Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you 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.
Robba and I join all Kansans in expressing our condolences to those families who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack in Paris. We are saddened that terrorists have the capability to cause such death and destruction. We are reminded of the necessity for Americans to increase our efforts to protect against attacks here and increase our vigilance around the globe.
In the aftermath of the attacks, we must be sure that those leaving Syria for safety aren’t doing so with the intent of harming America. I am opposed to resettlement that puts our nation’s security at risk, and common sense tells us we should not recklessly open our borders.
Thanking Those Who Answered the Call
Each year on November 11, Americans celebrate and honor generations of men and women who answered the call to serve our country with valor. I hope this Veterans Day you took a moment to honor and celebrate the veterans in your life. Whether it’s your sister, father, grandfather or neighbor, it’s important to thank them for their courage and sacrifice, which has preserved the freedoms we all enjoy today. I spent my day in Lawrence and Topeka to express my family’s gratitude for all they have done for our nation.
My first visit was to Lawrence American Legion Post 14 where Chaplain Eric Walther was asked what he did when he came under enemy fire. His response: “We completed our mission. People are depending on us.” Talk about a role model.
Later that afternoon, it was an honor to take part in recognizing one of Topeka’s own unsung heroes – Brigadier General Norman Ramsey. Thank you to the Kansas VFW for the invitation to speak and to the thousands of Kansans like Norman who served our country with humility and courage.
Defense Authorization Bill Passes Senate
The Senate passed a new compromise for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) following the President’s veto of the first compromise between the House and the Senate. This bill authorizes programs and funding to support our nation’s Armed Forces for the upcoming fiscal year. Included in the compromise are provisions that prohibit the use of funds for the transfer of detainees to the United States and the closure of Guantanamo Bay. This is important given the administration’s latest unauthorized pursuit to use executive authority to close Guantanamo Bay. It is vital that we preserve the mission of Fort Leavenworth as the Intellectual Center of the Army, and that we promote the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) that has its home at Fort Leavenworth. The CGSC attracts a number of foreign officers, and the possibility of Fort Leavenworth housing terrorists would impact many nations sending their officers to pursue further education at CGSC. We must not allow an unlawful undertaking driven by the president to disrupt or detract from the immeasurable value this Kansas institution provides, and I am pleased that provisions to make certain no funds are used for that pursuit were included in the authorization bill.
Senate Passes Bill to Fund Military Construction and VA
Ahead of Veterans Day, the Senate passed the appropriations bill for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, I am pleased to see this bipartisan bill that supports our military construction projects and funds the Department of Veterans Affairs pass the Senate. This bill reaffirms our commitment to support our Armed Forces and take care of nation’s veterans. A strong national defense is critical to our security and is the federal government’s primary constitutional responsibility. I am committed to supporting our military personnel in Kansas and across the country, and I am pleased that my colleagues in the Senate share that commitment.
This bill is the first stand-alone appropriations measure amended and passed in the Senate since 2011. It provides nearly $8 billion above last year’s funding level and is $1 billion above the president’s budget request. Since 2009, funding for the VA has grown by nearly 73 percent. Congress remains committed to our nation’s military personnel and veterans, but systemic failures at the VA continue to disrupt service to veterans and access to care they deserve.
Included in this bill is an amendment I offered that prohibits the use of funds to relocate senior VA executives. Recently the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report finding that senior VA executive were using the relocation program to provide more than $400,000 in questionable moving expenses. The report stated that employees “inappropriately used their positions of authority for personal and financial benefit” when they forced the transfers of lower-ranking officials and then filled the vacancies themselves. My amendment prohibits the use of funds for the Home Marketing Incentive Program (HMIP) and the Appraisal Value Offer (AVO) program that allowed these senior VA executives to abuse their positions. VA executives should not be taking advantage of benefits intended to help recruit and retain much-needed medical providers and other key personnel serving at VA facilities across the country. We need leaders in the VA who are willing to take a stand, identify the problems, and get on the right path the resolve these systemic issues so that veterans have a Department of Veterans Affairs worthy of their service.
Visiting the University of Kansas Hospital Burn Center
Before flying back to Washington on Monday, I toured and visited with health care providers at the University of Kansas Hospital’s Burnett Burn Center. The Burnett Burn Center is the only adult and pediatric burn center in the region accredited by the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons. This visit was a good opportunity for me to learn more about how KU Hospital physicians, nurses, and support staff provide comprehensive patient care from complex inpatient services such as plastic surgery and reconstruction services, to important outpatient services such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, rehab therapy, and other social and emotional patient support services. I appreciate the care team taking time to share their expertise and insight on how we can advance the quality of burn and wound care available to Kansans. Thanks to Dr. Richard Korentager, Dr. Dhaval Bhavsar, and nurses Jennifer Parks and Tracy McDonald of the Burnett Burn Center for hosting my visit.
Touring the USDA Cropping Systems Research Laboratory
In my role as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, I toured the Cropping Systems Research Laboratory this week. The lab is part of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The agriculture subcommittee plays a key role in overseeing the work being done within USDA and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), both in Washington and in field offices. The research at the Cropping Systems Research Laboratory on sorghum, corn and cotton, wind erosion, temperature stress on plants, water conservation and irrigation systems will directly benefit Kansas farmers. Our farmers constantly need the latest in research and technology to compete in the world market and continue to become more productive, efficient producers of food, fuel and fiber. I look forward to continuing to examine USDA-ARS efforts on behalf of Kansas agriculture.
Discussing Health Care Innovation with Blue KC
While I was in Kansas City on Monday, I visited the office of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) to discuss how the organization serves individuals in 32 counties of greater Kansas City and northwestern Missouri, including Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas. Blue KC has provided health insurance coverage to Kansans for three quarters of a century and we discussed Blue KC’s efforts to provide Kansas consumers with a range of various health insurance products. Thanks to President and CEO Danette Wilson, General Counsel & Chief Administrative Officer Rick Kastner, Director of Government Affairs Melissa Panettiere and Vice President of Government Relations Coni Fries for hosting the visit.
Osborne County Town Hall
Last Thursday, I hosted a Kansas Listening Tour stop in Natoma. With more than 40 area residents in attendance, the conversation focused on veterans’ access to health care, postal service issues in rural areas, the Affordable Care Act, the Iranian nuclear deal, and the impact Wilson Lake’s low-water level has on the local economy. Thanks to Larry Boyd and the staff of Larry’s Café for hosting my visit.
Plainville Lions Club
I was a guest on Friday at the Plainville Lions Club. They discussed the long-time annual banquet that the club hosts for 4th graders, which they hosted even when I was a 4th grader. Like many rural Kansas communities, the club could use more members as they fulfill the Lion's motto of "We Serve." Thanks to Sonja Ruder for inviting me.
Kansans in the Office
Anita Nelson Wiley of Manhattan
Trisha Gott of Manhattan
Tamara Bauer of Manhattan
Michael Snodgras of Kansas City
DRC Adoption Advocate
Thalia Jeffres of Wichita
Thrive Allen County
Lisse Regehr of Iola
David Toland of Iola
Steven French of Iola
Jerry Dreher of Iola
Academy of Doctors of Audiology
Stacey Baldwin of Overland Park
Lisa Battani of Overland Park
Timothy Steele of Shawnee Mission
Jim French of Partridge
Physician Assistant Education Association
Sue Nyberg of Wichita
Kim Darden of Wichita
Emily Mirakian of Wichita
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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