Kansas Common Sense


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Applauding KDOT’s Selection for the Federal UAS Pilot Program
On Wednesday, I joined officials at the Department of Transportation (DOT) in announcing that the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) was selected for the department’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program.

Kansas has a rich aviation heritage and I am proud that our state will continue to lead the way on the national and global stage for UAS research, testing and development. Kansas is the first state to have Unmanned Traffic Management in place for all state agencies, airports and institutes of higher education and the selection of the Integration Pilot Program will allow Kansas to build upon our momentum and unlock the incredible economic potential this technology can have for our country.

I’m thankful for the vision put forward by Governor Colyer, Lt. Governor Mann, and our state Aviation Director Lt. Colonel Brock and for thought leaders at KU, K-State and Wichita State who have been instrumental to our state’s success in this space. I look forward to continuing our work in Congress and with Secretary Chao to make great strides in safe and successful UAS implementation.

In January, our full Kansas delegation sent a letter to Secretary Elaine Chao to endorse KDOT’s selection for the UAS Integration Pilot Program. To read the letter, click here.

Full video of the announcement is available here.

Questioning Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I convened a hearing to discuss the Department of Commerce's FY2019 funding requests. With Secretary Wilbur Ross providing testimony, the hearing touched on a number of critical economic competitiveness issues, including prioritizing thoughtful trade policies and funding for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to build the capacity of individuals, businesses and communities by maximizing local talent and institutions to innovate and create jobs.

Programs like the Section 27 Regional Innovation Program and the Hollings Manufacturing Partnership are particularly popular for those interested in business development in Kansas. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which we discussed, oversees the federal use of spectrum and manages broadband grants – broadband deployment to unserved and underserved communities continues to be a priority of mine. I also emphasized the importance of trade to the Kansas economy and the impact tariffs initiated by the Commerce Department will have on our manufacturers, ag producers and consumers. I look forward to working with Secretary Ross to uphold American competitiveness in the global economy. Please click here to view my opening remarks.

Meeting with Olympic Gymnast Aly Raisman in Ongoing Olympic Abuse Investigation
As chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the national governing bodies, I spoke with Olympic Gold Medalist Aly Raisman regarding the abuse that she and hundreds of other athletes suffered at the hands of former USA Gymnastics (USAG) doctor Larry Nassar. Her story and others continue to reinforce and reinvigorate my determination to root out abuse in youth sport governing bodies. I remain hopeful for renewed commitment from all Olympic organizations to eradicate sexual abuse and other misconduct, and to raise a generation of athletes who feel safe competing in the sports they love.  

In January, I questioned whether USAG and Michigan State University (MSU) tried to silence gymnasts with non-disclosure agreements and what the USOC is doing to prevent future atrocities. Additionally, I broadened my inquiries to include questions for all national governing bodies following reports that revealed two USOC executives were alerted of possible sexual misconduct by Nassar a year before he was suspended from treating athletes. In April, I chaired a hearing to provide a forum for survivors of abuse to discuss specific concerns and challenges in preventing abuse within their respective sports. I will continue to pursue answers in this investigation so that we can make lasting change.

Iran Deal
President Trump announced this week that he will no longer waive sanctions imposed on Iran for its nuclear program. I have long believed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a flawed agreement that didn’t go far enough in checking Iran’s nuclear program and its behavior beyond its borders. I encourage the administration to continue discussions with our European allies to create a better deal that prioritizes the safety and security of Americans and makes certain Iran never acquires nuclear weapons.

Panel Discussion on Competitiveness in the Workforce
As co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Competitiveness Caucus, I was pleased to participate in welcoming a panel of individuals to speak on the value of apprenticeships as Congress continues to focus on developing a strong national workforce. We heard the apprenticeship success stories of representatives on the panel from the popular television show “This Old House,” which highlighted how apprenticeship job training often leads to good paying, consistent jobs without the considerable financial burden associated with student loans. In Kansas, the importance of apprenticeships is evident in the ongoing workforce needs of our aviation industry. These companies face difficulty in recruiting skilled employees, but this problem can be alleviated through increased use of apprenticeship programs to train students and allow them to step into these jobs, completely prepared, in shorter time periods. I will continue pushing for greater Congressional support for apprenticeship programs. These programs will drive economic growth, improve employment opportunities, and provide Kansans with good salaries that enable individuals to raise a family.

Speaking to the KC Chamber of Commerce
This week, I had the opportunity to speak to the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce during their visit to Washington. I spoke to the Chamber about how I want all Kansans to have opportunities to succeed in our state. Kansas City’s economic health and ability to create good-paying jobs, whether on the Kansas or Missouri side, matters and impacts the entire state of Kansas.  

In addition, we discussed a number of issues including my legislation to reform our postal service, the importance of global trade for Kansas, new ways to encourage business growth and the need to invest in research to educate the next generation for a 21st Century economy. Thank you to Mark Larrabee of Arvest Bank for the kind introduction and for all of the Chamber members for engaging in issues important to Kansas and the Kansas City region.

Emphasizing Department of Defense Priorities
As a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, I questioned Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford on Wednesday as they presented the Fiscal Year 2019 budget request for the Department of Defense. The hearing covered a wide range of global issues, policies and investments outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, but I wanted to take the opportunity draw attention to those who are currently serving in Afghanistan. We are now in the 17th year of conflict in America’s longest war in Afghanistan. It’s important to me, just as I know it’s important to the Secretary and the Chairman, that the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who deployed to this conflict know beyond a shadow a of doubt that the most senior officials in Washington are committed to supporting them as they continue the fight. We have not forgotten about their sacrifice. I visited Afghanistan last summer, and saw firsthand both the progress made and the challenges that remain in this country which has been in a near-constant state of conflict since the 1970s. Though daily headlines involving Russia and North Korea may redirect our attention to emerging threats, we must not forget about those who live, serve and fight every day in the shadows of our national conversations. I am committed to making certain our servicemembers have the resources they need to complete this mission and support Afghanistan in their government’s effort to defeat the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

I also took the opportunity to ask Sec. Mattis about the importance of Cyber Red Teams. There are only a handful of these teams, with members who are NSA-certified and can conduct adversarial assessments on Department of Defense networks and platforms. One of them is the Kansas Air National Guard’s 177th Information Aggressor Squadron in Wichita, and the 117th are at the leading edge of this effort. I believe the assessments performed by Cyber Red Teams are vital to ensuring the security of some of our most important investments, such as the F-35. Sec. Mattis agreed that the Cyber Red Teams are an important part of the department’s vision for the cyber domain and their role is being shaped by an ongoing department cyber posture review. Please click here to watch our exchange.

Meeting with Kansas Hospital CEOs
I met with hospital CEOs from across our state to discuss ways to drive down the cost of healthcare, the importance of the 340B drug program to our hospitals and patients and ways I can continue to advocate for the unique needs of each of our hospitals. We had a lengthy discussion about opioid abuse and taking a holistic approach to end this epidemic. It was encouraging to hear from these CEOs how Kansas hospitals are fighting the opioid epidemic in their individual communities and are teaming up with mental health experts to provide these important services to their patients.

I look forward to continuing to work with hospitals across our state to make certain Kansans are receiving timely and quality care in their communities and that Washington regulations do not make it more difficult for our providers to serve Kansans.

Questioning HHS Secretary Alex Azar on NIH Funding, Drug Pricing and More
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, Education, Labor and Pensions this week. I spoke to Secretary Azar about a number of topics of interest to Kansans that are under his purview at HHS. Specifically, I outlined my concerns regarding ways to reduce healthcare costs, keep America safe from infectious disease, lower prescription drug costs and help our hospitals continue to provide key services to patients.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and direct research all across the United States. I oppose cutting their funding in Fiscal Year 2019, as their research could save millions of lives in the future through ground-breaking discoveries, new treatments and cures for diseases that reduce healthcare costs.

The newly released rescission list from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) targets the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Global Health Security account, which is used to build infrastructure to combat infectious diseases across the globe. Eliminating this funding is the wrong move for the safety of the U.S., particularly as new confirmed cases of Ebola are being found in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Drug Pricing
Rising drug prices are a continued source of concern nationwide as many increases are accompanied by proposed rebates that never truly reach the patient. Pharmacy benefit managers, who act as the middle men between drug companies and pharmacies, often take much of these rebates for themselves. I look forward to working with Sec. Azar, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Verma, and FDA Commissioner Gottlieb on a solution to drive drug prices down and ensure prescriptions return to affordable rates for Americans.

Programs Aiding Kansas Hospitals
The 340B Drug Discount Program provides drugs to eligible healthcare organizations at significantly reduced prices – ensuring that health clinics and hospitals are able to stretch their resources as far as possible. This program is a major source of assistance to many of our hospitals in Kansas that face significant financial difficulties and may be forced to cut some services they currently provide without access to this program.

Please click here to watch our exchange. 

Joining Ellis High School’s Graduation Ceremony
On Saturday, I was honored to speak at Ellis High School’s graduation ceremony. During this time of year, most seniors are busy thinking about their future plans, so I took the opportunity to remind them that true success is not marked by what we get out of life, but by what we give back and the kind of person we become. I challenged the seniors to become individuals of character who pursue excellence and put others first. I encouraged them to find success in their local community and to do what they can to make certain Kansas continues to be a great place to work, live and raise a family.

Congratulations to the class of 2018 on their outstanding achievement. And special thanks to senior Haley Reiter for the invitation as well as Superintendent Robert Young and Principal Corey Burton for allowing me to take part in such an important day. Please click here to read the Hays Daily News' story on the ceremony. 

Now Accepting Fall Internship Applications
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 working closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans.

Applications for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for fall 2018 are due Friday, June 15. 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.

Now Accepting 2018 Service Academy Applications
As students are finishing up the school and beginning their summer breaks, I want to remind them of the opportunity to apply to a United States Service Academy. Appointing Kansans to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. is one of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator.

To review requirements and move through the application process, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office at 913-393-0711. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by September 7, 2018. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, September 22, 2018, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

Kansans in the Office

Carol Katzman of Overland Park

American Association of Orthodontists
Donald Wilcoxon of Overland Park

Douglas Heizman of Overland Park

Growth Energy
Ed Condon of Lenexa
Gary Harshburger of Dodge City
Dave Kerr of Hutchinson
Rock Ormiston of Kismet
Megan Vincent of Sterling
Tom Willis of Liberal

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Gary Hall of Wichita
Shaun Junkins of Wichita
Kenny Lewellen of Wichita
Rickey Nelson of Wichita
Roger Stamback of Wichita
Tony Spicer of Wichita

Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance
Karen Nyhart of Kansas City
Richard Shockey of Kansas City

Kansas Emergency Management Association
Autumn Arasmith of Colby
Gary Denny of Newton
Dan Robeson of Overland Park
Thomas Winter of Ottawa

Kansas Hospital CEOs
Melissa Atkins of Hill City
Chad Austin of Topeka
Tom Bell of Topeka
Kiley Ford of Seneca
Dennis Franks of Chanute
Dennis George of Kansas City
Val Gleason of Newton
Russ Johnson of Lawrence
George Stover of Lyons

Kansas Library Association
Robert Banks of Topeka
Kate McNair of Merriam
Gina Millsap of Topeka
Marie Pyko of Topeka

KS Wheat Growers
Daniel Heady of St. George

Materials Research Society
Judy Wu of Lawrence

National Brain Tumor Society
Victoria Carpenter of Merriam
Annie Kotich of Lenexa
Linda Kotich of Topeka

North American Insulation Manufacturers Association
Robert Buck of Kansas City
Johns Manville of McPherson

Spirit Aerosystems
Tom Gentile of Wichita
Eric Hein of Wichita
Sam Sackett of Wichita
Andy Schlapp of Wichita
John Tomblin of Wichita

VA Medical Center Directors
Rick Ament of Wichita
Rudy Klopfer of Topeka
Michael Moore of Kansas City
William Patterson of Kansas City
Paula Roychaudhuri of Overland Park

Zero to Three
Amy Lingerfelt of Pittsburg
Charles Lingerfelt of Pittsburg
Noah Lingerfelt of Pittsburg

Capitol Tour
Amy Bailly of Wichita
Anna Bailly of Wichita
Nancy Beale Halpin of Berryton
Bridget Bleakley of Wichita
Tiara Collins of Wichita
Aaron Davis of Overland Park
Sharon Dedo of Wichita
Tricia Glidewell of Wichita
Glen Glidewell of Wichita
Gary Hall of Wichita
Kathy Halpin of Berryton
Amber Junkins of Wichita
Shaun Junkins of Wichita
Joan Martin of Wichita
Grace Martin of Wichita
Dave McIntire of Wichita
Devon Olson of Rose Hill
Beth Olson of Rose Hill
Kaitlyn Olson of Rose Hill
Khylee Olson of Rose Hill
C.R. Pullen of Overland Park
Leslie Pullen of Overland Park
Benjamin Rivers of Wichita
John Rueger of Lenexa
Alexander Rueger of Lenexa
Karen Siebert of Prairie Village

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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