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.

Promoting Entrepreneurship at South by Southwest with Kansas Entrepreneurs
This weekend, I visited with entrepreneurs, technology and policy leaders at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. We discussed a variety of issues critical to our nation's innovators, including barriers to starting a business that legislation I introduced, the Startup Act, seeks to fix.

I joined a panel of experts at Capital Factory to discuss some of the provisions in my legislation such as improving entrepreneurs' abilities to commercialize technology resulting from federal research and development funds and modernizing the EDA's Regional Innovation Strategies program to bolster capital opportunities to get businesses up and off the ground. Additionally, broadband deployment in rural America and workforce development reforms are absolutely necessary for Kansas entrepreneurs to compete in the global economy, and I appreciated the opportunity to talk about these issues with fellow Kansans Jason Wiens from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Jason Tatge from Farmobile.

I also spoke at a panel discussion hosted by Dell Technologies, where we covered entrepreneurship and technology issues that impact businesses' abilities to grow. We discussed innovative solutions – including my MGT Act, which was signed into law in December – to reform the way federal agencies purchase IT systems in an effort to eliminate cybersecurity vulnerabilities while saving taxpayer dollars.

I was proud to showcase Kansas' innovation and success at SXSW again this year and I will continue to advocate on behalf of Kansas entrepreneurs to advance their ability to bring their ideas to market, create jobs and improve American economic competitiveness.

STOP School Violence Act
This week I sponsored the bipartisan Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018, legislation that authorizes investments in school security improvements and early intervention and prevention programs to deter school violence before it happens.

This legislation would help keep students safer at school and empower teachers to identify signs of potential violence before it occurs. Developing anonymous reporting systems, training school security officers and strengthening school infrastructure are all concrete and commonsense ways we can better protect our children – and the feedback I’ve heard from school officials across Kansas suggests that these reforms would make a difference.

The Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018 is supported by Sandy Hook Promise, Secure Schools Alliance, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. Read more about the legislation here.

NAFTA Policy Discussion with Mexican and Canadian Ambassadors
At a “Future of NAFTA” Ripon Society policy discussion on Wednesday, I spoke about the importance of continuing NAFTA renegotiations with the Mexican and Canadian ambassadors to the United States. I emphasized that many things have changed since or were not considered in original NAFTA negotiations that certainly deserve to be reviewed and modernized. The result of any renegotiation must be an agreement that provides benefits to each country involved; the relationship between the United States, Mexico and Canada is important as we must cooperate on law enforcement, drug interdiction and border security issues. Both ambassadors echoed this belief and reiterated their interest in resolving trade disputes so we can get back to working together on safety and security issues.

I continued discussing the future of NAFTA during an interview with Bloomberg TV, stressing that a withdrawal from NAFTA – even the threat of withdrawal from NAFTA – harms Kansans and Americans who rely on exports to earn a living. Watch the full interview here.

Better Access to Credit for Kansans
This week, I urged my colleagues to pass S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which has been brought to the Senate floor. This bipartisan legislation right-sizes regulation for smaller financial institutions and includes important consumer protections for veterans, senior citizens and victims of fraud. It will also improve our nation’s financial regulatory framework, encouraging economic opportunities in communities across Kansas.

I am proud to have played a role in the development of this legislation by working with my colleagues to reach a sensible, bipartisan agreement to improve access to local financial services without sacrificing important consumer protections. Included in this bill are several provisions I have drafted that will increase the availability of financing, providing greater opportunities for Kansans to invest in themselves and in their communities. By modifying obsolete and overly cumbersome regulations, this bill encourages economic improvement in our local communities and helps Kansans access and protect their credit. Watch my full remarks here.

Amtrak's Southwest Chief Receiving TIGER Grant
On Friday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao notified me that FY2017 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant funding includes $16 million for the Amtrak Southwest Chief Route Stabilization Project that is critical to transportation in southwest Kansas. These funds will continue work started with a FY2014 TIGER grant to repair and replace segments of the BNSF railroad on which Amtrak’s long distance Southwest Chief operates – in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

As a nation, our support for passenger rail routes in regions like the Northeast Corridor is well established, but rural transportation alternatives are also important. Many in rural communities are long distances from aviation hubs and rely on passenger rail to reach their destinations. Without the funding secured through these TIGER grant awards, it is likely the Southwest Chief would have been rerouted to the south, bypassing Kansas communities like Garden City, Dodge City, Hutchinson and Newton, who have worked hard to keep it. I am proud to share the news that federal funds have been made available to pair with local and private dollars needed to complete this project and preserve the Southwest Chief for a long time to come.

Legislation to Recruit and Retain Aviation Maintenance Employees
The aviation maintenance industry contributes $44 billion to our economy and is especially important to Kansas’ economy, but the industry is struggling from a severe shortage of skilled workers. This week, I introduced bipartisan legislation to encourage collaboration between public and private entities to issue grants to support technical education and career development on a local level. This bill would address the shortage of qualified aviation maintenance technicians by creating a pilot program within the FAA to support technical education and career development. We must make certain that this industry may continue to provide good-paying, stable jobs in order to meet the growing consumer demand. Our aviation industry is only as strong as its workforce – incentivizing people across America to pursue technical careers in this field will help fill these job openings. More on the bill here.

Celebrating 737 Airplane Milestone at Spirit AeroSystems
To kick off a busy day in Wichita on Friday, I participated in a ceremony at Spirit AeroSystems celebrating production of the 10,000th Boeing 737 airplane. With global demand at an all-time high, evidenced by Spirit’s recent announcement that it plans to hire an additional 1,000 employees, Wichita continues to affirm its place as the Air Capital of the World. This special milestone was made possible by the contributions of several generations of skilled, dedicated Kansas employees. Congratulations to all Spirit employees – past and present – for making this possible, especially the eight Spirit employees in attendance who have been part of constructing all 10,000 737s, beginning in 1966 to now. The rate of production on these jets, which rank as the best-selling jetliners in history, is at an unprecedented 52 per month. 

Special thanks to Tom Gentile, Spirit CEO, for his exceptional leadership and Jeff Turner, the first CEO of Spirit AeroSystems. Thank you also to Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell, Sedgwick County Commission Chair David Dennis and other local officials for taking part in the celebration.    

Cyber Security Laboratory at Friends University
Following my visit to Spirit, I visited the state-of-the-art cybersecurity training laboratory at Friends University – one of only two programs of this kind in the country. The world of cybersecurity is rapidly changing, with cyberattacks growing in volume and complexity daily. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, I’ve worked with government agencies and private corporations to determine what protections they have in place to better protect customer data and how the two sectors can work together to protect America. It’s reassuring to see the next generation of cyber security specialists are being trained at Friends University, where both undergraduate and graduate students are learning how to handle real-time security threats, data investigations and network defense skills in a simulated real-world environment. 

Special thanks to Dr. Amy Carey for the kind invitation and for her forward-looking leadership of Friends University. Thank you also to Dr. David Hofmeister, Dean of the Graduate School; Jonathan Lanning and Justin Eichorn, Cyber Security program directors; and David Alexander, Associate Vice President of University Advancement, for taking part in the tour and educating the next generation of Kansans.

JR Custom Metal Products
The late Jesus Raul Martinez started JR Custom Metal Products, Inc. (JRCM) in his garage more than 40 years ago with nothing more than a welder, a press brake and hand tools. The successful third-generation family-owned manufacturing firm now employs 150 Kansans and includes a 24,000 square foot paint facility, which opened nearly two years ago. I toured JRCM – which provides custom manufacturing and metal fabrication to multiple markets, including the agriculture, aviation, oil and gas, renewable energy and transportation industries. I appreciated the chance to visit with JR Custom Metal's management team and employees about the potential effects of the recently announced Section 232 tariffs and the broader uncertainty surrounding our country's trade policy. I will continue making certain that these concerns, and those of all affected Kansas businesses and industries, are heard by the administration.

Thank you to Patty Koehler, JRCM CEO and Jorge Martinez, Patty’s brother and company co-owner, for an informative tour and useful conversation. Thank you also to Karyn Page, Kansas Global Trade Services CEO, for taking part in the tour.

Honoring Rep. Dennis Moore and Receiving Award at Alzheimer’s Association Gala    
On Friday, Robba and I attended the first-ever Alzheimer's Association of Central and Western Kansas Memory Gala benefitting Alzheimer’s research, treatment and caregiver assistance in Wichita. I was honored and humbled to receive the inaugural Dennis Moore Alzheimer Champion award. For 12 years, Dennis was a colleague and friend of mine in the U.S. House of Representatives; he ultimately retired from public service due to this terrible disease. It was wonderful to spend time with Dennis and his wife, Stephene, who provided a gracious introduction. 

As a member of Senate Appropriations Committee and the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s, I have worked to increase Alzheimer’s research funding by more than $400 million in FY2016 and FY2017 and am working to achieve another $400 million increase for FY2018. Thank you to the many individuals, businesses and organizations whose generosity made the gala such a great success – Friday evening brought us an important step closer to ridding the world of Alzheimer’s. Special thanks to gala co-chairs Kathy and Dave Robertson and Mary and Joe Moeller. Thank you also to Fe Vonderlandwehr, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association, for your leadership, and to Mike Morgan for emceeing the event. 

Meeting with Kansas Students from the United States Senate Youth Program
I met with Jaron Caffrey of Haven and Sandhya Ravikumar of Lawrence while they were in D.C. this week as the Kansas delegates to the United States Senate Youth Program. I enjoyed talking with them about their experience in the Youth Program and their college plans. Their selection represents a real honor, and it’s students like them across our state – students who have an interest in making a difference in the lives of others – who continue to give me confidence that good things are ahead for our country.

Touring the Children’s Campus of Kansas City
On Monday on my way to Washington, D.C., I visited Educare in Kansas City – part of KU Medical Center’s Project EAGLE –  which is an early childhood education center serving over 150 Wyandotte County children from six weeks to five years old. During my visit with center teachers, leaders and volunteers, we discussed their efforts to implement state-of-the-art, evidence-based practices to support the growth and development of their children and families in both center-based and home-based settings. We also discussed Project Eagle’s partnership with The Family Conservancy to promote and support high-quality early childhood education programs throughout the region.

I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Educare KC parent Veronica Fernandez about the positive impact the program has had on her children. Thanks to Heather Schrotberger and Jessica Haremza of Project Eagle and Dean Olson and Paula Neth of The Family Conservancy for coordinating my visit.

Kansans in the Office

Fermilab Users Organization
Justin Williams of Lawrence

Rural Community Assistance Partnership
Gary Smith of Topeka

Digestive Disease National Coalition
Laura Habighorst of Kansas City

Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Grace Adams of Mission Hills

Kelsey Clark of Overland Park
Paulina Colton of Overland Park
Greg Renfrew of Overland Park
Linda Simon of Overland Park

Kansas State Council of Fire Fighters
Matt Jackson of Junction City
Bob Wing of Kansas City
Chris Booth of Junction City
Matt Schulte of Wichita
Nathan Coffman of Lawrence

National Fragile X Foundation
Chris Bloomer of Bel Aire
Patrick Bloomer of Bel Aire
Paul Bloomer of Bel Aire
Susan Bloomer of Bel Aire
Lisa Lawrence of Olathe
Matthew Lawrence of Olathe
Christina Murphy of Holton
Brooke Stack of Olathe
Ryan Stack of Olathe
Jay Stack of Olathe
Rheul Murphy of Holton

University of Kansas Hospital
David Wild of Leawood

National Kidney Foundation
David Seldner of Leawood

National WIC Association
Kelsi Depew of Arlington
Heather Peterson of Hutchinson
Dave Thomasan of Topeka

National Association for the Education of Young Children
Amy Gottschammer of Lawrence
Angela Hagan of Salina
Shanna Todd of Lawrence

Dale Klose of Kansas City

Dreamers for a Bipartisan Solution
Dulce Guerrero of Wichita
Yulma Lopez of Wichita

Rogers Family Dentistry
Nick Rogers of Arkansas City
John Fales of Olathe
Laurisa Ballen of Overland Park

Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance
Laurisa Ballew of Overland Park

Johnson County Mental Health
Ed McKechaie of Pittsburg

Kennedy Hackerott of Manhattan
Adam Wilkerson of Lenexa
Dave Smith of Kansas City
Andres Mata of Salina

Kansas Housing Association
Dave Smith of Kansas City
John Williams of Topeka
Fred Bentley of Manhattan

School Nutrition Association
Steven Newman of Olathe
Stan Vallis of Topeka
Cindy Jones of Olathe

Council for Agriculture Research Education and Teaching (CARET)
Leann Dickson of Lawrence

Butler County Commissioners
Dan Woydziak of El Dorado
Mike Wheeler of El Dorado
Will Johnson of Rose Hill

University of Kansas Public Affairs
Reggie Robinson of Lawrence
Jack Cline of Lawrence

Total Spectrum
Jimmy Todd of Lenora

Council for Agriculture Research Education and Teaching (CARET)
Connie Pelton Kays of Pittsburg
Steve Irsik of Garden City
Julie Voelker of Independence
Donnie Young of Ulysses

Paralyzed Veterans of America Great Plains Chapter
Dave Nelson of Omaha
Amanda Vazquez of Omaha

CHS Inc's Board of Directors
Courtney Eituieh of Lenexa
Gayle Taylor-Ford of Overland Park
Dan Ford of Overland Park

Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
Daniel Serda of Kansas City

National Athletic Trainers' Association
Mark Padfield of Tonganoxie

CHS Inc's Board of Directors
Steve Riegel of Dodge City

National MS Society
Mary Reed Spencer of Alma

National Roofing Contractors Association
Michael Budenbender of Shawnee
Monica Cameron of Manhattan
Kevin Gwaltney of Dodge City

American Osteopathic Association
Natalie Hubbell of Kingman
Sirus Saeedipour of Olathe
Stefanie Lischke of Topeka
Bryce Hendrix of Winfield

Environmental Defense Fund
Steve Irsik of Ingalls
Justin Knopf of Salina

Department of Kansas VFW Delegation
J.T. Plummer of Logan
Michael Holland of Arkansas
Pat Brigan of Lyons
Rick Mskenna of Spring Hill
Lee Hursey of Wichita
Bob Cox of McPherson

MOARC and the Kansas City Industrial Council
Melissa Sieben of Kansas City
Tom Poer of Overland Park
Mike Lally of Overland Park
Kyle Foote of Kansas City
Jeff Fisher of Kansas

United Steelworkers
Robert Cammarn of El Dorado

Kansas Humanities Council
Julie Mulvihill of Topeka

Peirce Farms
Cameron Peirce of Hutchinson

Kansas State Alliance of YMCAs and YUSA
Todd Tangemen of Newton
Gwyn Muto of McPherson
John Mikos of Kansas City
Mim McKenzie of Wichita

American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association
Laura Mcnichol of Pittsburg
Phil VanCourt of Salina

National Hemophilia Foundation
Mark Cox of Olathe
Jennifer Rentschler of Wichita

American Public Works Association
Chuck Williams of Lenexa

Spirit Aero Systems
Jarrod Bartlett of Wichita
Tigar Barry of Topeka

National Association of Chain Drug Stores
Amanda Applegate of Lenexa
Michael Halliwell of Overland Park
Jarod Jackson of Wathena
Megan Penner of Wichita

Society for Neuroscience
Laura Martin of Roeland Park

Kansas Gang Investigators Association
Troy Robinson of Hutchinson

Gary Pierzynski of Manhattan
Sarah Zerger of Cheney
Anju Giri of Manhattan

American Medical Association
Kelly Thomson of Riley
Joy Fesen of Hutchinson
Riley Mickelson of Topeka

Society for Neuroscience
Laura Martin of Kansas City

American Medical Association
Justin Williams of Lawrence
Aleena Rafque of Manhattan

Kansas State Council of Fire Fighters
Matt Jackson of Junction City
Bob Wing of Kansas City
Chris Booth of Junction City
Nathan Coffman of Lawrence

Capitol Tour
Cindy Green of Lenexa
Shawn Beane of Olathe
Shanna Beane of Olathe
Ethan Beane of Olathe
Patrick Pesci of Manhattan
Betsy Barrett of Manhattan

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 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,

Newsletter Sign-up Form

Note: Fields marked with an * are required.