Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” This week, the Senate resumed debate on S. 1813, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill – or the “Highway Bill” – legislation that will authorize highway funding for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The Senate also confirmed two District Court judges on Monday. On Wednesday night, after days of negotiation, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell produced a finite list of 30 amendments designated for debate on the Highway Bill. On Thursday the Senate voted on eight amendments. Of note, there were amendments offered by both parties for continued progress on the Keystone XL pipeline project. However, neither of these amendments reached the necessary 60 votes to be included in the underlying bill. It is likely that the Senate will finish up work on the Highway Bill next week.
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.
Talking Startup Act at SXSW in Austin
On Sunday, I joined technology leaders, startups and tech enthusiasts at the 19th Annual SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. This annual multi-day conference features presentations from some of the leaders in emerging technology, as well as special programs showcasing the best new websites, applications, and startup ideas. I was honored to be invited to host a panel discussion called “Startup Act: Encouraging Innovation and Empowering Entrepreneurs,” during which I shared my thoughts about why Congress should act on my proposal the Startup Act and the urgency of capitalizing on the unique attention policymakers are currently giving to startups.
Startups are an important part of the American economy. Over the past three decades, companies less than five years old have accounted for nearly all net job creation in the United States. Yet, recent data on startups indicate that the startup engine is slowing down, as new businesses hire fewer employees than in the past. To revive the startup engine and jump-start the economy, I joined Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) in introduced legislation called the Startup Act.
The Startup Act is based on a simple premise: the easier it is for creative individuals to take risks and start a business, the more jobs will be created. The Startup Act incorporates key recommendations made by President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the Kauffman Foundation, and entrepreneurs across the country.
The Startup Act outlines a five-prong approach to job creation based on the proven track record of entrepreneurs. My proposal will reduce regulatory burdens, help startups attract and retain capital so they can grow, accelerate the commercialization of research so more new ideas reach the marketplace, keep entrepreneurial talent in America, and encourage pro-growth state and local policies. It has been endorsed by Steve Case, one of America’s best-known and most accomplished entrepreneurs and philanthropists. Under Steve’s leadership as Chairman and CEO, AOL became the world’s largest and most valuable Internet company. The Startup Act has also been endorsed by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA); the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF); and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA). Thanks again to Steve Case for participating in my panel in Austin and for the very kind introduction. Click here to learn more about the Startup Act.
While in Austin, I also had an opportunity to meet with Kansas entrepreneurs attending SXSW. Kansans on hand included: Naithan Jones of Prairie Village and Jacob McDaniel, co-founders of AgLocal; Sarah Gambach and Dan Carroll of Leap2; and Kyle Johnson, CEO & Founder of AudioAnywhere.
Prior to my Austin trip, I visited with the popular technology policy blog TechDirt to share my thoughts about various topics, including my opposition to the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act., as well as the Startup Act. I believe Congress can do more to enable Americans to start new companies and develop new products and services. Congress also has a responsibility of maintain an environment of innovation. To read my TechDirt interview, please click here.
AIPAC Policy Conference
Monday evening, I was able to attend the annual AIPAC Policy Conference – the largest annual gathering of the pro-Israel community – to visit with old friends and make new ones. The following morning, I met with Kansans who were attending the conference in Washington, D.C. The possibility of a hostile Iran obtaining nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to American and global security, and I reaffirmed my commitment to working to convince Iran to end its nuclear weapons program. I also spoke to the students who were participating in the conference for the first time and told them how important their voices are to those who serve in Washington. Israel is our closest ally in a volatile region, and we must stand with our friend and work to preserve peace and stability in the Middle East. Click here to see a photo.
Increasing Access to Capital for Startup Businesses
On Tuesday I participated in a Senate Banking Committee hearing on ways to increase capital access for startup businesses. Much of my time these days is devoted to finding ways to encourage job creation by small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs. History has shown that these are the true job creators in our economy and if Congress cannot unshackle them from unnecessary regulation and burdensome taxes, we will continue this stagnant economic recovery. The Banking Committee hearing focused attention on six pieces of legislation designed to reform outdated portions of our securities laws which require firms looking to raise money to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission—a costly process of arguable value to investors. Click here to watch a video clip from the hearing.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation similar to that which I support in the Senate and I am dedicated to finding a way for the Senate to send this bipartisan job creation package to President Obama for his signature.
A Balanced Approach to Bank Examinations
On Tuesday, I introduced legislation to help unfreeze credit in rural America by reforming the bank examination process. Commonsense tells us that in the aftermath of a severe financial crisis, it is natural for regulators to respond with tight regulation. But Rather than provide clear rules of the road for an institution to make prudent loans to credit-worthy borrowers, banking agencies have made the lending climate worse by allowing the regulatory pendulum to swing too far. Four years later we are finding that the economic climate has still not improved and healthy Kansas banks and credit unions – who played no role in the financial meltdown – are paying the price.
The American economy will not benefit from a sustained recovery until certainty and confidence is restored to our financial system. My bill, Introduced with Senator Joe Manchin (D-W. Va), would provide clarity to the examination process so banks know the rules of the road and can make prudent loans to credit-worthy small businesses. S. 2160 would also create a robust appeals process for banks and credit unions to appeal a supervisory decision which they might feel was reached in error or without all the facts. With a similarly bipartisan bill pending in the House of Representatives, I hope we can get this bill to the President shortly and bring relief to Kansas institutions. Click here to read more.
Raising Kansas Health Care Concerns
On Wednesday, I attended a Senate Appropriations health subcommittee hearing on President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Testifying at the hearing was HHS Secretary – and former Kansas governor – Kathleen Sebelius. During the hearing, I raised the following Kansas health care concerns with Sec. Sebelius:
- Cuts to Rural Hospitals – The President’s proposed budget seeks to cut Medicare reimbursements to the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) program in 2013, and completely the CAH reimbursement for certain rural hospitals in 2014. While I believe that Congress must reduce federal spending and lower our national debt, I am concerned with proposals that would disproportionately affect rural hospitals in Kansas and other rural states, jeopardizing health care access for rural residents and threatening the survival of small towns. 65 percent of Kansas’ hospitals are CAHs and they – along with other rural hospitals – already operate on thin or negative margins to provide care to an increasingly aging population across a wide area. If these facilities are further squeezed, many hospitals will be forced to close and others will have to limit services and postpone updating medical equipment.
- Inviting the CSM Acting Administrator to Kansas – On February 17th, I invited Ms. Marilyn Tavenner, Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to join me in Kansas to tour a health care facility in our state and meet with Kansas doctors, nurses, and other health care providers. This hearing gave me the opportunity to reiterate my invitation to Acting Administrator Tavenner. CMS is the division of HHS responsible for administering Medicare and Medicaid. Many of Kansas’ hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other providers operate on tight margins to provide quality care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries across a wide area. Each time I visit one of these facilities, I learn something new about the unique challenges they face and I hope Ms. Tavenner will join me on a visit.
- Effect of NIH Budget Freeze on Medical Research – The President’s budget proposal freezes the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, while it proposes significant increases for other divisions within HHS, including close to $1 billion increases for both CMS and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. After taking into account inflation, the President’s request of a flat budget for NIH would result in a reduction of approximately 3 percent in NIH’s “buying power.” Under this scenario, I am concerned that the potential for research advancements of NIH grants will be severely reduced. In addition to the vital importance of finding cures and treatments for disease, advancing medical research through NIH is also important to our country’s economic growth and to strengthening our position as a world leader in research and innovation. If researchers cannot rely on consistent support from Congress, we will squander current progress, stunt America’s global competitiveness, and lose younger generations of doctors and scientists to alternative career paths.
Click here to see video clips of my discussions with Secretary Sebelius.
Hearing Examines DHS Budget, NBAF
On Thursday, I participated in an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the President’s 2013 budget request for the Homeland Security Department. I took this opportunity to again speak to my colleagues on the Committee and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano about the importance of moving forward with National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas in order to safeguard our country from the devastation caused by foreign animal disease outbreaks.
While Administration officials continue to vocally support building NBAF in Kansas, I am concerned that the 2013 budget request fails to advance NBAF. During the hearing, I conveyed the importance of DHS continuing the partnership with the state of Kansas by taking steps such as transferring the NBAF land and constructing NBAF’s utility plant so that the lab’s construction remains on schedule and the research protecting our economy can begin as soon as possible. As the Senate Appropriations Committee considers the DHS budget in the coming months, I will strongly support this national security priority. Click here to view a clip from the hearing.
Meeting with Kansas Participants in United States Senate Youth Program
This week I met with two Kansas students participating in the United States Senate Youth Program. Joshua Duden and Kristina Pedersen were nominated for the program by their teachers and principals and selected by Dr. Diane DeBacker, Kansas Commissioner of Education. Joshua attends Mill Valley High School and serves as senior class president. Kristina attends Blue Valley Northwest High School and serves as student government president. Participants attend meetings and briefings with Senators and Congressional staff, the President, a Justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an Ambassador to the United States and top members of the national media. The students also tour many of the national monuments and several museums and they will stay at the historic Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. Click here to see a photo.
Celebrating National Ag Week
Regardless of your job or where you live, agriculture matters to Kansans and Americans. The average U.S. farmer feeds 155 people annually, up from 129 in 1990 and just 10 back in 1930. That is why communities across the country honored the contributions of farmers and ranchers this week by celebrating National Ag Week.
Kansas producers in particular deserve a big thank you for what they do for our state’s economy. Our well-being depends on agriculture; if we want strong schools, growing businesses and vibrant communities, we must make sure farmers and ranchers in Kansas have the opportunity to prosper. In today's fast-paced world, there are few industries where sons and daughters can work side-by-side with moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas.
The Department of Labor is currently proposing rules that would restrict young people’s ability to work on farms and ranches. These proposed rules would fundamentally alter the rural way of life and disrupt agriculture practices across the country. We know that rural America’s values are not always Washington’s values, and in recent months I have worked to make certain this destructive rule does not move forward by sharing my concerns and the concerns of many Kansas farmers and ranchers with the Secretary of Labor. As this process moves forward, I will continue to work to stop this vast overreach of executive authority and protect individual rights. Visit www.keepfamiliesfarming.com to learn more about protecting and preserving rural values for the next generation of American farmers and ranchers.
I will continue my work to create better awareness and understanding in Washington of the challenges facing the agricultural community and the critical importance of strong agriculture policy. Thank you to all the farmers and ranchers that work so hard to feed and clothe all of us.
On Monday, prior to returning Washington, D.C., I toured the Honeywell Aerospace facility in Olathe. The Honeywell facility continues to grow, most recently adding a product that was being built in Malaysia. It is critical that we have a regulatory and tax environment conducive to continuing this type of growth. I find satisfaction knowing that Kansas employees at companies like Honeywell are providing many components of airplanes affiliated with flight safety from in-flight radar to black boxes.
In order to provide the safest working environment for its employees, Honeywell has worked to qualify for the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). VPP is a series of workplace safety and health programs which employers voluntarily incorporate into their worksites. It is in partnership with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which allows them to work together to ensure workplace safety. I am a co-sponsor of legislation that will codify the VPP program. Thank you to the tour team for showing me the impressive facility, including Steve Klossen, Bob Stubler, Melissa Schwarting, Dian Jonon, Pat Defebaugh and David Nelson. Thank you also to Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland for joining me on the tour.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
School Nutritional Association of Kansas
Cindy Jones of Olathe
Glenda Johnston of Gardner
Connie Vogts of Liberal
Hilary Hanvey of Coldwater
Tara Ingalls of Gardner
Promotional Products Association Inc.
Janie Gaunce of Lenexa
Wayne Roberts of Wichita
Carol Ann Peterson of Kansas City
AFS Intercultural Exchange
Roylene Klein of Derby
Louise Ehmke of Healy
Laura Fortmeyer of Hiawatha
Jim French of Partridge
Andy Huckaba of Lenexa
GSA - Heartland Region
Jason Klumb of Kansas City
Andy Plyer of Winfield
National Guard Association of Kansas
Michele Henry of Salina
Chris Stratmann of Topeka
Mike Erwin of Topeka
Derek Rogers of Topeka
Joe Blubaugh of Topeka
Jarrod Brunkow of Topeka
Johnson County Commissioners
Ed Eilert of Overland Park
Jim Allen of Shawnee
Edward Peterson of Fairway
Jason Osterhaus of Overland Park
Michael Ashcraft of Olathe
Hannes Zacharias of Lanexa
Sedgwick County Commissioners (photo)
Dave Unruh of Wichita
Tim Norton of Haysville
Karl Peterjohn of Wichita
Richard Ranzau of Park City
Jim Skelton of Witchita
Leavenworth City Commission (photo)
Mark Preisinger of Leavenworth
Larry Dedeke of Leavenworth
Laura Gasbarre of Leavenworth
Phil Urban of Leavenworth
Scott Miller of Leavenworth
Golden Living Center
Gary Holmes of Edwardsville
Fight Colorectal Cancer
Doug Sharp of Prairie Village
Marmaton Valley FFA
Russell Plaschka of Moran
Steve Buss of Meriden
Dawn Lindsley of Manhattan
National Kidney Foundation
Joseph Vohs of Linwood
Kansas Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
Stephanie Covington of Lawrence
Kansas Respiratory Care Society
Suzanne Bollig of Hays
Karen Schell of Emporia
Debbie Fox of Wichita
Janet Henderson of Kansas City
Sizewise Rentals, LLC
Larry Askew of Kansas City
Tim McCarty of Kansas City
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation InternationalJudy Krtek of Leawood
Association of American Railroads
Ed McKechnie of Pittsburg
Doug Smith of Topeka
Bob Boaldin of Elkhart
Jim Huenfeldt of Shawnee
Kevin Keller of Olathe
Reach Out and Read Kansas City
Kelly Kreisler of Kansas City
Kansas Wesleyan University (photo)
Fletcher Lamkin of Salina
Jeff Chapman of Salina
National Home Infusion Association
Rick Lane of Kansas City
Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association
Tom Rogge of Gardner
National Fragile X Foundation
Angie Grantman of Overland Park
Becky Dunster of Lenexa
Brooke Stack of Olathe
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Amy Goldstein of Kansas City
Cindy Shaffer of Wichita
Mary Reed Spencer of Alba
Jackie Waters of Haysville
Denise Sultz of Overland Park
National Hemophilia Foundation
Aimee Tempera-Parks of Wichita
Alex Hoyt of El Dorado
Max Hoyt of El Dorado
Dialysis Patient Citizens
Theresa Flickinger of Olathe
National Alliance of State Health Cooperatives
David Hornick of Leavenworth
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
John Fales of Olathe
American Osteopathic Association
Meagan McCann of Olathe
Christopher Smith of Roeland Park
Self-Insurance Institute of America, Inc.
Donald Vogelsberg of Kansas City
Matt Leming of Overland Park
Southwest Passage Initiative for Regional and Interstate Transportation
Jack Taylor of Liberal
Transportation Equity Network
Cynthia Jarrold of Overland Park
Johnson Co. Sheriff's Department
Bob Keller of Olathe
American Institute of Architects
Wendy Ornelas of Manhattan
Stacey Keller of Topeka
Charles Smith of Topeka
Tony Jacobs of Wichita
Society for Human Resource Management
James Behan of Topeka
Mindy McPheeters of Wichita
Jim Maher of Parsons
Greater Kanas City LISC
Allison Bergman of Kansas City
Mid-American Manufacturing Center
Jim Baker of Overland Park
Matt Ida of Pittsburg
Sandy Johnson of Overland Park
Kansas Funeral Directors
Pam Scott of Topeka
Eric Londeen of Manhattan
Darin Bradstreet of Garden City
Ashley Cozine of Wichita
Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine
Ralph Richardson of Manhattan
Beverly Richardson of Manhattan
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including: Kay Dobbs of Topeka; Persephone Dobbs of Lawrence; Gary and Cheryl Boesker of Canton; Ryan and Jan Peak of Hutchinson; Gary and Joan Jones of Wichita; Mark, Wendy and Parker Weishaar of Colby; Eileen Thompson of Burdett, Randy and Cheryl Reinhardt of Overland Park and their children Jordan, Kaitly and Kyle; Gerald, Timothy and Katherine Franklin of Goodland, David, Lynda and Christopher Dawson of Lenexa; and Michael and Beth Styve of Overland Park.
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
Newsletter Sign-up Form
Note: Fields marked with an * are required.