson
Erin Kooiman of Hutchinson
Ryland Kooiman of Hutchinson
Roger Lanksbury of Manhattan
Joseph Lutkenhaus Shawnee
Kinsey Roberts of Olathe
Scott Sasovetz of Wichita
Dale Schmitt of Beloit
Erin Schmitt of Beloit
Lauren Schmitt of Beloit
Lynna Schmitt of Beloit
Kathrin Schrick of Manhattan
C. Richard Weaver of Lenexa
Joyce Weaver of Lenexa
Janet Woodroof Shawnee

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 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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