Kansas Common Sense
Mar 09 2020
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Providing Resources to Fight Coronavirus
The threat of coronavirus is serious, and this week, the Senate took an important step to ensure our federal, state and local governments have the tools necessary to help protect against the spread of the virus. The Senate passed a supplemental funding package to supply test kits, quarantine locations, additional medical staff, further research on the virus and more. Included in the package are resources for the state of Kansas to bolster efforts to protect against the coronavirus. These resources are an important step in protecting the health of the American people, and I will continue to work with the administration, state and health officials to make certain we are ready on all fronts to stop the spread of this virus. I will continue to stay up-to-date on coronavirus developments and advocate for the necessary resources to be provided as we fight against its continued spread.
To find further resources on how to protect yourself and others, please visit my website here.
Listening to Veteran Service Organizations
As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I continued to hold joint hearings with the House Veterans' Affairs Committee to discuss the legislative priorities of Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs). This week, we heard from the American Ex-Prisoners of War Organization (AXPOW), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Gold Star Wives of America (GSW), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
Kansas VFW members were in town for the hearing and stopped by my office to discuss their legislative priorities for this year, including their support for my bill, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. This landmark legislation is both a comprehensive and aggressive approach to connect more veterans with mental health care and suicide prevention efforts. I appreciate the VFW’s recognition of the importance of this legislation for so many veterans. I was glad to be able to recognize the Kansas VFW members at the hearing and thank them for traveling to D.C to be with us.
Visiting with County Commissioners
This week, the National Association of Counties gathered in Washington, D.C. and I was pleased to meet with leaders from Leavenworth and Riley counties, and host Johnson and Sedgwick counties in my office, this week. While each county highlighted its most pressing local issues, consistent themes from our conversations included needed investments in infrastructure, mental health and access to broadband.
With the current federal surface transportation authorization set to expire in September, Congress must pass a new long term plan to provide funding for local infrastructure projects. I am encouraged by President Trump’s continued interest in restoring our nation’s infrastructure and believe a bipartisan infrastructure package should be one of Congress’s top priorities.
In Kansas, our infrastructure projects include everything from road and bridge maintenance to water projects and airport improvements and more. Broadband access is a critical component as well. Like other local infrastructure improvements, access to technology unlocks an array of opportunities for businesses, students and families alike, particularly in rural and underserved areas of our state. I am fortunate to sit on committees in the U.S. Senate - Appropriations, Banking and Commerce - which all play an important role in advancing infrastructure legislation, and I look forward to being a partner with Kansas communities as we work to make needed investments in our nation’s infrastructure.
Thanks to the Kansas county leaders for making the trip to Washington and visiting with me, and your willingness to serve our fellow Kansans.
Providing Solutions to Lower Missouri River Flooding
After years of inadequate flood control proposals and funding, flooding along the lower Missouri River continues to increase in intensity, devastating homes, farms and businesses. This week, I introduced the Lower Missouri River Flood Prevention Program Act with Midwest senators from all of the states in the lower Missouri River system. This legislation would establish a new program to require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to implement a system-wide approach to water development projects to reduce flood risk and improve flood protection along the lower Missouri River.
Rather than taking ineffective reactionary measures after severe flooding occurs, this legislation would provide the USACE with the necessary tools to create a comprehensive, long-term solution instead of another temporary fix. This legislation would streamline the process of flood control project construction within the lower Missouri River Basin, empowering the Army Corps to mitigate flooding along the river to make certain Kansans’ homes and businesses are better protected in the future.
Questioning Secretary Wilbur Ross
As the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, I chaired a hearing on Thursday covering the Department of Commerce’s fiscal year 2021 budget request with Secretary Wilbur Ross providing testimony. The Department of Commerce executes a broad range of critical activities for our nation, which include: conducting a cost-effective and accurate Decennial Census, working with local communities to support economic development and job creation, promoting and increasing trade and investment for U.S. companies, supporting cutting edge research and development, and forecasting severe weather, among others.
I had the opportunity to discuss issues that are critical to Kansans with Secretary Ross like funding for trade agreements and the mission of the Economic Development Administration. The hearing allowed for necessary budgetary oversight that Congress is constitutionally obligated to exercise, and I will continue to closely monitor the budgetary practices and requests of our federal agencies.
Recognizing Women in Aviation
Last week I introduced a resolution with Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) to recognize March 2-8, 2020, as Women of the Aviation Workforce Week. The most famous woman in aviation—Amelia Earhart—grew up in Atchison, Kansas, and paved the way for women to pursue careers in aviation as engineers, flight crew members, air traffic controllers and pilots. Despite her ground-breaking efforts, less than 10 percent of aeronautical engineers in the U.S. are women, and women make up less than eight percent of our pilots. To address this disparity, I helped create an advisory board at the FAA that aims to support women in aviation and better meet the growing demand for workers in the industry.
Meeting with Kansas Railroads Companies
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association and the Association of American Railroads. Located in America’s heartland, Kansas is one of the leading rail and distribution centers in our country and plays an integral role connecting farmers and factories with communities around the globe. During our meeting, we discussed a USDOT award that was recently granted to the Kansas Department of Transportation for upgrades to the South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad. This critical grant will help enhance safety, increase efficiency and reduce fuel usage.
We also discussed the success in extending the 45G tax credit, used to repair and upgrade short line railroads. The tax credit was extended at the end of last year, making it retroactive to 2018 and effective through 2022, the longest extension ever granted to the tax credit by the federal government. I look forward to our continued work together in the future and ensuring the continued success of the rail industry in Kansas.
Transitioning Kansas Adjutant Generals
On Tuesday, I met with the Kansas National Guard leadership ahead of Major General Lee Tafanelli’s departure as the Kansas Adjutant General next month. General Tafanelli has had a distinguished 40 year career in our Armed Forces and served our state honorably. While I am sad to see him depart his position, I am glad to know that he will hand the responsibility of leading our Kansas Guardsmen over to the very capable Air Force Brigadier General David Weishaar. During the meeting, I welcomed General Weishaar to the position and thanked General Tafanelli for his service to Kansas and to our nation. He and his family have sacrificed a lot over a four-decade career in uniform, and I am certain he will continue to serve Kansans honorably in retirement.
Meeting with the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association
It was great speaking with Kansas business owners who represent the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association. We discussed the importance of the Restoring Investment in Improvements Act, an improvement to the historic Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that would allow businesses to deduct the full costs of facility improvements over 15 years. As job creators in Kansas communities, they also shared their concerns with finding an adequate amount of employees due to labor shortages. I appreciated the expertise they provided and will continue supporting them by working for the enactment of pro-growth, pro-business policies in Washington, D.C.
Visiting with Kansas AIPAC Member Students
On Tuesday, I visited with Kansans who came to Washington for the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. Taking questions from the university students in attendance, I reaffirmed my commitment to Israel’s security and, as a member of the State/Foreign Operations and Defense Appropriations subcommittees, my ongoing support for assistance funding to Israel. I noted that I recently visited Auschwitz for the first time, and what happened there reinforced to me that we cannot let such crimes occur again. Israel provides a haven for Jews who deserve to be safe. I noted the rise of anti-Semitic attacks in our own country, and I am working to make sure our nation stands beside our closest friend in the Middle East.
Touring the KU Med Salina Campus
It was great to be back in Salina to visit the University of Kansas School of Medicine’s Salina Campus following recent renovations. The KU Med campus in Salina was created to address the shortage of physicians across Kansas, and its innovative program is aimed at students with a desire to practice medicine in rural areas. The Salina campus admits eight students per year, making it the smallest four-year medical education site in the United States. I first visited the KU Med Salina Campus in 2016 before major construction had begun. The 21st-century facility is a gem in downtown Salina, and I am proud of the partnerships made by the University, Salina Regional Health Center and the community in order to better our state. I appreciate Dean Robert Moser, MD for giving me a tour of the campus and Mayor Trent Davis for joining us. Read more about my visit in the Salina Journal.
Reading to First Graders in Plainville
I enjoyed the opportunity to read to and interact with first graders at my old elementary school in Plainville. Growing up, reading allowed me to learn about other parts of the world while sitting on the steps of Carnegie library. I was glad to have the opportunity to share my love of reading with these young minds. A special thanks to the Plainville Elementary School staff Marlisa Berner, Marianne Werner, Allissa Kearn and Shania Werner for inviting me into their classroom and to Superintendent and Principal Lisa Gehring for her continued commitment to USD 270.
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.
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