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.
Jewish families and friends around the world gathered on Friday to celebrate the first night of the holiday of Passover. At the traditional Passover meal, the Seder, Jews recall the experience of Israelites in ancient Egypt and the Exodus led by Moses. During this annual holiday, the story and lessons of the Exodus are passed from one generation to the next. Happy Passover to all those observing the holiday this week.
Restoring TSA Screening at Salina Regional
I am pleased to announce that on Thursday the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “upon further review” committed to providing federalized security screening resources to Salina Regional Airport (KSLN). This positive development follows a productive conversation I had in my Washington, D.C., office with TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, Salina Airport Authority Executive Director Tim Rogers and Great Lakes Airlines CEO Doug Voss earlier this month.
Great Lakes Airlines was scheduled to begin nonstop commercial service from Salina to Denver, Colorado, on April 1, 2016; however, service was postponed indefinitely while KSLN sought commitment from TSA to provide federalized screening services. With TSA’s commitment on Thursday, critical commercial aviation services will be restored to Salina and Central Kansas, but the process of transferring necessary security screening equipment and personnel could still take several weeks.
Additionally on Tuesday, the Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016 (S. 2658), which included an amendment I offered to restore federalized screening services at any U.S. airport that lost commercial service since 2013 and has a commitment from a commercial carrier to return, such as KSLN. Earlier in February, I sponsored standalone legislation titled the TSA Fairness Act (S. 2549), which also intended to return these federalized security resources to Salina.
The safety of travelers in both Kansas and at destination airports would be jeopardized without proper security screening. I appreciate the commonsense decision made by TSA Administrator Neffenger to ensure thousands of Kansans will be able to fly safely and efficiently from Salina to their final destinations. To read the Salina Journal’s story on the Salina Airport, click here. To learn more about the FAA Reauthorization Act, click here.
Supporting Legislation to Protect South Central Kansas Drinking Water Supply
The Senate passed legislation this week Senator Roberts and I introduced to extend the Equus Beds Aquifer Recharge and Recovery Project, which began 10 years back and helps protect the aquifer located in Sedgwick, Harvey, Reno and McPherson Counties. This project has significant consequences not only for Wichita, but also for all aquifer stakeholders. This bill will help make certain citizens of South Central Kansas have a safe drinking water supply for decades to come. Click here to read KMUW’s story on the legislation.
Working to Expand Partnerships at Wichita State University
This week at a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, I had the opportunity to discuss the exceptional work done at the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Frank Kendall and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Steve Welby. I was pleased to hear Assistant Secretary Welby recognize what he calls “remarkable work” in materials testing at Wichita State University. I look forward to my one-on-one meeting with Undersecretary Kendall to continue our discussion regarding new ways DoD can partner with WSU. I recently had the opportunity to see the capabilities of WSU first hand with leadership from the Naval Air Systems Command, and I believe WSU is an invaluable asset to the Department. Last week’s hearing affirms DoD’s recognition that WSU offers significant contributions to the readiness of our military aircraft and supports service members with urgent needs overseas.
Supreme Court Decision Underscores Need for Bill to Pressure Iran to Pay Terror Victims
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Bank Markazi v. Peterson this week that frozen Iranian central bank assets held in the United States could be used to pay victims of Iranian terrorism who have won damages in lawsuits against Iran. This ruling highlights the need for the American government to demand that Iran pay all damages owed to American victims of Iranian terror or their surviving families. I have introduced legislation (S. 2452) to require full payment by Iran before the United States government settles any outstanding financial disputes with Iran. The United States government must make clear to all nations that sponsoring terror is absolutely unacceptable and America will fight to bring perpetrators to justice. Click here to read more about the Supreme Court’s decision and here to learn about the bill I introduced.
EPA’s Continued Harassment of Farmers and Ranchers
It was frustrating to learn the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded grants that funded billboards in the state of Washington attacking farmers and a website campaign to promote lobbying efforts. The grants fit into a disturbing pattern of antagonistic behavior toward agriculture within the EPA, as well as a total disregard for the law. In December 2015, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that EPA engaged in “covert propaganda” when promoting the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule – a violation of federal law prohibiting federal agencies from taking part in lobbying activities. The continued violation of law by the EPA is unacceptable. Farmers and ranchers deserve better than a government agency harassing their livelihoods and taxpayers deserve better than continued misuse of funds for the purpose of propaganda. I will continue to work with my colleagues to demand answers from the EPA and hold the agency accountable for efforts that inflict harm on our nation’s agricultural producers. Click here to read more.
Taking Steps to Free Up Internet Connectivity
A provision was included in the Fiscal Year 2017 Commerce, Justice & Science Appropriations Bill, which unanimously passed the full Appropriations Committee this week to direct the government to study how it improve efficiency in how it uses “unlicensed spectrum,” the airwaves mobile devices use to connect to the internet. This is an issue I’ve worked hard to address – spectrum is in extremely high demand and the government controls far more of the wavelengths than is necessary. The study they carry out is an important step in freeing up additional spectrum and increasing Kansans’ ability to connect to the internet.
Failures Continue at the VA
In 2015, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) placed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System on its ‘High Risk List’ for their inability to provide timely, quality care to our nation’s veterans. This week, a new GAO report demonstrates the VA’s unwillingness to make the drastic changes necessary to make certain veterans have access to health care. Worse yet, Congress provided VA with the tools they need to provide veterans with timely care through the Choice Program. It is past time for the VA to address these systemic failures and put the veteran first. I’ve called on GAO to learn more about findings related to the Kansas VA Facilities in this study, and will continue to push for answers to make certain those who have served our country have access to the care they earned. Click here to read more.
Honoring our Fallen Heroes
The Senate unanimously passed legislation I sponsored this week that honors first responders who fall in the line of duty by providing their immediate family members with American flags flown over the United States Capitol. Our law enforcement officers, firefighters, members of rescue squads and ambulance crews, and public safety officers are our everyday heroes of our communities. This bill gives us a chance to demonstrate our appreciation to those who have served and sacrificed for the safety of others. Click here to read more.
Visiting With LTG Brown at Fort Leavenworth
I was pleased this Friday to meet with Commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth Lieutenant General Robert Brown. The Army is very focused on developing leaders to meet uncertain challenges as they prepare to consolidate more than 100 Army education programs under one Army University construct. Army U will be the largest university system in the nation and it is fitting that this mission in professional military education will be carried out at Fort Leavenworth, the Intellectual Center of the Army. The missions at Fort Leavenworth are vital not only for our nation’s servicemembers, but also for the foreign officers from around the world who participate in Fort Leavenworth’s programs. LTG Brown’s message is clear: we must teach soldiers to solve complex problems with creative solutions. I look forward to building on the foundation of Fort Leavenworth’s core mission in educating our military leaders.
Following my discussion with LTG Brown, I had the opportunity to meet with numerous civic leaders in the Leavenworth community to address other important issues like the prevention of GITMO’s closure and the transfer of detainees to anywhere in the United States, especially Fort Leavenworth. I have fought the administration’s attempts to close the facility and transfer detainees at every step of the way in the Senate and will continue to do so. In addition, we discussed efforts underway to pursue a public-private partnership (PPP) that benefits the Leavenworth VA – ultimately serving more veterans with quality care and soldiers and their families too. I’ve been pushing VA Secretary Bob McDonald to support PPP constructs for VA facilities and will continue to seek answers.
Thanks to LTG Brown, the Command staff at Fort Leavenworth and civilian leaders in the community for working with me to address issues critical to protecting and enhancing the greater Leavenworth community.
Paying Tribute on Father Kapaun’s 100th Birthday
100 years from this past Wednesday, Father Emil Kapaun, a true ‘Servant of God,’ was born in Pilsen, Kansas. Father Kapaun’s story is well-known in our state – particularly in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita where he served – for the valor and piety he exhibited as an Army chaplain and prisoner of war during the Korean War. Three years ago, Father Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary bravery carrying an injured fellow serviceman while led on a death march, cleaning the wounds of others while captive at the POW camp, and conducting Mass with a makeshift crucifix in defiance of his communist captors. Father Kapaun has inspired many with his unshakable faith and relentless courage, and I hope that you took a moment on his birthday or will take one now to reflect on the life and legacy of one of the finest Kansans who has ever lived. Click here to learn more about Father Emil Kapaun.
Encouraging Boy Scouts at Merit Badge Conference
It was an honor to give remarks at the K-State Merit Badge Conference for the Boy Scouts of America over the weekend. The Boy Scouts teaches boys and young men the fundamental truths of duty, honor and responsibility. Nearly 1,000 Boy Scouts were in Manhattan to participate in a variety of activities to help them fulfill their merit badge requirements. Thank you to Scout Executive/CEO for the Coronado Area Council Boy Scout Organization Wendy Shaw for the invitation.
Welcoming General Myers Back to K-State
I spoke with General Richard Myers on a phone call this week to congratulate him on his return to Kansas State University as the school’s interim president until the Kansas Board of Regents selects a successor. K-State is fortunate to welcome back an esteemed alum, who served our nation honorably for forty years and held the highest military position one can as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I am thankful to work with Gen. Myers and rely on his military guidance as a member of my Military and Veterans Advisory Committee. Welcome back to the General, his wife Mary Jo and their family.
Receiving Recognition from the National Guard Association
I was honored this Saturday with the Charles Dick Medal of Merit from the National Guard Association of the United States at the Kansas National Guard Joint State Conference. This award recognizes elected officials for their support of the National Guard during their time in office. The citizen soldiers in our Kansas Guard are invaluable not only to our missions around the world, but also in the homeland. As Kansans well know, disasters can strike any time, and while the specific disaster may change, the one constant is the Kansas Guard and their role in disaster relief. We saw the Guard perform this critical function this past month in response to the enormous wildfires in south central Kansas. I am grateful for all that the National Guard do for our country and our state, and I am committed to continuing to support their critical missions.
Now Accepting 2016 Service Academy Applications
Even as students are 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, NY; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, is one of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator.
To find out the requirements and apply, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by September 2, 2016. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, September 24, 2016, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.
Kansans in the Office
Ann Suellentrop of Kansas City
American Association of the Advancement of Science
Izabela Ragan of Manhattan
Allen Mallory of Manhattan
Kansas Beverage Association
Mike Berry of Topeka
Ron Hein of Topeka
Julie Hein of Topeka
Kansas Bar Association
Rachel Pirner of Wichita
Linda Parks of Wichita
Kansas Chamber of Commerce
Justin Hill of Lawrence
Bill Pickert of Wichita
Rebecca McCormick of Wichita
Mike Morgan of Wichita
Mike O’Neal of Lawrence
National Telecommunications Cooperative
Catherine Moyer of Ulysses
Scott Barney of Caldwell
Brian Boisvert of Wilson
Brian Thomason of Home
Terry Force of Home
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City
Carlos Gomez of Topeka
Gabe Munoz of Shawnee
Nilson Goes of Leawood
Naren Avilan of Kansas City
Becky Grup of Kansas City
Paulina Tabares of Shawnee
Ixeth Oxouchea of Overland Park
Fraternal Government Relations Coalition
Isaac Bahney of Lawrence
Account Recovery Specialists
Irene Hoheusle of Wichita
Aoni Wiggins of Towanda
National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
Brandon Beck of Emporia
Terry David of Lyons
John Gallagher of Wichita
John Hultgren of Junction City
Dave Johnston of Sedgwick
Jerrie Kind of Overland Park
Marvin Blaricon of Clay Center
Immune Deficiency Foundation
Kitti Seavey of Wichita
Ginnie Job of Leawood
Disability Rights Center of Kansas
Rocky Nichols of Topeka
Center for Excellence for Emerging Zoonotic Animal Disease
Juergen Richt of Manhattan
American Traffic Safety Services Association
Kevin Shelton of Eudora
Benjamin Scott of Roeland Park
Linda Scott of Roeland Park
Kansas City District US Army Corps of Engineers
Andrew Sexton of Shawnee
Jennifer Switzer of Overland Park
Jim Bishop of Bonner Springs
Robert Uhler of Fort Scott
American Council of Engineering Companies
Kevin Honomichl of Overland Park
Scott Heidner of Lawrence
Joe Caldwell of Lawrence
Mike Hess of Overland Park
Clint Robinson of Overland Park
Kansas Academy of Family Physicians
Lynn Fisher of Plainville
Doug Gruenbacher of Quinter
Chad Johanning of Lawrence
Rick Kellerman of Wichita
Mike Munger of Overland Park
Jennifer Bowlin of Lenexa
Kansas Optometric Association
Dawn Williams of Garden City
Wayne Hemphill of Olathe
Julie Toon of Wichita
Todd Fleischer of Topeka
Wayne Gilmore of Parsons
American Legal and Financial Network
Mike Zevitz of Overland Park
Kansas Emergency Management Association
Dan Robeson of Olathe
Keith Haberer of Russell
Jillian Rodrigue of Lawrence
Keri Korthals of Augusta
Salina Surgical Hospital
LuAnn Puvogel of Salina
Ecumenical Christian Community
Kirk Perucca of Prairie Village
Emily DeVore of Shawnee
Orlando Gallardo of Kansas City
Kansas Wheat Commission
Jay Armstrong of Muscotah
Associated Wholesale Grocers & Kansas Food Dealers
Jimmy Holland of Kansas City
Jon McCormick of Westwood
Richard McPherson of Leawood
Jill McPherson of Leawood
Stephen Chapes of Manhattan
Ashley Nease of Hays
Josey Vandlver of Robinson
Zachary Dziadol of Basehor
Gracie Defore of Wellington
Micah Fatarez of Concordia
Megan Schlochterneier of Beaver
Ernest Stuart of Overland Park
Cheryl Stuart of Overland Park
Angie Seaton of Olathe
Ned Seaton of Olathe
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.
Very truly yours,
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