Kansas Common Sense
Oct 28 2019
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Showcasing Wichita’s Workforce Capabilities
On Thursday, it was great to have Presidential Advisor Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the ‘Air Capital of the World’ for events at WSU Tech and Textron Aviation. During our tour at WSU Tech, we heard from Dr. Sheree Utash on the school’s excellent work to equip students with the vital job skills they need to be successful in aircraft manufacturing and related fields.
It was also great to hear from students from WSU Tech’s Aviation Pathway’s partnership as they provided insight to Ivanka Trump on how to make certain American workers can remain the best workforce in the world. Finally, we joined a number of aviation companies across Wichita, including Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus and Bombardier as they signed the “Pledge To America’s Workers.”
A special thanks to President of WSU Tech and member of the President’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, Dr. Sheree Utash for hosting us. Later in the morning, Ms. Trump, Secretary Pompeo, Congressman Ron Estes and I joined Wichita aviation stakeholders to tour Textron Aviation’s production of the Cessna Longitude aircraft. During the tour, it was great to meet with employees who have benefited from Textron’s “Pledge to America’s Workers” commitment of 22,240 opportunities. These Textron opportunities have been realized largely through the Aviation Pathway partnership with WSU Tech for students interested in aircraft manufacturing and emerging aviation technologies of the future.
Thursday’s visit is another step in our work to showcase Wichita’s outstanding capabilities to the world. I look forward to continue working with the Trump administration and Kansas stakeholders to bolster both Kansas and American competitiveness.
Death of ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi
Early Sunday morning, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed during a special operations raid in Syria. For over five years, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi led ISIS, which terrorized the world with its brutality and extremist ideology. I applaud the intelligence community, the U.S. Special Forces and the Administration’s leadership in conducting this successful raid.
This is a reminder of the tireless work our servicemembers do every day to keep Americans safe. We must remain vigilant against ISIS and other extremist threats.
Working to Make Emergency Services More Accessible for Those Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis
On Wednesday, I joined my Senate colleagues in introducing the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. This bipartisan legislation would to designate a three-digit phone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline and ensure states have the flexibility to strengthen local crisis call centers. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line are 10-digits, which is a barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support.
The state of Kansas and the entire country stand to benefit from increased access to critical suicide prevention and mental health services that a dedicated nationwide hotline would offer. I commend the work of my fellow Kansan Chairman Ajit Pai and the entire FCC on this important issue thus far, and I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the commission and my Senate colleagues to make certain this is an effective tool for those who need it. Click here to read more on this measure.
Discussing the Ongoing Situation in Syria with Ambassador James Jeffrey
On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues on the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations to discuss the situation in Syria with Ambassador James Jeffrey. Ambassador Jeffrey, who is the State Department’s Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, testified to the details involving the decision to withdraw U.S. forces in Syria from the border with Turkey.
In my questioning, I noted the concern I have heard from Kansans and sought answers on how the U.S. achieves its objectives going forward, including ensuring the protection of Christians and religious minorities. This subcommittee is responsible for appropriating funds to aid in protecting these groups and rebuilding areas liberated from ISIS, and I have a strong interest in the Administration’s next steps to advance our national interests. Click here to watch our discussion.
Speaking on the Senate Floor Regarding Appropriations Process
Each fiscal year, one of the fundamental jobs of Congress is to pass twelve appropriations bills to provide funding for federal agencies and our military. On Monday, I spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate about the urgency of passing appropriations legislation before government funding expires on November 21. I reminded my colleagues that it is the role of Congress to make decisions about how federal dollars are spent but far too often Congress has given up this constitutional authority by failing to do its job. Currently the federal government is operating under a “continuing resolution,” meaning that federal funding is effectively on autopilot until appropriations bills are passed, and therefore we as a Congress are failing in our duties to prioritize how money should be spent, or not spent.
However, I am encouraged by the progress made in the Senate this week. A legislative package consisting of four FY2020 appropriations bills overwhelmingly cleared a necessary procedural hurdle to begin an open amendment process. As an Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, I am pleased that my subcommittee’s legislation to fund the Departments of Commerce and Justice, as well as NASA, the National Science Foundation, and many other agencies, was included in the package that also includes appropriations for the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and others. While much work on appropriations remains to be done this year – in particular, the need to fund our nation’s military and provide a pay raise for our men and women in uniform – I look forward to passing these four bills next week and continuing to move appropriations legislation forward in the weeks ahead to prevent a government shutdown. Click here to watch these remarks.
Working to Make Public Transportation More Efficient
On Tuesday, I was joined by Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in introducing the Small Community Transit Improvement Act. This bipartisan legislation would increase the efficiency and capacity of public transportation in some of the nation’s smaller urban and suburban communities by raising the funds available to the Small Transit Intensive Cities (STIC) Program.
The STIC Program rewards communities between 50,000 and 200,000 citizen when they match or outperform the average service levels of large cities like New York City. Public transportation provides critical services to communities of all sizes, not just major metropolitan areas. By building on the successful STIC Program, our sensible legislation would make certain that high-performing public transit systems in smaller urban and suburban communities have the same access to federal resources as their more populous peers. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to continue developing public transportation opportunities and get this bill across the finish line. Click here to read more on this measure.
Meeting with Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellows
This week, I spoke to members of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to thank them for their selfless service as military caregivers. This Foundation, founded by Senator Elizabeth Dole, seeks to advocate and empower the 5 million family caregivers who care for our wounded or ill veterans each and every day. Military caregivers have unique, demanding jobs and often have to balance these responsibilities with a full-time job. As we look forward to celebrating National Family Caregivers Month in November, it was a pleasure to address this Foundation and thank them for their service to our troops.
Each military caregiver has a powerful story to share, but I would like to highlight Patti Walker’s journey as a caregiver. Patti is currently a Dole Caregiver Fellow who represents Kansas on the Foundation. Patti’s husband, Kevin, was gravely injured in Iraq in 2004 and underwent emergency surgery in Baghdad before returning home. Although Kevin was able to return stateside, he requires around-the-clock care and attention. Patti’s tireless advocacy for her fellow caregivers while simultaneously providing full-time care for Kevin is a testament to the services that military caregivers provide every day. It was an honor to hear her story and I am proud to have Patti representing Kansas within the Dole Foundation.
Spending time with University of Kansas Officials in Washington, D.C.
This week, I joined University of Kansas (KU) leadership in our nation’s capital for an event in honor of Chancellor Doug Girod. Activities at KU are a significant economic engine for our state, and the education and training of generations of Kansans impact communities across our state. In addition to being an incubator for talent, KU is a top-tier research university with a strong partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), particularly pioneering research in pharmaceuticals, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease research. I’d like to thank Chancellor Girod and the rest of the KU leadership for their service to our state, and I look forward to continuing our strong working relationship to ensure KU’s success into the future.
Honoring the O’Brate Scholars and Watching K-State Beat Oklahoma
On Saturday, ahead of the K-State football game against Oklahoma, I joined Cecil and Frances O’Brate, their friends and family, and members of the O’Brate Foundation to honor the O’Brate Scholars at Kansas State University. Through their foundation, Cecil and Frances have provided educational opportunities to so many, including this group of students. I enjoyed visiting with these outstanding students and hearing about how Cecil and Frances’ generosity has enabled them to pursue their dreams. Thank you to my long-time friends, Cecil and Frances, for including me in this special event, and for all that you do to improve lives across our country. Your life of service to others is inspiring.
It was great to join Athletic Director Gene Taylor and other members of K-State leadership to watch the football game against Oklahoma. Congratulations to K-State for a incredible win against top-ranked Oklahoma.
Attending the KU Homecoming Football Game
On Saturday evening, I was back in Lawrence to attend KU’s Homecoming and watch them take down Texas Tech. It was great to visit with KU Chancellor Doug Girod, Athletic Director Jeff Long and other members of KU leadership during the game. Rock Chalk!
Ribbon Cutting for 1 Vision Aviation’s New Salina Hangar
On Friday, I was in Salina to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of 1 Vision Aviation in Salina. 1 Vision Aviation is a provider of aircraft maintenance, repair and modification on a wide range of aircraft. The company has ambitious plans for Kansas, as they aim to hire nearly 450 employees within five years of opening their new location in Salina. Their new location, in Hangar 1 at Salina Regional Airport, is a mark of progress for the community and demonstrates Kansas’ continued dominance in the aviation sector. During my remarks, I commended the many individuals across Salina who worked tirelessly to bring 1 Vision Aviation to town.
Celebrating Continued Progress at Junction City High School
On Friday, I was in Junction City to celebrate the beginning of vertical construction on the new Junction City High School (JCHS). During the ceremony, JCHS Principal Melissa Sharp detailed how the new school will impact the entire Junction City community, and noted that when the project is complete, JCHS will finally be able to house all of the high school programs, curriculum and events on one site. This milestone marks historic progress for the school and community, and I look forward to being back at JCHS upon the completion of construction. Thanks to USD 475 Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Eggleston and JCHS Principal Melissa Sharp for their invitation to attend and for all they do to inspire and support students.
Stafford County Townhall Meeting and an Update on the Quivira NRW
On Friday, I hosted another stop on my Kansas Listening Tour in St. John. Stafford County is at the center of a dire water dispute surrounding the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). It was pertinent for me to hear from local producers on how they would be affected by restrictions to their water use. Earlier this month, I was able to meet with President Trump’s nominee for director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Aurelia Skipwith. During our meeting, Ms. Skipwith committed that the FWS would work with local stakeholders to find a voluntary solution that satisfies the Quivira water impairment before requesting Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) to move forward with an administrative order to regulate water rights. On Friday, the FWS confirmed its intent to not request water in 2020 to settle the impairment while a solution is being negotiated the meets the needs of both the refuge and local stakeholders.
This is a big win for Kansas producers and this announcement provides certainty to farmers, ranchers and the entire regional economy by making clear that next year’s water use regulations will not go into effect as stakeholders work to find a long term solution to the water impairment. I was pleased to see St. John Mayor Mark Byrant, as well as Stafford County Commissioners Todd Wycoff and Kurt Fairchild in attendance, and I offer my thanks to Orrin Ferril, Director of Groundwater Management District 5, for sharing about the District’s work on the water issue.
Honored to Serve You in Washington
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