Kansas Common Sense
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Landmark Veterans Mental Health Bill Signed into Law by President Trump
This week, President Trump signed into law my landmark legislation to improve veterans’ mental health and suicide prevention S.785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. This bill will reform mental health care at the VA by hiring and training more professionals in this field, developing innovative methods to reach veterans with care and establishing a grant program to better collaborate with community organizations across the country already serving veterans.
Many of our veterans are suffering from daunting, sometimes overwhelming mental health challenges that have only been made worse by this pandemic, and lack access to modern, effective and compassionate mental health care and suicide prevention services. This is a significant achievement for veterans and their families, and I am grateful to Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and many of my colleagues for working tirelessly this Congress to get this bill signed into law to improve suicide prevention research, services and programs for our nation’s veterans.
Thanking First Responders after the Nicodemus Wildfire
Earlier this week, a wildfire threatened Graham County and Nicodemus, aided by a lack of rain, warm temperatures and strong winds. Thanks to decisive action taken by Graham and Rooks County emergency personnel and volunteer fire departments, Nicodemus was spared from the effects of what could have been a devastating wildfire.
Following the fire, I visited the historic community this week where I was honored to hear from and personally thank these heroes for their extraordinary efforts. I learned that on the evening of the fire a unified command consisting of 35 firefighters and three law enforcement officers, supported by 16 fire trucks and three command vehicles was staged in less than 30 minutes in order to fight the fire. This is another example of Kansas’ deep-seated character: how Kansans come together to support one another in times of need. Thank you to Cole Presley, Graham County Sheriff and president of the Kansas Sheriffs Association for the kind welcome. Special thanks to Mickie Helberg, Graham County Emergency Services Coordinator, for arranging my visit.
Supporting Law Enforcement After Shooting in Lyons
The events that unfolded this past weekend in Lyons serve as a stark reminder of the dangers our law enforcement officers face in the line of duty.
I am relieved to learn that Officer Corey Ryan’s condition is improving. Robba and I continue to pray for the recovery of the officer and teacher who were injured, as well as the safety of all law enforcement across Kansas.
To learn more about this situation and keep updated on Officer Ryan’s and the teacher’s condition, click here.
Update on Supreme Court Nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett
The Judiciary Committee will vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court on Thursday. As I have previously stated, Judge Barrett has risen to the pinnacle of her profession while also raising a young family and being an admired professor. She is without a doubt a well-qualified, thoughtful nominee who is committed to upholding the law and applying it fairly. Should Judge Amy Coney Barrett be reported out of the Judiciary Committee favorably, the Senate is likely to begin consideration of her nomination on Friday and go through the weekend with an anticipated final confirmation vote early next week.
Investing in Kansas’ Future through the University of Kansas’s EDA Grant
This week, I helped announce a $7.77 million U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to the University of Kansas’ Bioscience & Technology Business Center (BTBC) with Governor Laura Kelly and federal officials. This grant will more than double BTBC’s capacity to support Kansas start-ups, as well as other high-growth companies. Located on KU’s campus in Lawrence, this grant will support the creation of more than 200 new jobs.
The EDA is the only federal government agency exclusively focused on economic development outcomes, and they play a critical role in facilitating regional economic development efforts in communities across the nation, both rural and urban. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I am a leading supporter of the Department of Commerce’s EDA, and I look forward to seeing how this grant continues to promote Kansas’ success in the state and beyond.
I’d like to thank Chancellor Doug Girod and the University of Kansas for the exemplary work that they continue to lead in the interest of keeping the state of Kansas one of the most competitively innovative states in the country.
Securing USDA Grants for Kansas Communities
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced four grants, totaling approximately $500,000, designated to communities across Kansas to help disadvantaged farmers and provide essential equipment for community services. Through the 2051 Program, formally known as the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, the USDA will provide support for the Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas training farm and New Roots for Refugees to assist program graduates who are operating their own new farms.
Three additional grants through the Community Facilities Grant Program were also awarded to Anderson County, Rice County and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas to purchase essential equipment for firefighting and sanitation services. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, I have supported both of these grant programs, and I will continue to support federal programs that support rural communities during this pandemic and beyond.
Improving Access to Rural Broadband
One of my top priorities in Congress is to improve broadband access to rural Kansans and Americans. This week, I joined leaders in Hillsboro to celebrate the groundbreaking for fiber optic broadband in Marion County. High speed internet is vital to helping Kansas communities continue to survive and grow. The COVID-19 pandemic has further pronounced the need for broadband expansion in order to connect rural Kansans with the rest of the state and beyond. As we continue to navigate the new, often internet-based, circumstances created by COVID-19, Kansans must be able to procure reliable access to online learning, tele-health and the ability to work remotely in all parts of our state.
Tri-County Telephone Association (TCT), the company responsible for the instillation of this fiber optic broadband, is based in Council Grove and is the parent company to TC Wireless. Rural broadband will contribute to retaining young people in our small towns and preserving the way of life many of us are accustomed to, while also working to close the digital divide between urban and rural America. TCT has long been an advocate for rural Kansans and has dedicated many resources to increase broadband access to smaller communities. I commend everyone involved in this project for their continued efforts to help improve the daily lives of Kansans. Thanks to TCT CEO Dale Jones, Congressman Roger Marshall, Hillsboro Mayor Lou Thurston and USDA Undersecretary Greg Ibach for joining me in this celebration.
1 Vision Aviation Reflects on Its First Year in Kansas
Almost a year ago, I joined the Salina community in welcoming 1 Vision Aviation to the Salina Regional Airport. On Tuesday, I once again had the opportunity to visit 1 Vision and spend time with CEO Jim Sponder reflecting on the company’s first year in Kansas, as well as discussing the ways in which they have responded to COVID-19 throughout their first year in Kansas. 1 Vision performs maintenance, repair and overhaul on many types of large aircrafts, and like many aeronautic companies, 1 Vision has had to adapt its operations to continue to function amid this pandemic. I commended the 1 Vision team for their efforts to sustain operation and keep many of their local employees working safely. I wish Jim and his team the best as they make their way into a second year in Salina, and I look forward to their continued growth and positive impact on the local community. Thanks to Chamber of Commerce CEO Eric Brown, Economic Development Director Mitch Robinson and Airport Authority Director Tim Rogers for joining me.
Proposing Kansas as the Site for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters
Last week, I hosted a video conference call with Mr. John Henderson, Assistant Secretary Air Force for Installations Environment and Energy to review Kansas’ proposal to host the new headquarters for U.S. Space Command. Formed in 2019 as the newest of the eleven Combatant Commands within the Department of Defense, the U.S. Space Command conducts operations in space to defend U.S. and allied assets from foreign aggression.
During my discussion with Mr. Henderson, whose office is charged with choosing a location, I highlighted the many benefits that Kansas has to offer the command, including opportunities to partner with leaders in industry and academia, the state’s highly capable workforce and its unwavering commitment to those who serve our nation in uniform. Mr. Henderson noted that Kansas is highly competitive for the headquarters and that a final decision will be made in early 2021. I am grateful that Mr. Henderson took the time to learn more about our great state.
Visiting Bethany College
Earlier this week, I met with with Bethany College’s new President, Dr. Elizabeth Mauch, in Lindsborg. Founded in 1881, Bethany College continues to embody a quality, liberal arts education. Appointed as the 15th president of the college, Dr. Mauch is the first female president serving Bethany. She has taken strong leadership during this unique time of uncertainty, especially among higher educational institutions, and I am impressed by her skill and qualifications to lead such a vital institution to central Kansas as COVID-19 continues to affect college campuses across the country.
During our tour of campus, I met sophomore Benjamin Gutierrez who left his home state of Arizona to study here in Kansas. It was great to hear that his favorite part of attending school at Bethany was the great people surrounding him. I will continue to support the top-tier education that Kansas’ educational institutions provide.
Touring Family-Owned Central Plastics in McPherson
While in McPherson this week, I toured an impressive family-owned business, Central Plastics Inc. Employing over 200 full-time employees around the area and since its founding in 1968, Central Plastics and the Houghton family continues to be business leaders and community investors in and around McPherson. As a major plastic producer and extruder with plastic products ranging from garage door parts to medical equipment, Central Plastics maintains strategic partnerships with other local companies that help bolster the McPherson and Kansas economy.
Additionally, Central Plastics has been successful in competing against foreign companies as it continues to bring manufacturing to Kansas. With the hard work of our local manufacturers, I am confident that the United States can further increase exports and become less reliant on foreign markets. Thanks to brothers Mark, Dennis and Kent Houghton for giving me a tour. I also appreciate McPherson Mayor Tom Brown and Industrial Development Director Kasi Morales for joining the discussion.
Ensuring Protection for Our Jewish Community
On Monday, I joined a virtual video conference meeting with the leadership of Kansas City’s JCRB/ACJ Global Jewish Advocacy chapter to discuss important concerns relating to an increase in anti-Semitic crimes and Israel’s security. As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, I have nearly doubled resources to the FBI for investigating hate crimes and have directed them to ensure all law enforcement agencies are fully reporting hate crimes statistics. I have also agreed to join the Senate Taskforce for Combatting Anti-Semitism, which works to raise awareness of the issue. We discussed the militant group Hezbollah’s terrorist activities from its base in Lebanon and the need for our European allies to take measures to curb its activities. Whether here in the United States, in Israel, or anywhere else, I am committed to ensuring the protection of Jewish people who are targeted for no reason other than for being Jewish.
Touring Selex Headquarters
This week, I visited Selex, Inc. Headquarters in Overland Park. As a top-tier technology company that specializes in Air Traffic Management and providing air navigation solutions, Selex produces navigation, precision landing and surveillance systems for commercial and military aviation. The company also produces license plate recognition technology for law enforcement and secure mobile radios used by utilities and transit authorities for critical communications. The systems they procure continue to strengthen Kansas’ leadership in aviation and provide security systems. Thank you to General Manager Bill Colligan for providing the tour.
Two New Amazon Fulfillment Centers Ensure Gains for the Kansas Economy
This week, I participated in a virtual announcement for two new Amazon fulfillment centers in Kansas City and Park City. The hands-on work environment that Amazon provides its fulfilment center employees will bring over 1,000 new, high-paying, full-time jobs to Kansas households as it simultaneously provides goods and services to residents and communities across the state. Amazon’s continued commitment to the state of Kansas will have a dramatic impact to the local economy in terms of tax revenue and economic development for other businesses in the region. As the co-founder of the Senate Competitiveness Caucus, I consistently advocate for policies that make certain America retains the strongest and most innovative economy in the world.
I’d like to thank Mayors David Alvey, Brandon Whipple and Ray Mann for their leadership in making their communities attractive to large employers like Amazon. One of my top priorities in Congress is to make Kansas a strong competitor for private sector commitments that will continue to bolster the Kansas economy for years to come.
Meeting the Kiwanis Club of Great Bend
This week, I joined the Kiwanis Club of Great Bend for their weekly lunch meeting. During the meeting, I appreciated hearing from Barton County Clerk and Elections Officer Donna Zimmerman who provided an update on how the county is preparing for the upcoming election. Following Ms. Zimmerman’s updates, I was able to have a conversation with the Kiwanians about COVID-19 relief, the security of our mail system ahead of the election, and how Barton county is responding.
Now more than ever, civic clubs are vitally important to our communities, and I was glad to see such a robust membership in Great Bend. I want to thank Kiwanis President Frankie Pelster and Secretary Barbara Esfeld for allowing me to join the meeting, as well as County Clerk Donna Zimmerman for allowing me time to speak.
Discussing the Importance of Protecting Local Media with KAB Chairman Brad Moses
This week, I met virtually with Kansas Association of Broadcasters (KAB) Chairman and Vice President of KWCH-TV Brad Moses and Vice President of WIBW-TV Roger Brokke to discuss federal regulatory hurdles that local broadcasters are facing. As a service, local broadcasters play an important role in communities around our state, keeping Kansans informed about local issues and providing content geared toward specific regions. In rural communities especially, local broadcast stations provide vital and timely updates in times of disaster and crisis and are geared towards truly understanding the community to which they are serving and providing information. It is critical that our local broadcasters are not stifled by a harmful regulatory environment, and I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues and the KAB to ensure that Kansans receive the local news, weather and entertainment that local stations provide.
Evaluating Manhattan’s Health Needs at Ascension Via Christi’s Roundtable
This weekend, I sat down with rural hospital administrators at the Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan. Serving northeastern Kansas, this acute care facility plays a central role in providing for the health needs of the community and has a considerable impact on rural hospitals in the region. I was joined by board members and physicians to discuss the challenges that the hospital has faced throughout COVID-19, and how Ascention Via Christi has arisen to the circumstances created due to the pandemic. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, these visits are useful in learning more about how health care providers utilize resources from the federal government to care for patients, many of whom are spread across rural areas of our state. A special thank you to President Bob Copple for allowing me to join him and his team.
Recognizing World Food Day
As co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I cosponsored a resolution to designate October 16, 2020 as World Food Day. The call to feed the world’s hungry has been answered by so many Kansans, who are taught at a young age that it is our duty to help those in need. On World Food Day 2020, we are reminded of our responsibility to help those in need, both in our own communities as well as in cities, villages and regions across the globe. Fighting hunger is not only the morally right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do both for Kansas producers and for global security. I will continue to support measures that highlight the need to mitigate this startlingly prevalent issue and promote measures in the fight against hunger.
Thanking America’s Manufacturers during National Manufacturing Month
October is National Manufacturing Month, and I would like to extend my thanks to all of our nation’s manufacturers and the innovation they bring to the table and to the next generation of Americans. The work that manufacturers do each and every day touches the lives of every American in some form or fashion, ensuring a life of increased convenience and technological advancement. Throughout my visits to Kansas’ manufacturing companies and local businesses, I recognize the strides Kansas communities continue to make and the hard work of so many Kansans. Thank you for your efforts and the services you provide to all Kansans and Americans.
Remembering Jon Londeen
Earlier last week, I paid my respects to Jon Londeen, a friend and the former mayor of Chapman. Jon served in the Army after commissioning from the ROTC program at K-State and following his return home, he continued to serve his hometown community through civic organizations, roles in the city government and running local businesses, including Londeen’s hardware and furniture store, which I stopped by while in town. Jon loved his hometown and he will be missed. Robba and I send our condolences to his family and loved ones.
Learn more about Jon’s life here.
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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