Kansas Common Sense

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Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you 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.

National Defense Authorization Act Passes Senate
The Senate this week voted on and passed the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act. This bill will authorize programs and funding to support our nation’s Armed Forces for the upcoming fiscal year 2016. I am pleased the House and the Senate were able to come together to support of our nation’s military men and women. Included in the final conference report is language that:

  • Makes clear the Department of Defense must develop a process to permit post commanders at military bases or defense facilities to allow members of the Armed Forces to carry firearms;
  • A well-deserved increase in pay for our troops;
  • Supports the Big Red One’s overseas missions and training by making certain Apache helicopters remain at Fort Riley for years to come; and
  • Underscores the Army’s continued commitment to Fort Riley, the bill creates new opportunities for development and testing of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) on base. 

The air space at Fort Riley sets the base apart – making it superior to other army bases, and this will support continued testing of the Gray Eagle operated by Big Red One soldiers. Our top constitutional responsibility is to provide for a strong national defense. Passing the NDAA is an important step forward to making certain our nation’s Armed Forces remain ready and able to defend our nation.

Commerce Hearing: Consumer Product Safety and the Recall Process
On Thursday, I convened a second hearing this Congress for the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security on the oversight of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This hearing focused specifically on CPSC product recalls, and the Commission’s efforts to spot emerging hazards and remove potentially dangerous products from the marketplace quickly.

The CPSC has a long history of success in its mission to keep Americans safe. The Commission’s track record, specifically on consumer product recalls, has been marked by innovative thought and engagement with both the business community and consumer safety advocates. Recent Commission activity, however, indicates a potential shift in attitude toward voluntary recalls and the ability of retailers to report product safety data to the Commission with confidentiality. The CPSC considers itself a “data driven agency,” and it is intuitive that this timely and detailed product safety data can be used to identify emerging hazards and ultimately save lives. Thursday’s hearing was an opportunity for the Subcommittee and witnesses representing various stakeholders in the CPSC community to share their thoughts on this important issue and how the CPSC can better utilize this information for the safety benefit of American consumers.

Product safety is not a Republican or Democratic issue. We all share the common goal of protecting consumers, and it is a privilege to serve as Chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee providing critical congressional oversight toward that end. I look forward to continuing my work with the CPSC and the consumer product community to help prevent tragic injuries and fatalities from consumer products. To watch a video of the hearing or read the witness testimony, please click here

Medical Research: Key to a Healthier Future
On Wednesday, I participated in a Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee hearing entitled “NIH: Investing in a Healthier Future.” This Subcommittee has jurisdiction over funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the focal point of our nation’s health research infrastructure – and this hearing provided an opportunity for me to ask NIH Director Francis Collins and other agency leaders about the progress NIH is making in developing treatments and cures for disease. My questions included requests for updates on research relating to Alzheimer’s disease, cancer including clinical trials for pediatric cancer, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Additionally, I asked Director Collins to explain how NIH stewards the resources it has been given by the American public to advance medical research to most effectively save and improve lives, reduce health care costs, spur innovation, and strengthen our country’s global leadership in biomedical research. Click here to see video of my discussions with Dr. Collins and his colleagues.

My appropriations committee colleagues in the Senate and I were successful in significantly boosting NIH’s budget in our respective Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bills. In the Senate, we achieved a more than $2 billion increase for NIH – this amount is around $1.95 billion above the President’s FY16 budget request for NIH and more than $880 million above number contained in the House bill. The boost is a significant step in putting NIH back on a sound path of predictable, sustained growth, and it demonstrates to our nation's best and brightest researchers, scientists, and students that Congress supports their work and will make sure they have the resources needed to carry out their important research. This hearing allowed us to examine specifically how NIH would use the additional resources for which we are working to benefit our children and our country for generations to come. This information is extremely useful as FY16 appropriations negotiations continue.

Association of Community Mental Health Centers and VA Hearing
On Tuesday morning I had the opportunity to meet with representatives for Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) in Kansas. CMHCs play a vital role in providing for the mental health needs of Kansans across the state, especially those in rural areas, who may struggle to access the care they need if not for these community providers. Another group served by CMHCs is our nation’s veterans. I have long advocated for increasing partnerships between the VA and CMHCs, and unfortunately CMHCs still face many roadblocks when it comes to providing services to those who have sacrificed for our nation. 

On Tuesday afternoon the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on pending health care and benefits legislation, and I was able to question the VA about some of the problems preventing these partnerships. No veteran should struggle to receive the support they need, and increased partnerships with CMHCs are a common sense way to ensure our veterans have access to this necessary care.

Science Coalition Breakfast of Champions
On Wednesday, I started my morning with University of Kansas (KU) Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little at The Science Coalition’s Breakfast of Champions. Comprised of KU and other leading research universities, the Coalition supports basic scientific research as a means to fueling innovation, strengthening the economy, and driving America’s global competitiveness. I was honored to be recognized by Chancellor Gray-Little for my commitment to supporting this critical research. The research conducted at our universities and labs benefits our children and our country for generations to come by saving lives, improving health, and reducing health care costs and I will continue my advocacy of this important work.

Celebrating KU’s 150th Anniversary
The Senate on Tuesday passed a resolution (S. Res. 272) Senator Roberts and I introduced commemorating the University of Kansas’ 150th Anniversary. This resolution congratulates KU for 150 years of outstanding service to the State of Kansas, the United States, and the world. The university was founded in 1865 embodying the values and ideals of the individuals who fought and died to ensure that Kansas would enter the Union as a free State, as symbolized by the mascot of the university, the Jayhawk. 150 years after its founding, KU is home to 28,000 students and 2,800 faculty, and each year the university graduates more than 6,700 individuals who join the ranks of the 338,240 Jayhawk alumni. On this historic anniversary, it is my pleasure to honor the students, faculty, and fellow alumni of my alma mater. KU has been critical to the success of our state and nation, and I look forward to working for the university’s continued success. Click here to read the full text of S. Res. 272.

Introducing Legislation to Train More Physician Assistants, Reduce VA Wait Times
I introduced legislation this week with U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana to increase the number of health professionals serving veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill would provide veterans who served as medics in the Armed Forces with an opportunity to attain the education and training needed to become a physician assistant. It also would help to make certain their fellow veterans have greater access to timely, quality care. I am proud to introduce this initiative to support the servicemen and women who are transitioning back to civilian life, and will continue working to support veterans and their families in Kansas and across the country.

Physician assistants are one of the most in-demand positions at the VA. In September, USA Today reported that there is a 23 percent vacancy rate at the VA for physician assistants. According to the Veterans Affairs Physicians Assistants Association, there are an estimated 30,000 open physician assistant positions in the United States, making it difficult for the VA to recruit and retain physician assistants. Click here to learn more.

Dietary Guidelines Update
I was pleased to learn my efforts concerning the 2015 Dietary Guidelines paid off. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary (USDA) Vilsack and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Burwell announced the Dietary Guidelines will be based strictly on sound nutritional science – not outside factors such as environmental sustainability. The guidelines, which form the basis of federal nutrition policy and influence many Americans’ eating patterns, are reviewed and updated every five years by the USDA and HHS. Earlier this year, an advisory committee report made recommendations to USDA and HHS on the guidelines based on environmental sustainability, a field outside the committee members’ charter, background and expertise. Due to my serious concern the guidelines were being influenced by politics rather than being based on nutritional science, I included instructions in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill directing USDA and HHS to formulate the new dietary guidelines solely on dietary science. I also used my role as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee to voice my concerns to Secretary Vilsack, both in hearings and privately. I appreciate USDA, as well as HHS, taking my concerns into account.

I will also continue working to highlight the importance of lean red meat as part of a healthy diet. The same March 2015 advisory committee report that took environmental sustainability factors into account in its recommendations also left lean red meat out of what it considers to be a healthy diet. This greatly concerns dietitians who support consumption of lean red meat and is alarming to Kansas livestock producers who produce high quality, nutritious food products for American consumption. Click here to learn more.

Honoring Doyle Rahjes’ Legacy
I was saddened to learn last week about the passing of my friend and longtime Kansas agriculture advocate Doyle Rahjes. Robba and I attended, and I spoke at his funeral to honor his legacy on Friday. For more than twenty-five years, Doyle has significantly influenced my life. He chaired each of my campaigns for Congress, and we visited often about the issues of the day and things that really mattered in life. He earned the admiration and respect of all who knew him in Kansas and around the country. He loved Charlotte and their family and farm, and worked with Farm Bureau to make life better for all of us in rural America. Most importantly, central to Doyle was his personal relationship with Jesus. Doyle made a difference, and the world is better because of him.

Kansas Listening Tour Stop in Mitchell County
I continued my Kansas Listening Tour this weekend in Mitchell County. It was great to be back in Beloit, and I appreciate the residents who turned out to discuss their concerns on a number of topics including veterans' affairs, rural health care, immigration, national security and the waters of the United States. Thanks to the City of Beloit for hosting the event – especially Lynn Miller with the Parks and Recreation Department. Thanks also to Rep. Susan Concannon, Commissioner Jim Marshall and Commissioner Tom Claussen for attending.

Svensk Hyllningsfest Parade
I kicked off my weekend in Lindsborg for their biennial Svensk Hyllningsfest Parade. The Hyllningsfest celebrates the Swedish pioneers who settled the Smoky Valley and features arts and crafts, special foods, ethnic music and other special entertainment related to Swedish heritage. The parade was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. Here I'm pictured with Mayor Bill Taylor and his wife Sonja. Thanks to the organizers of the festival – I was delighted to take part.

Now Accepting Spring 2016 Internship Applications
I am now accepting applications for paid congressional internships in my Washington, D.C., and Kansas offices for spring 2016. An internship in my office – either legislative or communications – provides a unique opportunity to work closely with Senate staff on behalf of the state of Kansas. Legislative interns will gain a better understanding of the legislative process in the U.S. Congress, and develop knowledge and professional skills valuable to future career pursuits. Communications internships offer an intern the chance to learn about how political communications and the legislative process intersect, and gain practical knowledge about the inner workings of a fast-paced press office.

The application deadline for spring 2016 is October 30, 2015. Applications may be obtained and completed under the “Services” section of my website at www.moran.senate.gov. Applicants should submit a completed application form, resume, academic transcript, two letters of recommendation, and a cover letter explaining their interest in public service and addressing a policy issue of personal importance and a suggested recommendation to resolve that issue. Please submit required materials to: internships@moran.senate.gov.

Kansans in the Office
Taylor Schmidt of Greensburg 

Capitol Tour
Matthew Weger of Lenexa
Joann Weger of Lenexa
Hillary Weger of Overland Park
Daniel Weger of Lenexa
Phil Lovchik of Wichita
Brian West of Parsons
Amy West of Parsons
Mason West of Parsons
Brady West of Parsons
Davis West of Parsons
Neely West of Parsons
Kathy Warrington of Parsons

Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, Inc.
Sheli Sweeney of Topeka
Hannah Coen of Wichita
Dave Kishle of Overland Park

The Nature Conservancy in Kansas
Rob Manes of Topeka
Patty Reece of Mission Hills
Meleda Lowry of Mission Hills
John Lowry of Mission Hills
Kelly Harrison of Lawrence
Dale Trott of Lenexa 

Cerner
Melinda Wagner of Kansas City
Lindsay Vogtsberger of Mission Hills
Will Stadler of Kansas City

Topeka Capital-Journal
Justin Wingerter of Topeka 

North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nurition
Dr. Ruba Abdelhadi 

Century Link
John Idoux of Overland Park

Kansas Farm Bureau
Rich Felts of Liberty

American Wind Energy Assocation
Gus Shaar of Hutchinson
Myca Welch of Hutchinson
Saul Rodocfo of Hutchinson
Cerita Mursha of Hutchinson

American Academy of Pediatrics
Vidya Sharma of Fairway

MOARC and KC Industrial Council
John Patrick of Lenexa
D. “Scott” Brown of Fairway

Feed the Future Innovation Lab
John Leslie of Manhattan
Tim Dalton of Manhatta
Molly McKneight of Manhattan
Kira Everhart-Valentin 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,
Jerry

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