Kansas Common Sense
Jun 22 2020
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Securing Full Funding to Modernize Leavenworth Prison System, Create Jobs
After nearly 20 years of preparation and work, I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth will receive $356 million to construct a new Federal Correctional Institute and satellite Federal Prison Camp. Now fully funded, I look forward to breaking ground in the near future on this project that will bring the Leavenworth prison system into the 21st century, while also providing hundreds of jobs during the multi-year construction of the facilities. At a time when federal prisons are closing around the country, this project will secure jobs for Kansans for decades.
This Leavenworth project is the largest federal construction investment since the installation of NBAF, and I will continue to work with the city of Leavenworth and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to get this project to completion. Leavenworth officials have worked hard to get us to this point and a lot of credit and accolades go to Mayor Griswold, City Manager Kramer and those who preceded them.
Statement of Support from Leavenworth Mayor Mike Griswold:
“Today is an exciting and important day in the history of the First City of Kansas. The announcement of a plan to construct a new prison to replace the current U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth represents a continuation of the City's century (+) long relationship with our great federal partner, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The city values this relationship and wishes to thank BOP leadership for their expertise and professionalism in the years leading up to this moment.
“Senator Moran has been the champion in Congress for the new prison and we thank him for his due diligence, perseverance, and ability to keep all parties informed and moving forward. His strong and consistent leadership has been instrumental in the decision to construct a new federal penitentiary to Leavenworth. City elected and appointed officials and the citizens we serve, appreciate his work, which will benefit the city, county, state and nation in the decades ahead.”
To read what other local leaders are saying about this project, click here.
Supporting the JUSTICE Act
Americans cannot look the other way after witnessing the actions that killed George Floyd. This week, I joined Sen. Tim Scott and my colleagues in the Senate in introducing the JUSTICE Act. This legislation will make significant progress towards improving police and community relations across the country while also providing the accountability we expect from our police departments by increasing the reporting requirement on excessive use of force and requiring the use of body cameras. Kansas law enforcement officers work tirelessly to keep our communities safe, and this legislation would reform police training and create more transparency and trust, which is critical to the health and wellbeing of our communities. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fulfill the commitments made in the JUSTICE Act.
To learn more about how this legislation offers reform, accountability and transparency, click here.
This week, I joined my colleagues to cosponsor the Juneteenth Independence Day resolution as we celebrate the full implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation that transpired on June 19, 1865. On this day, news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation finally brought long-awaited freedom to enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, marking the end of slavery in the United States.
Kansas is known as the state “where slavery began to die,” and I’m proud our state recognizes today as Juneteenth National Freedom Day. As we observe the end of slavery and honor African-American freedom, we must also encourage further dialogue on where we have come from and the work we still need to do to live up to our founding ideals as a nation. This involves listening and learning from Kansans and Americans who have experienced or are still experiencing injustices to understand the right path forward so we can form a more perfect union.
Joining the University of Kansas Health System to Discuss Veteran Care
On Friday morning, I joined The University of Kansas Health System (TUKH) for a media update to discuss reopening the VA and Community Care. The top VA health official, Dr. Richard Stone – Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration – joined the media update, and we discussed steps the VA has taken during COVID-19 to care for our nation’s veterans, as well as support civilian health care under their “fourth mission.” We also discussed the care of veterans in Kansas and the state of VA facilities across our region.
The University of Kansas Health System’s Orthopedic Surgeon and Royals team doctor Dr. Vincent Key, Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Control Dr. Dana Hawkinson and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Stites also participated in the media update. To watch the full media update, please click here.
Mapping the Way Forward for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Substances
On Wednesday, I hosted a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee roundtable discussion on toxic exposures with stakeholders from across the federal government and numerous veteran service organizations. We discussed the barriers that veterans face to get VA care and services they need after encountering toxic substances in uniform, and how we can work collaboratively to develop a solution that is centered on the health of the veteran. Our hope is to create an enduring framework that will identify those at risk, study the health effects of exposure and make certain that those who are sick from their time in service get the care they have earned without delay. Our discussion was candid, substantive and allowed an opportunity to learn a great deal that will help us create better outcomes for veterans. I look forward to continuing to work with the VA, the Department of Defense, veterans’ advocates and my colleagues in Congress to make certain that all who serve our nation get the care they deserve.
Introducing Legislation to Bolster Global Aviation Safety
This week, I introduced The Foreign Civil Aviation Assistance and Capacity-Building Act of 2020 to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to work with other countries to strengthen pilot training standards and enable the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to further enhance worldwide aviation safety. This legislation provides funding for the FAA to further technical assistance to civil aviation authorities around the world to improve pilot training in critical areas like automation and human-machine interface, a concern highlighted in multiple reports regarding the 737 MAX. We must continue to advance aviation safety in a holistic manner and ensure tragic accidents like the 737 MAX in Ethiopia and Indonesia do not happen again, and I look forward to advancing this important legislation.
Working with President Trump to Combat Veteran Suicide
This week, the White House released the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) Task Force report, a public health approach to combat suicide prevention among veterans. The roadmap includes a public health campaign, a national research strategy and an all-of-government approach to combatting veteran suicide. I was glad to see how closely the priorities and recommendations put forth by the president’s task force align with key provisions of my suicide prevention legislation S.785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. From creating policies that will accelerate scientific discovery on comprehensive mental health and suicide prevention research, to building a framework for community integration and collaboration, I look forward to working with the president and my colleagues in Congress to advance this important legislation and address veteran suicide.
Questioning FAA Administrator Dickson on the 737 Max
On Wednesday, I questioned Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) Stephen Dickson at the Senate Commerce Committee’s third hearing in a series related to the Boeing 737 MAX accidents. While we have come a long way since our early aviation days, the accidents of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 are a tragic reminder that increasing aviation safety is a never-ending advancement, and we must do better. Administrator Dickson and I discussed the remaining steps toward ensuring the Boeing 737 MAX is safely recertified before returning to the skies. I appreciated the witnesses at the hearing that shared their stories and expertise with us and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on a collective path forward to increase the safety of aviation both here and abroad.
Discussing Broadband Mapping with FCC Chairman Pai
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, I questioned Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman and Kansas native Ajit Pai about broadband mapping and deployment on Tuesday. The Broadband DATA Act, which I cosponsored and was signed into law earlier this year, requires the FCC to collect and disseminate accurate and detailed broadband service availability maps from providers. This improved mapping will better direct federal funds for broadband buildout in rural communities which need access to broadband internet service. I also asked Chairman Pai about the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, and the upcoming FCC auction of a portion of the mid-band spectrum called the C-band, which will help deliver 5G services to Americans expeditiously. Making this mid-band spectrum available for 5G rollout will allow the U.S. to lead in the global wireless connectivity race, delivering benefits to Americans which include improved telehealth and remote learning capabilities for rural areas. I will continue working with Chairman Pai and the FCC on broadband deployment at large and to ensure U.S. leadership on 5G technology.
My Work to Serve Veterans During COVID-19
Since the COVID-19 pandemic first disrupted our daily lives, I have been intently focused on the needs of our veterans and what resources the VA needs to accomplish its mission under challenging circumstances. In addition to increased funding for health care and emergency operations, I was pleased that the Senate VA Committee included several new provisions in the CARES Act to increase telehealth connections for veterans’ mental health appointments, streamline in-home care and rules for state veterans homes, and give VA flexibility in its programs that assist homeless veterans. The CARES Act also gave VA the flexibility to exceed normal pay rates for staff who responded to the pandemic and helped ensure home health care workers had the needed personal protective equipment to keep them safe while caring for veterans.
One of the first major developments during the pandemic was the cancelation of in-person classes at colleges and universities, which directly affected GI Bill benefits. I worked with my colleagues in the Senate and the House to pass two separate legislative fixes that the president signed into law to make certain veterans and their beneficiaries continued receiving the benefits they earned.
Although distance and hybrid methods of learning are increasingly common, VA still pays out GI Bill benefits very differently depending on whether classes are delivered in-person or online. With the help and input of veteran organizations, the Senate and House VA Committees were able to quickly enact legislation to protect those GI Bill benefits veterans rely on, despite the shift away from in-person courses due to the pandemic.
After addressing that initial, critical issue with the GI Bill benefits, we were also able to look at how VA work-study benefits would be impacted, and how veterans who had to stop their studies due to COVID-19 would have their timeline for using their benefits interrupted. VA indicated it would need additional legal authority to continue these benefits without interruption, and we were able to provide that authority in the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, which the President signed into law on April 28th.
More recently, my bipartisan legislation passed the Senate which would expand legal protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to military families impacted by orders to stay at their current duty station after they received orders and made plans to move.
In addition to responding to the unique challenges the pandemic has created for veterans, I will continue to work on reducing veteran suicide, improving veteran access to health care, and building the VA that our veterans need today and in the future. As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I will keep working to pass legislation that addresses these priorities, along with those that respond to veterans’ needs during the pandemic.
Keeping America Connected with Kansas Telecommunications Companies
On Saturday, I was pleased to speak with representatives from several telecommunications companies in Kansas regarding the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and what Congress can do to support companies that have agreed to keep their customers connected at this critical time. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked telecommunications companies to sign a pledge to not terminate service to residential or small businesses that cannot pay their bills due to the coronavirus and to waive late fees caused by the pandemic. So far, approximately 800 companies and associations have signed on to the pledge, including many in our state. I look forward to working with these Kansas companies and my Senate colleagues to ensure that small telecommunications companies that are working to keep their customers connected during the pandemic have the support they need.
Speaking with Ascension Via Christi
On Wednesday evening I spoke with Dr. Samer Antonios, Chief Medical Officer of Ascension Via Christi Hospitals in Wichita, to discuss their priorities as the Senate looks towards a fourth coronavirus package in the near future. With the overall economic impact of COVID-19, hospitals continue to struggle with additional complications that cause financial stress, in addition to high costs and low revenues due to the cancellation of procedures. As Kansas continues to safely reopen, making certain our hospitals have the resources to succeed in this new normal must be a priority. I thank the Ascension Via Christi leadership team for sharing their expertise and am eager to voice their needs and those of all Kansas hospitals in the Phase IV discussions.
On Friday, I stopped by Senator Bob Dole’s hometown of Russell. It was great to speak with City Manager Jon Quinday, Assistant City Manager Kayla Schneider and City Clerk and Finance Director Katrina Woelk while in town regarding their federal Department of Transportation BUILD grant application. Thanks to all the folks that stopped to talk (at a safe social distance) and share their ideas with me.
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.
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