Kansas Common Sense
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New Opportunities to Support Servicemembers and Veterans
I was selected to serve as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee this week. In the new position, I look forward to having a larger role overseeing Department of Defense investments in infrastructure, enhancing the quality of life for military families, and making improvements at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better serve our nation’s veterans. I look forward to working more closely with the armed forces and the VA for the betterment of those who sacrifice for our freedoms.
Joining the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee & Continuing Work with the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee
I have been appointed to the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee for the 115th Congress, a committee assignment that will give me greater opportunity to fight on behalf of Kansans. Our nation needs to be led in a new direction on environmental and energy policy – starting with the president’s recent action to move forward with construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. On the EPW Committee, I will work to roll back burdensome rules from the EPA and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that harm our farmers and ranchers, raise the cost of energy for families and hinder economic development in rural communities. The EPW Committee also plays a critical role in addressing our national infrastructure and the public works needs of a competitive American economy.
I also retained my membership on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, where I will continue to focus on investing in policies that are vital to Kansas farmers and ranchers, such as agriculture research, crop insurance and efforts to increase exports. Additionally, through the subcommittee’s jurisdiction over the FDA budget, I will work to advance public health innovations, including development of new medicines, medical devices and food safety practices.
Meeting the Nominee for Veterans Affairs Secretary
Before I decide whether or not to vote to confirm the president’s nominee to lead the VA, I met with him. Dr. Shulkin and I discussed the desperately needed changes that must take place at the VA to make the agency worthy of every single veteran it is sworn to serve. I reiterated to Dr. Shulkin my priorities in support of veterans, which I expressed to President Trump in a letter on day one of his administration — veteran deserve access to care, a cleared appeals backlog and increased accountability at the VA. The opportunity Dr. Shulkin could have to make a difference in the lives of veterans cannot be overstated, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with him about how to reform the VA and restore veterans’ trust in the agency created to serve them. Click here to watch me share more of my impression from our meeting with Fox News.
An Exciting Week for Parsons
Back in Kansas at the end of the week, I spoke with the Rotary Club in Parsons. My conversations with club members focused on vital healthcare programs serving Kansans and how Americans can come together as a nation following the election. I remain hopeful that we can reconnect Americans of all political affiliations through responsible and effective governance. I was pleased to share the news that the local aerospace manufacturing supplier Ducommun, Inc., was awarded a multi-million dollar contract with Airbus, which should create more than 80 jobs in the Parsons community and provide a great economic boost to the area. Thank you to Dr. Wayne Gilmore for helping schedule my visit and to Daniel Mann of Great Plains Development for the warm introduction.
Ajit Pai Designated Acting Chairman of FCC
Additionally, I had the chance to discuss the president’s choice to designate my fellow Kansan Ajit Pai as acting Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He is an excellent choice to lead the Commission. I have worked with him over the years through my role on the Senate Commerce Committee, traveled with him throughout our state, and gotten to know him on a personal level. Being from Parsons, Ajit understands the importance of quality access to broadband and wireless connectivity, and I believe growing up in Kansas makes him uniquely qualified to advocate for rural America. I look forward to continuing to work with him to make certain we can improve connectivity and bring critical updates not only to our homes and businesses but also to our hospitals and schools. Click here to hear me discuss it more on KLKC-V93 FM.
Calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service to Extend Lesser Prairie Chicken Status Review Comment Period
I sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requesting an extension of the deadline for public comments on the ongoing status review of the lesser prairie chicken (LPC). The deadline for submitting comments is currently set to pass prior to the completion of the 2016 LPC Range-wide Conservation Plan (RWP) Annual Progress Report. The report will contain key metrics and information relevant to the voluntary conservation efforts in the habitat area, giving all stakeholders a more complete understanding of ongoing efforts to conserve the LPC. It is important that the FWS consider the report – and that the public have an opportunity to comment on the report – before taking any further action toward a final determination on the listing of the species. I look forward to working with the new administration on voluntary efforts to conserve the LPC habitat area without hindering economic development. Please click here to read my letter.
Sponsoring Legislation to Ease Tax Burden on Families
On Tuesday, I joined 27 Senate colleagues in introducing the S. 205, the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017. This legislation will permanently repeal the federal estate tax, putting an end to the tax on family farms, ranches and businesses who wish to pass their business on to the next generation. The estate tax adds an unfair burden on our economy, requiring families to pay a tax on the life savings of a deceased loved one – savings built from income already taxed when originally earned. Its repeal has long been a priority of mine. The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017 is commonsense legislation that will boost our economy by creating greater certainty for farmers and business owners as they plan their futures.
Seeking Additional Information from Betsy DeVos
I called on Ms. Betsy DeVos this week to answer a number of questions for clarification following her confirmation hearing. It is my view that every child should have access to a safe learning environment, highly-qualified teachers, appropriate school supplies, and the attention necessary to overcome a learning deficiency. In pursuit of these goals, it is important to allow local school districts the flexibility to determine how best to use federal educational resources. A one-size-fits-all approach to education is not in the best interests of Kansas students. The impact of her potential future leadership of programs that direct school funding, protect the rights of students with disabilities, and manage testing standards as they pertain to proficiency is of great importance to Kansas families. I have requested a meeting with her in the coming days for further clarification on these important issues.
Making Stops in Wellington and Kiowa
I visited Wellington this week to tour GKN Aerospace Precision Machining (GKN) which has about 220 employees and continues to be one of the largest employers in Sumner County. GKN has the great responsibility of producing the section 41 floor module for Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner. As co-chair of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, I take pride in our local aerospace manufacturers and the vital part they play in our Kansas economy. Thanks to Operations Manager Wes Lough, Site Leader Todd Gardner, and Vice President and General Manager Brian DeCamp for attending and touring with me.
I was also in Kiowa at Kiowa District Hospital (KDH) to discuss the consequences of the Affordable Care Act and the veterans’ Choice Act. Kiowa’s impressive 29-bed Critical Access Hospital has been serving the community since 1951. KDH provides a wide range of services, including imaging and laboratory services, physical, occupational and speech therapy and surgery. We discussed healthcare access in rural areas and the VA's Choice program. Barber County is fortunate to have this state of the art hospital which is less than three years old. Thank you to CFO Janell Goodno for coordinating my visit and Kiowa Mayor Brandon Farney, Kiowa Chamber President Janet Robinson and KDH board members for joining the tour.
Visiting Airbus Engineering and Wichita State's Innovation Campus
I visited the newly relocated Airbus Engineering Center at the Wichita State University (WSU) Innovation Campus on Thursday morning. Nearly 15 years ago, the talent pool of aviation experts who are among the brightest in the world drew Airbus to Wichita to build its first U.S.-based engineering center. Airbus is now collaborating with WSU’s engineering and business schools, National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) and similar organizations also located within the Innovation Campus with the goal of producing the next generation of aviation experts by providing students experiential employment opportunities. I toured the Engineering Center and the Innovation Campus GoCreate Maker Space, which provides students and workers access to the technology and services that help facilitate product development. Thank you to John O’Leary for leading my tour and for your leadership at Airbus Engineering. Thank you also to WSU President John Bardo for providing the vision and drive necessary in order to make the Innovation Campus a reality.
Meeting Fredonia Junior/Senior High School Students and Faculty
I met with FHS Principal Jamie Camacho and student leaders this week who gave me a tour of their school and shared with me their perspectives on issues that impact their lives. They had thoughtful insight into the importance of technical education programs and talked to me about their participation in the Skills USA program, where they build and race pedal cars. My thanks to all who met with me – to the students for their efforts to learn and to the faculty and administrators working hard to have a positive impact on Kansas students.
Addressing Hutchinson AMBUCS Club
I was the guest speaker at the breakfast meeting of the Hutchinson AMBUCS Club on Friday, where I had the chance to visit with those in attendance about the new administration, cabinet nominations and the confirmation process and working to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. We also talked about jobs and economic growth, reining in our national debt and the importance of caring for our veterans. Thank you to Club President Dorinda Simmons and Kathy Hanks for the kind invitation and to all club members for your dedication to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities. I was glad to see State Senator Ed Berger, former State Senator Dave Kerr and Judge Patty Macke Dick in attendance.
Convening a Roundtable in Hays
I was in Hays on Friday and joined a group of community, business and education leaders for a roundtable discussion at the Fort Hays State University (FHSU) Foundation. The conversation touched on many important topics including the new administration, congress, and ensuring Kansas kids have the opportunities to pursue their dreams in our state as they grow up. It was a helpful opportunity to share with the group my legislative priorities for 2017, as well as get their feedback on what they’d like to see accomplished this year. Thank you to the FHSU Foundation for their hospitality.
Giving Keynote Remarks at Kansas Lions Clubs Gathering
Communities across our state are strengthened by the Kansans who participate in civic clubs. Lions Clubs work to make Kansas communities strong and I have been an active member over the last 40 years of the Hays Lions Club and Hill City Lions Club. I was the keynote speaker at a meeting of the statewide clubs on Saturday and had a great discussion with members. The Lions club motto is “We Serve,” and the many Lions serving across Kansas exemplify this selfless spirit. Thanks to Lions Clubs International Chancellor Bob Corlew for joining us on Saturday and for the peace poster plaque and centennial silver dollar I received from the group.
Thanking Kansas Dentists
Thank you to the 120 Kansas dentists and volunteers who were in Manhattan for the 16th Annual Kansas Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic. In just two days, these dentists voluntarily serve nearly 2,000 Kansans providing cleanings, fillings, root canals and more at zero cost. For some, a dental check-up means the one day per year you get told to floss more frequently, but a significant number of Kansans don’t receive annual dental care at all and an event like this weekend’s is a huge help in improving their dental and overall health. Each year the event is put on by the Kansas Dental Charitable foundation and this year’s co-chairs were Drs. Ryan Grieves and Randy Davis. Thanks to the dentists who volunteered to keep Kansans healthy and grins wide.
Appointing a New State Director, Chief of Staff
I recently appointed a new state director, Alex Richard, to oversee state office operations and represent me in the state when I’m working on behalf of Kansans in Washington, D.C. Alex is taking over for Brennen Britton, who has moved to the nation’s capital to serve as chief of staff. Alex grew up in Prairie Village, and was most recently my legislative director and deputy chief of staff based in Washington, D.C. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kansas.
Accepting Applications for Summer Internships
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works. I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today where I have interns year-round who have a unique opportunity to work closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans. Applications are already being accepted for internships in my Washington, D.C., Manhattan, and Olathe, Kansas, offices for the summer 2017 term. The deadline for the spring is Friday, February 17th. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information.
Kansans in the Office
Jerry Dean of Olathe
Tami Dean of Olathe
Dana Dean of Olathe
Duane Dean of Olathe
Kristin Brumm of Overland Park
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Teresa SanMartin of Wichita
Volora Hanzlicek of Sabetha
Kimberly Sill of Olathe
Allison Rogers of Independence
Stephen Minnis of Atchison
Tom Koller of Atchison
Catholic Medical Association
Paul Camarata of Overland Park
Ed McKechnie of Arcadia
Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Hal Hoxie of Central Christian College
Amy Bragg-Carey of Friends University
Daniel Greenhalgh 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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