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.

Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday
Each time I visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial overlooking the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial in D.C., I am left with an even greater appreciation for the life and legacy of one of the most courageous leaders in our nation’s history. Dr. King’s life was driven at every step by a fundamental commitment to his faith and the betterment of mankind – we humbly paid tribute yesterday.

Voting to Set Up a Critical Step in Repairing the Damage of Obamacare
On Thursday morning, I voted in support of S. Con. Res. 3, which sets up the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Canceled policies, difficulties in identifying new plans, massive premium increases, sky-high deductibles and limited options for doctors – this is the new normal for many American families under Obamacare. This vote gives us the opportunity to begin repairing the damage. To be clear: Congress has not yet repealed Obamacare and people currently enrolled will not be dropped from their health plans. We did not make any changes to current healthcare laws. What this means is that with a new Congress, a new administration, and a new year, we now have an opportunity to provide real, necessary reforms to our healthcare system. I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues – Republicans and Democrats alike – to come together, offer real reforms to lower costs and improve the quality of healthcare, and ensure there is no lapse in care. Americans should have access to truly affordable, quality healthcare. The Obamacare repeal resolution was passed Friday, leaving Congress poised to make real reform to our nation’s healthcare system.

Discussing Jobs and American Competitiveness with CNBC
I joined CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday morning to share my reaction to the president-elect’s border tax plan and discuss the importance of keeping jobs in the United States. As a cofounder of the Senate Competitiveness Caucus, I’ve had the chance to hear from many groups and many Kansans about the ways we can grow our national economy and make ourselves more globally competitive. Our state’s economy is significantly dependent upon exports, and being able to sell our products abroad is important to us. But that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to allow any country to take advantage of us. At the same time, we need to focus on eliminating some of the factors that cause companies to consider leaving the United States in the first place. This congress and this president have the opportunity to deal with the regulatory environment, the tax code, and the things that drive up the cost of being in business in the United States, and to forge a path forward to creating a business-friendly, pro-job environment. Please watch our discussion here

Serving as Senate Commerce Subcommittee Chairman for Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security
I will continue serving as chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee for Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security during the 115th Congress. I’m proud of our work last Congress to get two pieces of legislation passed and signed into law that will benefit consumers in Kansas and across the country – the BOTS Act and the Consumer Review Freedom Act. I look forward to building on those consumer protections through robust congressional oversight of the agencies with an eye toward removing burdensome regulations and practices that harm innovation while promoting an appropriate government role in protecting consumers. Additionally, in light of recent high-profile data breaches, the need to protect our information systems has never been greater. Companies and consumers facing data security challenges are looking for policy improvements, and I will continue working to make certain our nation is prepared to combat these cyber threats.

Outlining Priorities for Our Next Secretary of Agriculture
As we await the announcement of the incoming administration’s nominee for secretary of agriculture, I spoke with Amy Bickel at Kansas Agland about some of my expectations for the position. The incoming secretary must be a voice for rural America within the administration and be unafraid to advocate on its behalf outside of USDA. We need someone who is willing to communicate with the Environmental Protection Agency about the environmental policies hurting ag producers, convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services that voluntary conservation plans are most effective in managing habitats for endangered species, and work with the U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Commerce to promote Kansas ag exports abroad. USDA covers a broad jurisdiction, including rural housing, food safety inspection, agriculture research, farm and community loan programs and much more. The next secretary of agriculture will also play a major role in crafting of the next Farm Bill, and he or she must have a deep understanding of production agriculture and the current issues facing the industry. I called incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus this week to gauge their progress and offer my aid. I was reassured the transition team is hard at work to find the right person. I look forward to working with whomever fills the role to implement the best possible policies for the long term success of rural America. Click here to read more. 

Nominee Announced as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Last week President-elect Trump nominated Dr. David Shulkin, current Under Secretary for Health, as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Millions of veterans across the country have been waiting far too long to receive the quality healthcare they deserve. Over the last several years, the VA’s leadership has failed to make desperately-needed changes to ensure our veterans who have served and sacrificed can count on the agency sworn to serve them. I remain extremely concerned about the quality of care the VA is delivering, and I am determined to make certain Kansans can access the benefits they have earned. Despite having invited Undersecretary Shulkin to Kansas to visit our veteran healthcare facilities, I have not yet met with him during his time at the VA. He strikes me as a medical professional who cares deeply about serving veterans, and I look forward to meeting with him to hear more about his plans to reform the agency and restore veterans’ faith in the VA.

I expect change in the Department of Veterans Affairs, as do millions of veterans, their family members and other Americans. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I look forward to questioning Dr. Shulkin during his confirmation hearing in front of our committee about the changes he intends to implement.

FAA Finalizes Pilot Medical Reform
On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its final rule on third class medical reform for general aviation pilots. The FAA Extension Act of 2016, passed by Congress last July, gave the agency 180 days to complete this rule, which will give general aviation pilots a new means of obtaining the proper medical requirements to fly. Beginning May 1, 2017, pilots who are issued a third class medical certificate within the past 10 years will be able to go through their personal physicians, or any physician of their choice, to be certified every four years rather than through an FAA medical examiner. For the FAA, the new process will free up valuable oversight resources that can be focused toward areas of greater safety risk.  

This rule is welcome news for the general aviation industry, which for many years has sought to rein in bureaucratic obstacles slowing down the process of obtaining third class medical certificates. On November 2, 2016, I joined a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators in writing to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to complete this task in a timely fashion, and am pleased to see these reforms finally become a reality.

Questioning Transportation Secretary Nominee Elaine Chao at Senate Confirmation Hearing
As a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, I had the opportunity to ask Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao a number of questions about her vision for the future of aviation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Given Wichita’s role in aviation manufacturing as the Air Capital of the World, we discussed the opportunity for significant reforms to the FAA’s certification process for general aviation aircraft. Additionally, our conversation emphasized FAA’s critical responsibility to efficiently and effectively implement Next Generation (NextGen) technology and procedures while prioritizing air traffic safety and security above all else. Secretary Chao’s extensive policy and management experience will be an asset to the President-elect’s administration, enabling us to work together to tackle the challenges that lie ahead for our infrastructure and transportation systems. Her background and track record of service to our country make her a strong choice to lead the Department of Transportation. Please click here to watch our discussion. 

Sponsoring the REINS Act
I recently sponsored S. 21, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. The REINS Act would require Congress to approve any “economically significant” regulation that would cost more than $100 million, lead to a major increase in consumer prices, or adversely affect employment, economic productivity or the United States’ ability to compete with other countries. As Congress attempts to increase accountability and transparency in the federal regulatory process, the REINS Act puts in place tools needed to give future Congresses the ability to make certain that regulations promote economic successes rather than impede it. The U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the bill two weeks ago in a 237-187 vote. If we want to create jobs and grow our economy, we must provide regulatory certainty and reduce the red tape that does little more than increase government intrusion into the lives of Americans.

Speaking at K-INBRE in Manhattan
I spoke at the Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Symposium on Saturday. The K-INBRE system coordinates research between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and our network of universities in Kansas, supporting faculty development and biomedical research training of students for the future. This program has brought in $56.6 million to Kansas in research funding since 2001, and has supported many Kansas science students in their career pursuits. Biomedical research has the capacity to raise life expectancy, improve quality of life, lower overall health care costs, and function as an economic engine strengthening American global competitiveness. I have worked in Congress through my position on the Appropriations Committee and as a founding member of the Senate NIH Caucus for additional increases to NIH to support important partnerships such as the K-INBRE program. I’m thankful to the students who took the opportunity to share their impressive research advances and discuss the potential for future research in their field including K-State Ph.D. student from Junction City JP Sibbitt (pictured with me here). I am committed to prioritizing NIH and biomedical research in the future in order to continue the United States’ leadership in medical breakthroughs in the world.

Serving on Board of Regents KU Chancellor Search Committee
I was honored to be selected to serve on the Kansas Board of Regents’ KU Chancellor Search Committee and took part in meetings last week. This position is critical for the future of the University of Kansas and our state, and I look forward to being part of the process. The goal is to announce a new chancellor by June. Click here to see a full list of committee members.

(Photo by Lawrence Journal-World's Mike Yoder)

Joining the Salina Rotary Club
I attended the Salina Rotary Club’s meeting at the Bicentennial Center on Monday and had the chance to talk to those in attendance about the incoming administration, cabinet nominations and the confirmation process, working to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and the importance of selecting our next Secretary of Agriculture. We also talked about how regulations from the Department of Labor impact families and businesses, K-State Salina’s UAVs, services we need to provide for the disabled, and school choice.

Cheering on the Jayhawks
It was great to be in Lawrence this weekend cheering on my alma mater as they faced Oklahoma State’s basketball team. Even better to see the Jayhawks win, 87-80!

Accepting Applications for Summer Internships
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 who have a unique opportunity to work closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans. Applications are already being accepted for internships in my Washington, D.C., Manhattan, and Olathe, Kansas, offices for the summer 2017 term. The deadline for the spring is Friday, February 17th. 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.

Kansans in the Office
Kathy Shepard of Independence
Dallas Pollen of Olathe

American College of Nurse-Midwives
Kristin Larios of Overland Park

Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved
Denise Cyzman of Topeka
Katrina McGivern of Topeka

BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas
Sunee Mickle of Topeka

KC SmartPort
Chris Gutierrez of Kansas City

Ducks Unlimited
Tucker Nelson of Mission Hills

Christians United for Israel
Polo Delacruz of Topeka
Jonathan Hanney of Stillwell 

Bergkamp Inc & Cutler Repaving
Scott Bergkamp of Salina
John Rathbun of Lawrence

NIC Inc.
Ron Thornburgh of Olathe

Capitol Tour
Robert Reynolds of Lawrence
Meghan Stewart of Lawrence
Deanna Parsons of Lawrence
Emma Parsons of Lawrence
Katie Parsons of Lawrence
Anthony Kobler of Hays
Ryun Froman of Wichita
Jennifer Froman of Wichita
Harrison Froman of Wichita
Griffin Froman of Wichita
Sterling Braun of Fort Scott

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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