Kansas Common Sense

Dear Friend,

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.

Pursuing Answers for Kansas Veterans from VA Secretary Shinseki
During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee this week, I questioned the Secretary of the Veterans Administration (VA) General Eric Shinseki about critical issues that matter to veterans in Kansas and across the country. Rural health care and access to care presents real challenges for veterans in Kansas, which is why I am committed to holding the VA accountable for keeping its promises to all our nation’s veterans when they return home. In particular, I highlighted with the Secretary the ongoing struggles of Kansas veterans in the communities of Liberal and Topeka.

The fact that the Liberal CBOC has had to wait for a physician for more than two years is appalling. Candidates have come and gone since 2012 and the Veterans’ Integrated Services Network (VISN) continues to recruit with no success. Additionally, the Topeka VA recently closed its emergency room services, claiming they have a lack of physicians to staff an emergency room. Veterans who show up at the VA hospital in Topeka are being told, "we have no emergency room; you need to go to another hospital." I am frustrated that the VA has yet to find the solution to the lack of physicians and other mid- level professionals within the system in rural America, and I will continue to press Secretary Shinseki on these issues until there is a solution. 

One step in the right direction is a rural health program I led in the House of Representatives which was adopted to create new opportunities for those underserved by the VA health system. Project ARCH (Access Received Closer to Home), a Congressionally-authorized pilot program implemented by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), allows veterans to access care from non-VHA community providers that are closer to where a veteran lives. Project ARCH gives veterans access to health care options and services regardless of where they live in our communities around the country.

To make certain Project ARCH endures beyond the three-year pilot that expires in September 2014, I recently introduced the Veterans Health Care Access Received Closer to Home Act of 2014. Analysis shows that more than 90 percent of veterans who received primary care services through Project ARCH were “completely satisfied” with the care, and cited significantly shortened travel times. If reauthorized, the ARCH program would continue to offer cost-effective, quality health care services for veterans who may not have sought VA health care before, as well as services closer to home for those who do not have immediate access to VA hospitals or outpatient clinics. The legislation not only extends the life of the program; it also includes enhancements to expand access among our veteran population and throughout our VISN communities.

During the hearing, I made it very clear to Secretary Shinseki that I am dedicated to working with the VA to expand the ARCH program, which is why I sought his commitment to reviewing and sharing a VA report on Project ARCH that will impact the program’s future. I plan to hold Secretary Shinseki to his word when he stated he would have the report by sunset that Wednesday and I look forward to the opportunity to discuss the findings with him and his staff so more rural veterans can benefit from this successful program. Click here to watch an excerpt from the hearing.

Seeking Obamacare Fairness for Individuals and Families
This week, I sponsored S. 2106, the Freeing Americans from Inequitable Requirements (FAIR) Act, legislation introduced by Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska to require the administration to exercise basic fairness when implementing Obamacare. Specifically, the FAIR Act would provide relief under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for all individuals and families by delaying enforcement of the law’s individual mandate penalty whenever the White House delays the employer mandate. While the Administration has twice moved unilaterally to provide businesses temporary relief from the ACA in an election season, President Obama continues to disregard the problems this law is causing for individuals and families. This treatment is grossly unfair for the millions of Americans facing the burden of increased health insurance costs in addition to the ACA’s new individual mandate tax. I believe the entire law should be repealed to protect individuals, families and businesses from the disasters created by Obamacare. In the meantime, the FAIR Act would make certain individuals and families are offered the same relief already granted to businesses. Click here to read more about this bill.

Insisting on Administration Accountability on Obamacare Implementation

On Thursday, I again called on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to answer questions about the true costs of implementing Obamacare. As the top Republican member of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over HHS and most of its sub-agencies, I am committed to making sure the Department is held accountable for the way it spends taxpayer dollars.

Congress asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide details on both Obamacare funding sources and activities in its congressional justification for the agency’s 2015 budget request. In response, CMS released a less-than-transparent congressional justification that failed to include any information on how Obamacare funds are being used. CMS’ justification provided incomplete and ambiguous figures that do not illustrate the entire funding picture, while ignoring Congress’ intent under the request. It is critically important that we have a full understanding of the costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, including the cost effects of the numerous delays relating to the ACA’s implementation, as well as the costs of implementing the federal Exchange and addressing the technical ‘glitches’ that have plagued the system for months.

I first contacted Secretary Sebelius requesting a full accounting of the true costs of Obamacare implementation on October 24, 2013. I remain committed to making certain the Administration is held accountable for its use of taxpayer dollars, especially considering the systemic problems plaguing Obamacare implementation. Please click here to read my March 13, 2014, letter to Secretary Sebelius.

Discussing Polio Eradication with Bill Gates

This week, I met with Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to discuss initiatives to address poor health and extreme poverty in developing countries, including the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The Foundation collaborates with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and private partners such as Rotary International to eradicate polio across the globe. This collaboration has resulted in polio declining by more than 99 percent, from more than 350,000 cases annually in 1988 to fewer than 250 cases reported December 2012. As the Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, I have the opportunity to help shape priorities of the CDC and other health programs. I commend Bill Gates for his Foundation’s leadership in eradicating polio across the globe, and, as a Rotarian, I share his strong commitment to ridding the world of this terrible disease. Today only a handful of countries in the world still face endemic polio. With continued commitment and determination from groups like the Gates Foundation and Rotary International, together we can put an end to this cruel disease. In addition to polio eradication, I have worked with the Foundation as Co-Chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus. The Foundation supports agricultural development as a means of fighting hunger in developing countries. Click here to see a photo from our visit.

General Aviation Pilot Protection Act
On Tuesday, I joined Senators Pat Roberts and John Boozman of Arkansas in introducing the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act. This bill would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reform general aviation medical standards to support capable pilots while maintaining robust safety standards.  

Current law requires pilots flying certain small aircraft to have a third-class medical certificate. Unfortunately, thousands of pilots are leaving the industry each year, in part due to the costly and time-consuming process of obtaining this certificate. This legislation builds on the success of FAA’s Sport Pilot rule, adopted in 2004, allowing pilots to fly many types of small, light aircraft without a third class medical certificate, but still mandates that all pilots undergo flight reviews and physical and cognitive evaluations every two years.

General aviation is the largest industry in Kansas, generating nearly $3 billion in annual exports. By making it easier and more affordable for pilots to start flying and continue to fly, the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act will fuel the continued economic growth of this industry in Kansas. Click here to learn more.

Lions Clubs International

Communities across our state are strengthened by the Kansans who participate in civic organizations. Lions Clubs work to make Kansas communities strong, and I have been a member of Kansas Lions Clubs for 35 years. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with a delegation from Lions Clubs International. With 1.35 million members across 206 countries, Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization. In Kansas alone, we have more than 270 clubs. As I travel across our state, hospitality and friendship are always extended to me by Lions Club members – not because I am a Member of Congress, but because I am a fellow Lion.

During fall 2012, the President signed into law legislation I authored to permit the U.S. Treasury to mint $1 silver coins in honor of the Lions Clubs International 100th Anniversary. The law costs nothing to taxpayers, as the sale price includes the cost of designing and issuing the coins. The coins will be available for purchase starting in 2017, to celebrate Lions Clubs International's centennial.

Kansas Farm Bureau Visits D.C.
As always it was good to have Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) in Washington this week. KFB represents grassroots agriculture and supports farm families who earn their livings in a changing industry. I often tell folks in Washington that we live a special way of life in Kansas, and I enjoyed being able to visit with so many farmers and ranchers who are committed to and actively involved in preserving agriculture in our state for the next generation. During their visit, they visited all 100 Senate Offices and educated Senators and staff about agriculture in Kansas. Their effort to engage and educate is needed and does not go unnoticed by Members of Congress from other states.

This Farm Bureau trip is bitter-sweet as I learned Steve Baccus, Kansas Farm Bureau President, will retire in December after serving the organization for 17 years. Thanks to Steve for all his service to KFB and agriculture. He has been a great leader who has been so helpful to the farmers and ranchers of KFB. Click here to see a photo.

Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership
This week I was able to spent time with the twelfth Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership (KARL) class. KARL is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to developing leaders for agriculture, business and rural communities. They were in Washington learning and educating Members of Congress and agencies about rural America and issues that agriculture is facing. I was inspired by this group of talented and dedicated Kansans who are sacrificing time away from work and family to help preserve rural America and agriculture for the next generation.

Questioning Secretary of Transportation About Future of FAA Control Towers and Aircraft Certification
Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx testified Thursday in front of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, to answer questions from myself and other members of the Subcommittee regarding President Obama’s FY 2015 budget request.

In January, Congress passed an “omnibus” spending package to set overall federal government spending levels for two years. Included in this legislation is $140 million to fully fund the FAA Contract Tower Program – one of the most successful and cost-effective programs within the FAA, and vital to aviation safety nationwide. Unfortunately, the President’s budget request made no mention of the Contract Tower Program, which enjoys widespread, bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. 

Thankfully, when I questioned Secretary Foxx on this omission, he confirmed that the necessary funds are indeed included in the President’s budget. Secretary Foxx further expressed his strong interest in the program and commitment to keeping rural communities connected to a 21st century economy. Without the Contract Tower Program, which includes eight Kansas airports, many small and rural communities would not enjoy the clear safety benefits these towers provide. I will be sure to hold Secretary Foxx and the Administration to their pledge to stand by this important program. 

In addition, I took this opportunity to ask Secretary Foxx about FAA efforts to reform and improve the aircraft certification process. Relative to many international competitors, domestic airplane manufacturers often have significantly longer wait times to receive formal certification, impacting their ability to deliver aircraft into the marketplace in a timely and efficient manner. Secretary Foxx reiterated that while safety remains the FAA’s highest priority, DOT continues to look for ways to balance safety and efficiency in the certification process. Specifically, I have been promised a follow-up response from the Secretary regarding Organization Designation Authority (ODA) – the ability of a manufacturer to self-certify if meeting certain safety and capability requirements – and whether or not the utilization of ODA is increasing as I believe is necessary. I look forward to receiving a more detailed explanation from DOT on this important issue. Click here to see a clip from the hearing.

Ellis County Kansas Listening Tour Stop
On Saturday, I continued my statewide listening tour to all 105 counties across Kansas. My stop was in my hometown of Hays at the Hays Medical Center Campus. I enjoyed the opportunity to visit with many local residents about a wide range of topics including access to health care in rural Kansas, the VA claims backlog, aviation and government spending. The work I do in Washington and the issues I focus on are largely based on the conversations I have with Kansans. I greatly appreciate the hundreds of Kansans who take the time to visit with me at town halls because I learn something from every conversation. Click here to see a photo.

Kansans in the Office
Nanal Hintz of Louisburg        
Diane Fishburn of Lawrence
Major Karl Monger of Wichita          
Phillip Kitts of Manhattan
Heidi Kitts of Manhattan
Gerald Franklin of Goodland    
Linda Franklin of Goodland
Kacey Smarsh of Murdock
Toni Smarch of Murdock
Diane Reynolds of Woodstock
Ross Eckroat of Victoria
Lakin Eckroat of Victoria
Stephanie Eckroat of Victoria

National Newspaper Association
Steve Haynes of Oberlin
Cynthia Haynes of Oberlin
Jena Saiber of Manhattan

Builders Development Corp.
Michael Snodgrass of Kansas City

Mary Westrick of Overland Park       

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Kerri Lindsay of Olathe                                                         

Kansas Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
Craig Karlin of Hays    
Ben Kohl of Manhattan

City of Manhattan
Mayor John Matta of Manhattan
Usha Reddi of Manhattan
Ron Fehr of Manhattan 

City of Lenexa
Andy Huckaba of Lenexa

Kansas Hospital Association
Chad Austin of Topeka
Dorothy Hughes of Kansas City
Don Sirpes of Kansas City       

Kansas Psychological Association
Bruce Nystrom of Wichita             
Monica Kurylo of Kansas City                                  
Theresa Coddington of Kansas City 

American Urological Association
Ajay Nangia of Leawood 
David Duchene of Fairway

National Association of Postal Supervisors
Gary Townson of Rose Hill             
Larry Ewing of Topeka         
Kelly McCartney of Lawrence          
Will McIntyre of Gardner              
Steven Cartwright of Shawnee        
Stephanie Alexander of Topeka               
Andy Doty of Topeka          
Dawn Neece of Mulvane              
Kit Rogers of Wichita                            

National Athletic Trainers' Association
Mark Padfield of Tonganoxie  
Justin Clark of Woodbine                                                 

Kansas Association for the Education of Young Children
Nili Luo of Winfield
Deb Crowl of Emporia                        

City of Shawnee       
Carol Gonzales of Shawnee
Mayor Jeff Meyers of Shawnee
Neal Sawyer of Shawnee              
Mickey Sandifer of Shawnee       

City of Olathe
Mayor Copeland of Olathe    
Michael Wilkes of Olathe      
Jim Randall of Olathe  
Wes McCoy of Olathe 
Tim Danneberg of Olathe      
Tim McKee of Olathe  
Casey Wichm of Olathe
Erin Vader of Olathe   
Ashley Arnold of Olathe                                 

National Pest Management Association
Ravi Sachdeva of Manhattan  
Travis Aggson of Manhattan   
Connor Aggson of Manhattan 
Spencer Duncan of Topeka
Dave Aggson of Manhattan 

Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
Richard Jarrold of Overland Park 

Crop Quest
John Hecht of Wichita

City of Wichita
Dale Goter of Wichita          
Robert Layton of Wichita              
Lavonta Williams of Wichita            
Jeff Blubaugh of Wichita                                         

Kansas Municipal Utilities
Colin Hansen of McPherson   
Bob Poehling of Overland Park
Tim Maier of McPherson
Greg DuMars of Lindsborg
Merl Page of Wamego
Doug Allen of Sabetha
Mike Muirhead of Garden City
Larry Paine of Hillsboro
George Dick of Mount Hope
Maren Hansen of McPherson 

City of Mission
Mayor McConwell of Mission  
Debbie Kring of Mission       
Gerry Vernon of Mission                                                       

Kansas Soybean Commission
Bob Henry of Robinson
Lucas Heinen of Everest       
Grant Webber of Sublette     
Gail Kueser of Garnett 
Debbie Kueser of Garnett     
Kyle Jeschke of Highland      
Dennis Hupe of Topeka
Meredith Jeschlce of Highland                             

Society of Health and Physical Educators
Damon Leiss of Emporia                                                       

City of Ottawa
Mayor Sara Caylor of Ottawa
Shawn Dickinson of Ottawa    
Richard Nienstedt of Ottawa                                                                         

Spirit Aerosystems
Jarrod Bartlett of Wichita      
Rufus Forrest of Wichita       
John Unghire of Wichita       
Ronald Thompson of Wichita  
Nick Reinhe of Wichita                                                                                    

City of Prairie Villiage
Kate Gunja of Praire Village     
Courtney McFadden of Prairie Village 

Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
David Alvey of Kansas City
Bob Milan of Kansas City
Don Grey of Kansas City
Joe Dick of Kansas City 

Heritage Baptist Church
Scott Hanks of Lawrence                                                                                                                                          
National Multiple Sclerosis Society Mid America Chapter
Leah Bond of Lenexa
Kay Julian of Kansas City 

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
Carroll Hackbart of Manhattan         
Don Snethen of Topeka                                                                

City of Salina
Randall Hardy of Salina

Alliance to End Hunger
Rick McNary of Potwin

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Abitz of Leawood
Jordan Ashley of Olathe       
Lauren Schumacher of Lawrence
Brandon Stein of Independence               

K-State College of Veterinary Medicine
Ralph Richardson of Manhattan       
Walter Renberg of Manhattan                                                                               

Dialysis Patient Citizens
Mike Guffey of Overland Park

Kansas PTA    
Debbie Lawson of Lenexa             
Tammy Bartels of Tonganoxie                                                                                 

Kansas Podiatric Medical Association
Corin Wilde of Pittsburg
Mark Landry of Overland Park
Jeff Hogge of Independence 

Native American Contractors Association
Burton Warrington of Mayetta

American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association
Shellee Currier of Kansas City          
Ed McKechnie of Pittsburg             
Thomas Hayes of Pittsburg            
Jeff Van Schaick of Pittsburg           
Gary Vaughn of Pittsburg              
Tracie VanVecelaere of Pittsburg              
Timothy Petty of Overland Park               
Kathy Simpson of Lake Quivira         
Shannon McCanley of Olathe          
Mark Shafer of Shawnee      
John D. Smith of Johnson              
Bob Boaldin of Elkhart         
Dian Boaldin of Elkhart 

Employers Council on Flexible Compensation
Ken Ogdon of Topeka     
Janet LeToureau of Leawood
Barbara Berry of Topeka
Dennis Triplett of Lenexa
Brenda Beachey of Westwood Hills
Kelly Boreas of Olathe     

Kansas State Board of Education
Jim McNiece of Wichita        
Ken Willard of Hutchinson                                                                               

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Jane Wegner of Lawrence     
Fred Britten of Hays 

Prairie Band Potawatomie Nation
Carrie O’Toole of Mayetta 

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Jane Wegner of Lawrence     
Fred Britten of Hays 

American Association of Marriage & Family Therapists
Natasha Parker of Wichita
Jenne Andrews of Manhattan
Erika Smith of Manhattan
Una Henry of Manhattan 

Capitol Tour       
Mike Farmer of Salina 
Mary Farmer of Salina
Karen Vosburgh of Macksville
Olivia Vosburgh of Macksville  
Emily Taylor of Silver Lake
Valerie Brockmall of Wichita
Josh Hill of Lawrence
Zhi Geng of Lawrence
Patricia Hargrove of Ottawa           
Donita Callahan of Ottawa
Jennifer Enright of Ottawa
Jewell Eastman of Richmond          
James Whelan of Manhattan
Marilee Whelan 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. 

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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