Kansas Common Sense


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Attending the Signing of the VA MISSION Act at the White House
This week I was pleased to join the ceremony for the president’s signing of The John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks, or VA MISSION Act. The VA MISSION Act improves, expands and modernizes the VA Choice program and includes several provisions I introduced with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

I am hopeful the VA MISSION Act, which is now signed into law, will empower our veterans and dramatically improve and modernize their healthcare services. This legislation includes numerous provisions Sen. McCain and I worked on together to abolish arbitrary Veterans’ Choice Program guidelines, increase telemedicine services, support rural hospitals, allow veterans to utilize walk-in care clinics and provide strategic planning to improve the VA’s integrated healthcare system. I am grateful for the president’s support of this bipartisan legislation and for his work to help get it across the finish line. I look forward to the relief the VA MISSION Act will provide for veterans in Kansas and across the nation.

Our Second Hearing on Sexual Abuse in the Olympics
As chairman of the Senate Commerce subcommittee with jurisdiction over the health and safety of amateur athletes, I have been working for several months on an investigation with ranking member Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) into USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University. The investigation is centered around these organizations’ systemic failures to protect athletes from sexual abuse and the reported filing of a non-disclosure agreement to silence a victim of abuse in relation to the Larry Nassar abuse case.

On Tuesday I convened a hearing entitled “Preventing Abuse in Olympic and Amateur Athletics: Ensuring a Safe and Secure Environment for Our Athletes,” to focus on how past processes to protect our Olympic athletes from abuse have failed to keep athletes safe and to explore current efforts to provide a safe environment for amateur athletes. Witnesses included former USA Gymnastics Women’s Program Director Rhonda Faehn, former Michigan State University President Dr. Lou Anna Simon and former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny, who exercised his Fifth Amendment rights. Testimonies were also submitted by former United States Olympic Committee President Scott Blackmun and Karolyi Ranch’s Martha Karolyi.

Our athletes – who put in years of hard work to have the chance to represent our nation on the national stage – deserve to feel safe and supported as they participate in the sports they love. Ranking Member Blumenthal and I are committed to bringing real change so that abuse like Nassar’s can never again harm so many of our talented young people. Please click here to watch video footage of the hearing. 

Introducing Legislation to Provide Consumers with Accurate, Meaningful Labeling Information
This week I introduced the Accurate Labels Act (S. 3019), legislation to provide American consumers with clear, accurate and meaningful information on consumer product labels that too often mislead consumers and drive up prices. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, I believe Congress has an important role to play in ensuring consumers have the best possible information when making purchasing decisions. If labeling requirements on the federal, state and local level are to be taken seriously by consumers, they must reflect credible scientific standards.

Unfortunately, the need for this legislation has been driven by state and local mandates that confuse and ultimately desensitize consumers to product label warnings. The state of California, for instance, imposes mandatory cancer warnings on a cup of coffee, and believes consumers need to be warned that exposure to certain chemicals in potatoes could be lethal, without clarifying that the consumer would have to eat 182 pounds of them each day to encounter legitimate risk. Not only is this misleading to consumers, it results in costly and burdensome regulations for small businesses participating in interstate commerce. The bipartisan Accurate Labels Act will help restore sanity to product labels to provide real value to the public in making informed decisions on the safety of the products they consume.

Progress Through the Federal Appropriations Process
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
My colleagues and I on the Senate Appropriations Committee are actively moving through the appropriations process for our federal government agencies, and on Thursday, our committee voted to advance the FY2019 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. This bill funds critical Department of Defense infrastructure efforts and provides for programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I worked to make certain that this bill contained provisions that benefit our Kansas military installations, and also promoted a provision that directs the VA to carry out a pilot program that trains veterans in agricultural vocations while also tending to their behavioral health needs. A strong national defense not only benefits us all from a global standpoint, but also has a direct impact on many members of our armed forces living in Kansas and those in the communities around our military installations.

Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development
As part of our appropriations process, we also favorably reported the FY2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill (S. 3023) by a unanimous bipartisan vote. I was pleased to see many provisions in the legislation that will benefit Kansans.

First, this legislation rejects the administration’s request to eliminate HUD’s Community Development Block Grants valuable to the ability of Kansas towns to fund critical community services and infrastructure needs, and provides capacity-building funds to rehabilitate and modify housing for low-income or disabled veterans.

On the transportation side, this legislation requires increased transparency and accountability at Amtrak, including consultations with local communities before decisions are made affecting changes in service or prior financial commitments. On May 31, I joined Senator Pat Roberts and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins in sending a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson expressing our concerns over recent indications that Amtrak does not intend to fulfill its commitment to match funds for rail maintenance on the Southwest Chief route through Kansas. Amtrak, as a partner to BNSF railroad and the state of Kansas, committed to matching funds as part of the coalition’s successful U.S. DOT TIGER grant in 2017.

Additional provisions I supported will help strengthen and preserve the Federal Aviation Administration’s Contract Tower program critical to eight Kansas airports; renew funding for research of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for which the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University are leaders nationwide; and apply technical, hands-on assistance from the Federal Transit Administration for small cities in Kansas looking to apply innovation and added capacity to their local transit operations.

Now that the FY2019 THUD appropriations bill has been approved by the committee, it must be voted on by the full Senate. I am hopeful the Senate will continue its process toward passing all appropriations bills prior to the end of the current fiscal year on September 30.

Marking the Change of Command at Fort Riley
This week, the storied First Infantry Division at Fort Riley conducted a Change of Command ceremony between outgoing commander Major General Joe Martin and incoming commander Major General John Kolasheski. I visited Fort Riley Friday morning to thank MG Martin for his leadership and his successful command of this historic unit, which included a deployment to Mosul, Iraq where he and Big Red One soldiers conducted operations to drive ISIS out of the city. I was also able to congratulate him in person on his selection for promotion to Lieutenant General. He will move to Washington, D.C., where he will continue to serve our nation as the Director of the Army Staff. I also welcome MG John Kolasheki back to the First Infantry Division. I’m confident our soldiers are in good hands and look forward to working with him. 

I had the opportunity to meet General Robert Abrams, Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command. He visited Fort Riley today to oversee the change of command. Gen. Abrams is a strong advocate for Fort Riley and the value the installation brings to the Army in terms of capabilities and the capacity to train ready and lethal units. I was pleased to hear his focus and commitment to making certain our Army’s combat units are positioned for success.

Celebrating CH-53K ‘King Stallion’ Helicopter at Spirit AeroSystems
To kick off a busy Friday in south central Kansas, I participated in a ceremony at Spirit AeroSystems celebrating completion of yet another CH-53K ‘King Stallion’ heavy lift helicopter fuselage for the U.S. Marine Corps. In addition to the CH-53K, Spirit’s work on the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon and the Air Force’s KC-46A Tanker and B-21 Bomber signal the company’s ongoing expansion into the defense aerospace industry. The opportunities for Spirit continue to grow thanks to a recently announced formal partnership with Wichita State University, which is pursuing important research and development priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense. The partnership between Spirit and WSU is encouraging because it presents an opportunity to help secure Wichita’s future as the Air Capital of the World for generations to come. Special thanks to Spirit employees who – through their high quality work – are playing an important role in serving and protecting our nation. Thank you also to Spirit AeroSystems President and CEO Tom Gentile for his exceptional leadership and for inviting me to participate in this occasion. 

Keynoting Greater Wichita Partnership Investor Meeting
Securing Wichita’s future was the overarching theme at a Greater Wichita Partnership Investor Meeting Friday morning where I provided keynote remarks. Wichita is in position to strengthen its role in aviation as it boasts the highest concentration of aerospace manufacturing employment in the nation. More than half of the city’s manufacturing workforce are building some of the world’s most sophisticated military aircraft. Workforce development and raising talented people is something Kansans do well. Great minds can lead great people and Wichita has the capacity to be the best among its competitors.

Kansas, and specifically, Wichita, have the advantage of having a commodity that other states, companies and entities want and need. From my position in the Senate, my goal is to see that private sector, local, state and federal leaders aggressively work together to make certain that the knowledge of what Wichita is and the expertise it can offer expands beyond the confines of our state. Thank you to Spirit AeroSystems President and CEO Tom Gentile, Textron Aviation Defense President Tom Hammoor, Bombardier Business Aircraft Wichita Production and Site General Manager Tonya Sudduth and NIAR Executive Director John Tomblin for joining me in an engaging panel discussion. Thank you also to Partnership Co-Chair Jon Rolph, and Partnership CEO Jeff Fluhr for their leadership. 

Hosting a Kansas Listening Tour Stop in Sumner County

On Friday, I continued my Kansas Listening Tour with a stop in Belle Plaine. It was a pleasure to again visit the “Wheat Capital of the World” just days before wheat harvest begins. I heard from Kansans about community banking relief, immigration, taxes, energy, trade and its importance to the agriculture and aviation sectors, upcoming talks with North Korea and the value of community colleges and technical education. One point of discussion revolved around care for our nation’s veterans. I was pleased to share that the VA MISSION Act became law this week and will make it simpler for all veterans, especially in rural Kansas, to receive the care they deserve. 

Thanks to the City of Belle Plaine for hosting our visit in its impressive community center. Thanks also to State Senator Larry Alley, State Representative Ed Trimmer and Cowley College President Dr. Dennis Rittle for attending.

Fall Internship Applications Due This Friday
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 this 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

American Physical Society
Brett DePaola of Manhattan
Hume Feldman of Lawrence

Children’s Mercy Hospital
Thomas Curran of Kansas City

Financial Planning Association
Martin Seay of Manhattan

Financial Services Institute
Phillip Fournier of Overland Park

Global Business Travel Association
Colleen Black of Olathe

Kansas Health Care Association
Erica Keener of Russel
Linda Mowbray of Tecumseh

Kansas Orthopaedic Society
Adam Chase of Manhattan
Peter Hodges of Manhattan
Denise Lantz of Topeka
C. Craig Satterlec of Prairie Village
Kelly Stumpff of Roeland Park

Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce
Mark Bachamp of Manhattan
Lyle Butler of Manhattan
Dick Carter of Topeka
Matt Crocker of Manhattan
Larie Schoup of Manhattan
Wayne Sloan of Manhattan

Mission Health Communities
Alicia Weide of Iola

National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
Tony Kimmi of Manhattan
Jack Rader of McPherson

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Ty Breeden of Quinter
Jason Timmerman of Colby

National Milk Producer Federation
Steven Dryzmalla of Newton
Melissa Dryzmalla of Newton

National PKU Alliance
Angelica Lamas-Baker of Kansas City

SNAC International
Tony Sebben of Kansas City

The Nature Conservancy
William Bradley of Overland Park
Robbie Harding of Overland Park
Kelly Harrison of Lawrence
Tanja Harrison of Lawrence
Kris Knight of Lawrence
Rob Manes of Topeka
Barry Mayhew of Mission Hills
Cindy Mayhew of Mission Hills

Transportation Intermediaries Association
Dana Graf of Topeka
John Miller of Dodge City
Kara Miller of Dodge City

Union of Concerned Scientists
DeAnn Presley of Manhattan

Capitol Tour
Sheri Barber of Hays
John Beaver of Tecumseh
Kenneth Beaver of Tecumseh
Tamra Beaver of Tecumseh
Connie Belton of Wichita
Tom Belton of Wichita
Justin Bramlett of Topeka
Marybeth Bramlett of Topeka
Mary Paige Bramlett of Topeka
Austin Bramlett of Topeka
Christopher Burton of Shawnee
L. Alayne Burton of Shawnee
Jacob Burton of Shawnee
Alan Disbrew of Manhattan
Molly Disbrew of Manhattan
Jim Grant of Council Grove
Aidan Knolla of Bel Aire
Carol Knolla of Bel Aire
Daithan Knolla of Bel Aire
Ellie Knolla of Bel Aire
Cpt. Jerad Linder of Leavenworth
Verna Meis of Catharine
Zachary Meis of Hays
Michael Murphy Jr. of DeSoto
Sally Murphy of DeSoto
Cody Murphy of DeSoto
Sara Murphy of DeSoto
Michael Murphy Sr. of DeSoto
Patsy Murphy of DeSoto
Rita Noll of Council Grove
Erin Olson of Topeka
Mollie Olson of Topeka
Brooke Peters of Kansas City
Dan Peters of Kansas City
Tammy Peters of Kansas City
Hannah Petty of Garden City
Nancy Rundel of Levant
Barbara Simons of Bel Aire
Caiden Stokes of Merriam
Jeff Stokes of McLouth
Lisa Stokes of McLouth
Jeff Stokes of McLouth
Lisa Stokes of McLouth
Caiden Stokes of Merriam
Brandon Strom of Shawnee
Mary Strom of Shawnee
Abigail Strom of Shawnee
Blake Strom of Shawnee
Christopher Strom of Shawnee
Russel Stukey of Waverly
Jennifer Stukey of Waverly
Anne Stukey of Waverly
Rachel Stukey of Waverly
Kent Stukey of Waverly
Dean Swanson of Topeka
Peggy Waldschmidt of Lawrence
Mary Williams of Lawrence
Andrew Williams of Lawrence
Jun Yang of Manhattan
Guohing Yang 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 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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