Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks 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.

Senate Addresses Tax Reform
It’s been more than three decades since we have reformed our tax code and Americans can no longer afford the status quo of an outdated, complicated tax system. On Friday, I supported a fiscally-responsible, pro-growth tax reform bill that benefits middle-class families and enables businesses to compete in a 21st century economy.

Our economy is poised for growth and tax reform will put us on the path to even greater economic success. This plan will incentivize companies to stay in America and encourage local businesses to grow and create good-paying jobs, better jobs and more secure jobs. Further, our tax code should work for Kansas families, not against them. The expansion of the Child Tax Credit, the nearly-doubled standard deduction and the creation of the employer credit for paid family and medical leave will increase personal income, reduce the cost of living and provide flexibility to save for the future.

Further, this bill doubles the teachers’ supplies deduction and preserves the graduate student tuition waiver to encourage more people to obtain their educations in Kansas and to encourage more teachers to educate Kansans.

I’m pleased this tax bill creates a simpler and fairer tax code that protects taxpayers and works for Kansas families.

Introducing Legislation to Modernize the Veterans Health Administration
On Friday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and I introduced the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017, legislation that would transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into an integrated healthcare system to serve veterans well into the future. In response to the nationwide VA wait list scandal in 2014, Congress passed the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 and created the Veterans Choice Program to offer greater access to veteran care in the community. Since the creation of the Veterans Choice Program, Congress has repeatedly pushed the VA to make much-needed changes to its healthcare system. Far too many Kansas veterans have experienced unnecessary difficulties accessing the care they’ve earned from the VA, and I appreciate that they have shared their stories and empowered us to work on their behalf. Demand for Choice has demonstrated that veterans want and need healthcare options in their communities, but there must be reform at the VA to create a system that works for the veteran. The solution to delivering timely, quality and accessible healthcare in the community is to reform the VA into a 21st century healthcare system.

Our legislation would ensure that healthcare offered through the VA is put into veterans’ hands by streamlining access to community care while also working to improve the VA’s internal capacity to care for veterans. It would require the VA to utilize objective, demand-driven data to develop advanced and effective access and quality care standards. This legislation would also require the VA to assess demand and capacity to identify and bridge gaps in available care to veterans – whether it be in the VA or in their local communities. It would also ensure the VA promptly pays community providers, offers access to walk-in clinics, expands the VA’s use of telemedicine, increases the VA’s graduate medical education and residency positions, and improves the VA’s collaboration with community providers and other federal agencies. This joint effort to reform the VA will offer veterans an integrated healthcare system within their community that reduces red tape, enhances their quality of life and provides care that is worthy of their service and sacrifice.

This legislation is supported by the American Legion, AMVETS and Concerned Veterans for America. For more on this bill, click here.

Requesting Answers from Uber on Recent Data Breach

I joined my colleagues in sending a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khrosrowshani requesting information related to recent reports of a data breach, which Uber failed to disclose promptly, involving the personal information of 57 million customers – including names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers.

Businesses entrusted with consumers’ sensitive personal and financial information have an obligation to do all that they can to protect it, no matter the cost. As the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, I’m requesting clarity on how the breach occurred, what the company did to notify impacted consumers and what actions the business vows to take to prevent a breach of this scope from happening again. As cyber criminals become more advanced, companies, too, must adapt to protect consumers.

You can read the full letter here.

Meeting with World Food Program USA

I met with officials from World Food Program USA on Thursday to discuss findings from its upcoming report on hunger and political instability. More than 800 million people around the world go to bed hungry each night, and when governments cannot provide for their people, it often leads to violence. Alleviating hunger and preventing conflict before it begins is a matter of national security for our country, and our conversation explored ways to meet this challenge. I shared the below photo that I recently took in Kensington – where grain is on the ground waiting to find mouths to feed – with the group. Our farmers’ products can meet the needs of the world, and as the co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I am committed to finding ways to getting Kansas food to people around the world.

Kansas Farm Bureau Annual Meeting

Last night, I attended the annual Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) annual meeting, where KFB leaders from across the state come together to set the organization’s policies and goals for the coming year. At the banquet, I spoke about the importance of NAFTA and how I continue urging the Administration to remain in the NAFTA agreement. We also discussed the relationship between lenders and producers and the importance of making certain they can lend in hard times – such as during the Clark County fires – crop insurance, the upcoming farm bill and the importance of access to healthcare in rural communities. I will continue working to improve crop insurance, promote additional demand for our commodities through trade, support livestock producers and look for more ways to conserve water and soil for future generations. When agriculture is successful, Kansas is successful.

Thanks to KFB President Rich Felts and Ryan Flickner for inviting me to this year’s annual meeting. 

Back to Fort Riley
Last week, it was Thanksgiving with soldiers and their families; this weekend, I had the pleasure of joining Major General Joseph Martin and his wife, Leann, for the annual 1st Infantry Division Holiday Reception. MG and Mrs. Martin graciously host the event at their home, which has been the home of Ft. Riley’s commanding officer since it was built in 1887. I have enjoyed getting to know the Martins during their time in Kansas and appreciate their commitment to the Big Red One family. 

Kansans in the Office
Jim Denning of Overland Park
Marearl Denning of Overland Park
Kathy Vance of Overland Park
Joe Vance of Overland Park
Meg Godderz of Overland Park
Stuart Isaac of Hillsboro
Lea Isaac of Hillsboro

Kansas Department of Transportation
Bob Brock of Topeka
Richard Carlson of Topeka
Merrill Atwater of Topeka

Kansas Soybean Commission
Dennis Gruenbacher of Andale
Suzanne Gruenbacher of Andale
Lance Rezac of Onaga
Dennis Hupe of Topeka

KU and K-State Endowment Presidents and Athletic Directors
Sheahon Zenger of Lawrence
Dale Seuferling of Lawrence
Gene Taylor of Manhattan
Greg Willems of Manhattan
Susan Peterson of Manhattan
Jack Cline of Lawrence
Amy Button Renz of Manhattan
Heath Peterson of Lawrence

Department of Veterans Affairs
Jeff Dunlap of Leawood

World Food Program
Christian Sinclair of Shawnee
Galen Fountain of Arlington

Capitol Tour
Jim Ward of Wichita
Brian McAndrew of Topeka
Linda McAndrew of Topeka
Barbara Platts of Manhattan
Matt Ferro 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,

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