Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter.
I send warm wishes to all who are in the midst of observing the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, which marks the new year of the Hebrew calendar and the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days. To all of the families in Kansas and around the world who are gathered to celebrate, I wish health, happiness and clarity of mind in the coming new year. L’shana tovah.
Supporting Veterans & McConnell AFB, Protecting Americans from Zika
This week I supported a bill to fund the government through December 9. I have never believed in band-aid extensions and while there’s no substitute for regular budget order, passage of the interim bill before Congress this week was the responsible way to address the Zika virus and provide certainty to Kansans and Americans. No woman’s reaction to learning she is pregnant should be fear because of Zika, and no newborn child’s well-being should be endangered because their nation’s leaders lack the will to get the job done. My conversations with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Tom Frieden and visit to the K-State Biosecurity Research Institute both underscored this point: we must provide emergency resources to protect our citizens from the threat of Zika.
The legislation also keeps essential functions of our government running, includes vital resources for veterans and prioritizes critical military construction projects. Three projects to help upgrade facilities McConnell Air Force Base depend on this legislation. The work of the men and women at McConnell Air Force Base benefits not only our military on a global scale but also the entire state and the Wichita and Derby communities in particular.
Meeting with our Military Leaders of Tomorrow
I had the honor of meeting a group of young Kansans last weekend who aspire to serve their nation and attend a military service academy. I met these patriotic students at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene. Please click below to watch a video from that special day.
Learning More about FDA’s Work to Ensure Safe Products for American Consumers
As chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees funding for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s a priority of mine to better understand how the agency operates at all levels. I made a visit this week to the FDA facility focused primarily on the post-market testing of medical devices and radiation-emitting electronic products. Product testing ranges from medical gloves and sunlamps to surgical instruments, infusion pumps, defibrillators and diagnostic x-ray systems. It was instructive to meet with staff and learn more about their important work to continue to ensure the safety of these products for all Americans.
Discussing Health Care & Energy in Wichita with Sen. John Barrasso
Via Christi Hospital
I was joined on Friday by my colleague, Senator John Barrasso, M.D., to visit with the Kansas Orthopedic Society at their annual conference and to tour Via Christi St Francis Hospital in Wichita. Sen. Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon by training, and I spoke with the Orthopedic Society regarding Medicare reimbursement, proposed changes to Medicare Part B, and the future of health care. We also visited the cancer clinical trials unit and the joint replacements center while touring the St. Francis facilities. Our discussion revolved around how federal policies and programs can best assist the hospital in continuing to provide quality care in our communities. It was good to meet the new CEO Mike Mullins.
Following the hospital tour, Sen. Barrasso and I joined a roundtable discussion with Wichita-area energy business leaders. We spoke with a group of Kansans who deal with energy issues on a daily basis about ways the federal government can help. Sen. Barrasso serves on the Energy and Natural Resources committee and has an extensive background in energy issues, so he was a great fit to join me for this event. Representatives from the Kansas Electric Cooperative, Westar, Kansas Municipal Utilities and several other companies attended. Discussion focused on the importance of a comprehensive energy policy that enables us to access affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible energy sources so that we can prevent rising prices from burdening Kansas families, small businesses, and our manufacturing, transportation and agricultural industries. Please click here to read more from the Wichita Eagle about the discussion.
Working to Improve the Veterans Choice Program
I hosted a call this week to bring together TriWest Healthcare Alliance CEO Dave McIntyre, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Under Secretary Dr. Baligh Yehia, Kansas Hospital Administration (KHA) Senior Vice President Chad Austin, and a group of Kansas hospital executives to discuss the Veterans Choice Program in serving Kansas veterans. The conversation focused on the implementation of the Veterans Choice Program and improvements in care coordination between VHA, TriWest and community providers who serve Kansas veterans in our hometowns. There have been numerous challenges with the implementation of Choice, but we are fortunate to have Kansas hospitals and clinics that are committed to doing what is in the best interest of veterans. The VHA and TriWest are committed to addressing the issues community providers and veterans face in our state. I look forward to continuing to work with all those involved supporting our veterans to make certain they receive care worthy of their service. Click here to read more.
Defending Kansas Family Farmers & Small Business-Owners
I joined my colleagues, Senators Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake, this week to introduce the Protect Family Farms and Businesses Act (S. 3436). This legislation would prohibit the Obama administration from implementing its proposed regulations to unilaterally expand and raise the estate tax on family-owned small businesses. Additionally, I joined 40 of my Senate colleagues in urging Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to withdraw the proposed regulations. I believe that the Treasury Department should pursue policies that encourage the creation and growth of family-owned farms and small businesses, not ones that increase the tax burden on families and make it more difficult to transfer ownership to the next generation. I have long sought a permanent repeal of the estate tax, and I will continue to work to protect Kansas farmers and small businesses from burdensome tax policies. To read more, click here.
Visiting with Potawatomi Tribal Leaders
I appreciated Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (PBPN) Chairwoman Liana Onnen and Vice Chairman Zach Pahmahmie visiting with me while they were in Washington this week. We discussed issues specific to the tribe and also to Indian Country as a whole, including finalizing appointees to an advisory council under the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act. PBPN’s economic growth and cultural heritage are important to preserve and promote, and our conversation provided a useful exchange to accomplish these goals. I value their partnership on these issues and look forward to visiting again soon.
Realities of Housing Finance in Rural America
As a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, I work to make certain rural interests are represented. In past housing finance hearings, I’ve asked about the relative lack of attention paid to rural housing projects. The typical response I receive is as obvious as it is frustrating: the costs associated with rural construction cannot be offset due to the relatively low number of units needed compared to larger population centers. To learn more about my efforts to fight for rural housing in Kansas, click here.
Protecting Volunteer Organizations Nationwide
The efforts of volunteer organizations like Lions Clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimists and the YMCA are essential to communities across Kansas. This week, I sponsored the Volunteer Organization Protection Act (S. 1684) to provide additional liability protections to volunteer groups and organizations like these clubs. This bill would expand good Samaritan protections to lower a person’s risk of liability when participating in acts of service as a volunteer. These clubs and their members make a positive and meaningful contribution to the quality of life in their communities, and I’m proud to support legislation that will help make certain they are able to continue to serve others. Click here to read more.
Keeping President Eisenhower’s Values Alive for Future Generations
Robba and I joined Susan Eisenhower – President Eisenhower’s granddaughter – and a room full of folks who still like Ike this week to support the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene. His humble Kansas roots always kept him grounded, even when serving as the Supreme Allied Commander during WWII and two terms as president thereafter. Ike's leadership provided a model of how we should conduct ourselves in Washington and in our everyday discourse. I was honored to be a part of a wonderful evening and am proud to continue helping Ike’s legacy live on.
Celebrating Fort Hays State University’s Homecoming
Robba and I were in Hays for Fort Hays State University’s (FHSU) Homecoming parade on Saturday. We enjoyed visiting with the many alumni, students and community members who were participating in “Welcome to Tiger Town.” Thank you to FHSU President Mirta Martin and the alumni association for putting together another successful homecoming celebration and congrats to the football team who went on to rout the Lindenwood Lions. Also, thanks to Don and Sharon Barton for providing a car for Robba and me to ride in during the parade.
Accepting Applications for Spring 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 spring 2017 term. The deadline for the spring is Friday, October 28. 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
Dan Glickman of Wichita
Keith Mispagel of Atchison
Patrick Doran of Topeka
Ryan Gilliland of Topeka
Pat Morse of Dodge City
Melinda Lewis of Lawrence
Jill Eggleston of Leawood
Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Jennifer Thornton of Leavenworth
University of Kansas Child and Family Services Clinic
Yo Jackson of Lawrence
John Goodwin of Prairie Village
Associated General Contractors of Kansas
Kurt Grier of Wichita
Jim Rinner of Topeka
Mike Gibson of Topeka
Bennie Crossland of Columbus
Ron Fowles of Manhattan
Tracy Green of Lawrence
Associated General Contractors, Kansas City Chapter
Don Greenwell of Kansas City
Pat Schultze of Overland Park
Debra Schultze of Overland Park
International Rescue Committee
Musa Rashid of Wichita
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation
Liana Onnen of Topeka
Zach Pahmahmie of Mayetta
Kameron Onnen of Topeka
Kansas Animal Health Comissioner
Bill Brown of Westmoreland
National Head Start Association
Jeanette Sperfslage of Hiawatha
Joanie Burke of Pittsburg
Mike Cook of Hutchinson
Enterprise Center in Johnson County
Melissa Roberts of Overland Park
Matt Pisarnik of Topeka
Krystal Henderson of Pittsburg
Aaron Butler of Salina
Kacey Preston of Yates Center
Angela Ortega of Pittsburg
Hali Crellin of Yates Center
Assets Learning Conference Attendees
Jackson Swearer of Hutchinson
Laura Jones of Topeka
Becky Davis of Great Bend
Gail Wagner of Great Bend
Sandra Walker of Lawrence
Ruthe Goff of Spring Hill
Brad Campbell of Olathe
Jonathan Jones of Bonner Springs
Bill Kern of Wamego
Vickie Kern of Wamego
Bill Brown of Westmoreland
Marilyn Brown of Westmoreland
Cindy Jones of Bonner Springs
Lou Heady of Wichita
Ralph Heady Wichita
Clay Magana of Wichita
Terry Magana of Wichita
Cera Magana of Wichita
Lara Rhamy of Wichita
Jena Haskins of Overland Park
Brad Chandler of Gardner
Colleen Chandler of Gardner
Paul Chandler of Gardner
Charmin Olson of Olathe
Jennifer Brown of Overland Park
Margaret Chipman of Lawrence
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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