Kansas Common Sense
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Martin Luther King, Jr. and Inauguration Day
On Monday, America celebrated two historic occasions: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and the 57th Presidential Inauguration.
If you’re in Washington and have a chance to see the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial it’s definitely worth a visit. Inspirational messages from Dr. King’s sermons and speeches are etched into the stone of the monument. One quote in particular stood out to me: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
The inauguration is a time for new beginnings and to celebrate that we live in a nation where democracy rules. I think greatest responsibility we have as American citizens – certainly us as elected officials – is to make certain the American Dream can be lived by those who follow us. I look forward to working with my United States Senate colleagues in the 113th Congress in pursuit of a solid future.
Kansas Commodity Classic
I had the opportunity to attend the Kansas Commodity Classic in Manhattan on Wednesday. Producers and organizations from across the state traveled to hear experts discuss the issues that are affecting producers and listen to them address the 2013 outlook for Kansas agriculture. Farmers and ranchers will be faced with uncertainty as early weather forecasts are suggesting another dry summer. I know what producers don’t need, and that is more uncertainty coming out of Washington.
One of the issues discussed was the 2008 Farm Bill, which was extended until Sept. 30, 2013. My hope is to get a new bill completed and passed soon. It is too important for producers and ultimately American consumers to push this off any longer. No one expressed this better than my friend and convention keynote speaker Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh. He is a K-State professor emeritus and renowned agricultural economist and policy expert. It was great to be back with Dr. Flinchbaugh and friends talking about issues that are so important to our state.
White House Gun Violence Recommendations
In the wake of the recent tragedies in Connecticut and Colorado, President Obama announced 23 executive actions his Administration will take in an effort to curb gun violence. Additionally, he called upon Congress to pass legislation that would ban assault weapons and magazines larger than 10 rounds.
Americans are ready to engage in a meaningful national conversation to determine a path that will keep our children safe. However, we must be careful not to penalize responsible, law-abiding citizens or infringe upon civil liberties guaranteed in our Constitution. The President’s call for a ban on certain types of weapons is troubling, as such a measure would endanger the rights of Americans while not making us safer.
We must examine all factors that lead individuals to commit these monstrous acts, but the President’s plan in its entirety is not the proper way to implement a comprehensive strategy that will better protect our nation from gun violence.
Lost Medal of Honor Nomination
This week, I learned that the Medal of Honor nomination for former Army Captain William Swenson has made its way to the White House for Presidential approval. I’ve been diligently following the case of Will, who saved numerous lives on Sept. 8, 2009, in Ganjgal, Afghanistan, after his team was ambushed by insurgents in an attack killing and wounding a number of U.S. servicemen and Afghan soldiers. At the time of his selfless acts, Will was deployed from Fort Riley and wore the 1st ID badge as a member of a Military Transition Team working with Afghan soldiers. In the months following the attack, Army leadership in Afghanistan recommended Will for the Medal of Honor and a nomination then proceeded through official Army channels. Unfortunately, Will’s nomination was somehow lost and the Army has since conducted an investigation as to what happened to his file and fittingly reissued the nomination. Much time has passed, but I’m happy to see that Will’s nomination is finally at the White House where it should receive Presidential attention immediately. I will continue to follow this case and ensure Will receives the respect and gratitude he deserves for his service to our nation.
Clay Center Lions Club
On Tuesday, I spoke to the Clay Center Lions Club at Maury’s Restaurant, and it was good to be among fellow club members and community leaders. We discussed many important issues facing our state and nation including our growing national debt, taxes, the Farm Bill, education and Obamacare.
I also spoke with reporters from the Clay Center Dispatch, KCLY and KFRM radio. Listen to my KCLY “Up-Close” interview here, where I discuss my family and growing up in Western Kansas.
As a member and former club president of the Hays Lions Club, I’ve seen the value organizations like these add to Kansas communities. Thanks to club president Dusty Mullen for his warm welcome, hospitality and for allowing me to be the program this week.
Persecuted American Pastor in Iran
I was troubled to once again hear of a Christian pastor in Iran being persecuted for his beliefs. Pastor Saeed Abedini was arrested earlier this summer and after being held in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons went to trial yesterday before a judge known to sentence so-called “political criminals” to death. Although there were reports of release on bail, it’s been confirmed that Saeed remains in prison.
This case is all the more important because Pastor Saeed is an American citizen.
This week, I joined my colleagues in calling on the State Department to urge action to secure his release. No person should be detained, tortured or face execution for their religious beliefs. Iran’s treatment of Pastor Abedini is another example of the Iranian government’s disregard for fundamental human rights and religious freedom. It is important to get him home to his wife and children. My prayers are with the pastor and his family.
United Methodist Church Soup Supper
Saturday I enjoyed speaking with Kansans at the Industry United Methodist Church’s soup supper. Events like these are a great way for me to listen to constituents and receive feedback for consideration as I travel back to Washington.
Improving Care and Reducing Costly Hospital Readmissions for Medicare Patients
Prior to my tour of the Stormont-Vail Cancer Center, I visited with leaders of Saint Francis Hospital, Stormont-Vail HealthCare, and Brewster Place about their proposal to improve patient care transitions from the hospital and reduce costly hospital readmissions for Medicare patients. The Capital Care Transitions Coalition, comprised of the two hospitals, Brewster Place, and several other community-based organizations serving northeast Kansas, is working to implement an evidence-based care transitions model where Medicare patients being discharged from the hospitals, who are determined to be at risk of readmission, may be referred to the coalition led by Brewster Place. Upon referral, patients would be assigned a Transitions Care Coach who would ensure coordination and continuity of care after they are discharge from the hospital. It is estimated that readmission of Medicare patients to the hospital carries a national cost of $17 billion annually. It is also estimated that 76 percent of these readmissions are avoidable. The Coalition’s model has the potential to improve care transitions, enhance the quality of care, and reduce hospital readmissions for Medicare patients, and reduce overall costs to the Medicare program. Thanks to Brewster Place President and CEO David Beck, St. Francis President and CEO Bob Erickson, and Stormont-Vail President and CEO Randy Peterson for briefing me on this exciting project.
Stormont-Vail Cancer Center Visit
I was in Topeka Wednesday afternoon to visit the Stormont-Vail Cancer Center and learned from physicians, staff and administrators about the advancements in cancer treatment, research and patient care taking place there. The Cancer Center opened in 2006 and consolidates the outpatient cancer services of Stormont-Vail and Cotton-O’Neil. The Center is also home to Cotton-O’Neill’s medical oncology practices, an infusion center and a clinical research center that provides patients access to new and promising clinical trials.
The Cancer Center has made considerable strides in advancing comprehensive patient and family-centered cancer care in its short existence. In 2009, the program received accreditation as a comprehensive cancer program by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons. Last year, it achieved accreditation for its radiation therapy services through the American College of Radiology (ACR), making it the sole ACR-accredited center of its kind in Kansas — a testament to the Cancer Center’s high standards in radiation oncology practices.
Whenever I visit cancer research and treatment facilities in Kansas, I’m reminded of the value and importance of our nation’s commitment to medical research. That commitment has saved more than 12 million American lives. Given the vast amount of progress made and the great potential current research holds, we cannot afford to waiver on America’s promise to advancing cures and treatments for disease. As a member of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, I am committed to fighting for consistent, sustained support of medical research essential to saving and improving lives, growing our economy and maintaining America’s role as a global leader in medical innovation. Kansans are fortunate to have access to advanced cancer treatments in their own communities, such as those provided by Stormont-Vail Cancer Center and its excellent team of physicians and staff. Thank you to Stormont-Vail HealthCare President and CEO Randy Peterson for hosting me and to Kathy Davis for coordinating my visit.
Manhattan Office Opening
On Tuesday I officially opened a regional office in Manhattan. This office will serve Kansans in the surrounding region and allow staff to act as liaisons with the region’s community leaders, local government officials and businesses. It is located at 923 Westport Place, Suite 210, which can be reached by calling (785) 539-8973. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Ellen Hockett’s 100th Birthday
It was fun to get back to Codell on Saturday to celebrate Ellen Hockett’s 100th birthday with her friends and family. I enjoyed speaking with folks at the event and received lots of instruction before I headed back to Washington, D.C.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office including the Kansans listed below:
Meeting with Foundation for Pavement Preservation
Scott Bergkamp, Salina
John Rathbun, Lawrence
Several Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including:
James & Barbara Musgrove and son, James
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. In recent weeks, I’ve been listening to Kansans calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the debt crisis and big issues our country faces. Whether your thoughts are in the form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, please know that I am listening and I appreciate messages from Kansans who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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