Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. I spent this week traveling throughout our state, listening to Kansans and getting feedback on issues we face in Washington. I spent time this week visiting with folks in Allen, Butler, Chase, Douglas, Harvey, Labette, Montgomery, Neosho, Riley, and Sedgwick Counties. You can read more about visits below. Please feel free to forward this newsletter on to your family and friends if it would interest them.
Protecting Military Voting Rights
This week I sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to voice concerns about reports indicating a steep decline in absentee ballot requests from military personnel and their spouses. The Military Voter Protection Project (MVPP) indicates a 92-percent drop in absentee-ballot requests by service members in the state of Virginia as well as a more than 50-percent decrease in other swing states including Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, Nevada and Alaska.
This data is particularly troubling when considered alongside another report released by the Inspector General of the Department of Defense which calls into question the ability of American service members to obtain on-base voter assistance. While Federal law mandates voting assistance offices on all military bases outside war zones, independent Pentagon investigators only found 114 voting assistance offices among 229 total military bases.
The ability to vote in free and fair elections is a cornerstone of democracy and among the most important rights of American citizens. No effort should be spared to make certain that the men and women who serving our country in uniform – and the families by their side – can exercise their right to choose the leaders responsible for sending them into harm’s way in defense of our democracy. You can learn more about this and important issue and find my entire statement here.
Kansas Voter Registration Deadline Tomorrow
Tuesday, October 16th is the Kansas voter registration deadline for the 2012 general elections held this November. Kansas residents can register to vote online here. For more information on voter registration, please visit the Kansas Secretary of State website.
Visiting Green Dot Holdings
On Tuesday afternoon, I was welcomed by the staff of Green Dot Holdings in Cottonwood Falls. This company is a great example of the many surprises that exist in small Kansas communities. Having opened their doors less than two years ago, Green Dot has developed the first-ever 100 percent renewable and 100 percent compostable flexible bioplastic, created jobs in the rural Flint Hills community, and has been named one of the top 25 social entrepreneurs in America by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Green Dot demonstrates that a rural-based technology company can compete successfully on the international stage. I was honored to have the opportunity to address students from Chase County High School at the facility, and talk about Start Up Act 2.0, a bipartisan effort to encourage entrepreneurship and help create jobs. In addition to the students and Green Dot staff, I enjoyed visiting with other members of the community who made it out. Click here to see the event photo album on my Facebook page.
Visiting Bunting Magnetics Co. in Newton
On Tuesday afternoon, I visited Bunting Magnetics Co., a supplier of magnets and magnet-related equipment headquartered in Newton. Bunting Magnetics has continued to be a global success story with local roots since moving its Newton headquarters from Chicago more than 30 years ago. Their magnetic technology has industrial and commercial applications and is used throughout the world. Earlier this year, Bunting was named “Best in Business 2012” by the Wichita Business Journal and was also a finalist for the Governor’s 2012 Exporter of the Year Award. Thanks to General Manager Barry Voorhees for the tour. We were also joined by Director of Marketing Sonia Cox, CFO Jana Davis, Advertising Coordinator Jim Thiessen and Harvey County Commissioners Ron Krehbiel, Marge Roberson and George “Chip” Westfall. Click here to see some photos from the tour.
Touring HollyFrontier Refinery in El Dorado
On Wednesday morning I toured the HollyFroniter refinery in El Dorado. Refinery Manager Josh Goodmanson gave me a great windshield tour of the facility, providing me with the history and an operational understanding of the site. HollyFrontier is the largest refinery in the state, processing more than 130K barrels of crude oil per day. Josh explained that everything has a use – there is a market for the bi-products of the process, including sulfur, which is sold to fertilizer companies. I was also impressed with the wetlands habitat that serves as a natural filtration for post-treatment of some of the 5 million gallons of raw water that is purchased from the city’s El Dorado Lake and used by HollyFrontier. American refineries like HollyFrontier are vital to our nation's energy independence and national security, two of the most important issues facing policymakers in Washington.
Thanks again to Josh Goodmanson for an excellent tour and insightful discussion of energy policy topics such as renewable fuel standards and the Keystone XL Pipeline. Thank you also to Linda Jolly, the Executive Director of El Dorado, Inc. for arranging and being on hand at HollyFrontier to greet me. Click here to see a photo from the tour.
Great Plains Industrial Park Ribbon Cutting
On Thursday morning, I was proud to deliver remarks at the Great Plains Industrial Park ribbon-cutting ceremony in Parsons. The Great Plains Industrial Park is the site of the former Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, and the ceremony marked a new era of economic development for the region with the official transfer of the plant to the Great Plains Development Authority 7 years after it was closed as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process. The opening of the Great Plains Industrial Park is a new, regional beginning that will attract business, jobs and families to southeast Kansas.
There is no other industrial park in the state like the Great Plains Industrial Park. The water, electricity and access to the Kansas grid sets it apart and brings many advantages for companies to establish roots and grow. This day was a long-time coming and I am glad to have been a part of this effort over the years. Thanks to Labette County Commissioner Brian Kinzie, the GPIP Board of Directors and all of our local leaders who have worked so hard to make this goal a reality. Click here to see a photo from the ribbon cutting event.
Visiting with Students at Chanute High School
Also on Thursday morning, I had the opportunity to meet with students, teachers and administrators at Chanute High School. Superintendent Dr. Jim Hardy and Principal Kent Wire showcased why their school was recognized as a Kansas Standard of Excellence School in Math, Reading and Science this past year. The Blue Comets are striving to maintain Chanute’s school mission which is Success: Every Student, Every Day!
A teacher’s role is critically important to making sure our children learn the necessary life skills to help ensure their future successes. The future competitiveness of our country is dependent upon the quality of our children's education. I am committed to doing my part in Washington to see that teachers have both the resources and flexibility to effectively meet the needs of their students. Instructors like Chanute's own National Teacher of the Year candidate Rex Babcock educate their students by making the classroom an interactive learning environment. I appreciated the chance to visit with Mrs. Mandy Duling’s science class and Mr. Rick Bushnell’s art class. Thanks to Student Government President Madison Wendt and fellow students Jack Martin and Storme Jones for being my tour guides. Click here to see a photo from my visit.
Touring Spirit AeroSystems in Chanute
While in Chanute Thursday, I toured the new Spirit AeroSystems facility which opened in March 2012. Currently they have 20 employees manufacturing the under wing components for 737 aircraft with plans for additional staff over the next few years. Mayor Jim Chappell and City Manager J.D. Lester shared some of the innovative ideas that help make the Chanute community the right choice for this plant, including city-owned utilities and infrastructure. I enjoyed meeting the employees and seeing their dedication to their positions. As a member of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, it’s especially helpful for me to hear from Kansans in the aerospace industry. Thanks again to Spirit employees Tommy Mount and Jarrod Bartlett for the tour and to Chamber of Commerce director Jane Brophy for joining me. Click here to view an album of photos from my visit.
Speaking to the Montgomery County Farm Bureau
On Thursday night, I had a good conversation with the folks at the Montgomery County Farm Bureau’s annual meeting. There is great concern that the special way of life we have in Kansas is being threatened by policies coming out of Washington D.C. Washington doesn’t understand rural America and the fact that when farms and ranches do well so do rural communities. Keeping these communities together and strengthening agriculture needs to be a priority. When Congress reconvenes after the November election, passing a Farm Bill needs to be front and center. Production agriculture is one of the last professions where dads and moms can work alongside sons and daughters. It was good to see young people at the meeting taking part in the future of the agriculture industry. Thanks to Dane DeTar, son of the Board President Cindy DeTar, for leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance. It was great to be in Independence again and I appreciate the good Kansas Common Sense I heard at the Farm Bureau meeting.
Visiting Cancer Center of Kansas in Wichita
On Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit one of the Cancer Center of Kansas’ (CCK’s) clinics in Wichita. With two main clinics in Wichita and 18 satellite clinics throughout Kansas, CCK is a major provider of advanced cancer treatments in our state, bringing much needed treatments to Kansans in their communities. Since its founding in 1975 by Dr. H.E. Hynes in Wichita, the practice has grown steadily to include 16 highly skilled physicians in oncology and hematology – many of whom have received high accolades from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and other respected cancer research organizations.
Dr. Shaker Dakhil, President of CCK, gave me a tour of the clinic and introduced me to staff. Dr. Dakhil has been with the practice since July of 1981. He has been very active in local and state medical communities and is a clinical professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine–Wichita. Dr. Dakhil and other CCK physicians have taken a leading role in the Wichita Community Clinical Oncology Program (WCCOP), a NCI-sponsored research program that connects cancer patients with promising clinical trials. WCCOP is widely regarded as one of the best programs of its kind nationwide. Since 1983, more than 12,000 patients have participated in WCCOP trials.
It's an exciting time for medical research in Kansas. The KU Cancer Center's recent NCI-designation and the ongoing work of the Cancer Center of Kansas bring cutting-edge cancer research and treatments to patients in communities across Kansas. Thanks to Dr. Dakhil and CCK staff for taking time to visit with me and highlighting their important work. Click here to see a photo.
Visiting Grant Thornton, LLP
On Friday morning, I met with the Wichita leadership team of Grant Thornton, LLP, one of the world’s leading independently-owned accounting and financial consulting firms. The firm has more than 30,000 employees in 100 countries worldwide, including more than 50 employees in Wichita who serve clients and the communities in which they live. I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the issues that affect the ability of Grant Thornton’s Kansas clients to grow their businesses, and in the process, create and sustain good paying jobs. The visit reinforced my commitment to foster a business environment brings more certainty for job creators and less regulation coming out of Washington. Thanks to Lori Davis, local managing partner, and Mary Moore Hemrick, national managing principal of public policy, for arranging an informative and useful discussion with such a talented group of professionals. Click here to see a photo from the meeting.
Reading to Kids at TOP Early Learning Center
Later Friday morning, The Opportunity Project (TOP) Early Learning Center welcomed me for a tour of their North Wichita facility. TOP, a charitable organization started more than a decade ago by Barry and Paula Downing, is dedicated to providing high quality educational opportunities at three Wichita locations to poor children from birth to 5 years old. Students receive eight to ten hours of instruction each day focused on motor skill development, as well as math, science, reading and language skills. Youngsters are also taught to effectively communicate with others, practice appropriate classroom behavior, and develop a belief that they have the ability to achieve.
Parents play an important role in the learning process as “tuition” for attending a TOP center is for parents to make certain their child attends school no less than 85 percent of the time, as well as commit to being an active participant in their child’s educational development. Due to the leadership of the Downings and the generosity of many private contributors over the past four years, TOP has raised more than $11 million in capital funding to build and equip two state-of-the-art learning centers which annually enroll 400 children.
The success of the TOP Early Learning Centers has earned national recognition. Barry Downing was recently invited to participate on a panel in Washington, D.C. entitled, Early Childhood Education's Impact on the Economy.
Special thanks to the Downings for their passion to improve the lives of young people and their families. Thanks also to Janice Smith, TOP executive director, for leading my tour and to her entire team of teachers for working so hard to give at-risk children a good start in life. You can learn more about TOP here. To see pictures from my visit click here.
Congratulating Wichita State University President John Bardo
On Friday afternoon, I joined in celebrating the inauguration of Dr. John Bardo as the 13th president of Wichita State University. Dr. Bardo was on the faculty at Wichita State the late 70’s and early 80’s and it was a pleasure to officially welcome now-President Bardo back to Kansas. For the last 16 years, he served as the chancellor of Western Carolina University. Since beginning his tenure in July, President Bardo has aggressively engaged students, faculty, staff, alumni and state officials concerning the university’s future. I look forward to working with him on Wichita State’s continued development, including the goal of accelerated commercialization of university research. Wichita State is a first-class university that that, under President Bardo’s leadership, will continue to be a great asset to our entire state. Click here to see pictures from my time on campus.
Touring NetApp Corporation
Finally, while in Wichita on Friday I also had the great opportunity to visit the NetApp offices where I met with their leadership team and toured the facilities. NetApp is a Fortune-500 that company based in Silicon Valley that specializes in data storage solutions and employees over 12,000 people worldwide, many in Kansas. In August 2012, NetApp announced an expansion of its Wichita operations, including approximately $85 million in new equipment and facility renovations and plans to double its Wichita workforce by hiring 400 new employees. This announcement was especially good news for Kansas as NetApp has long been regarded as one of the top companies to work for in the United States. This year, NetApp was ranked number six on the Forbes top-100 list of most employee friendly places to work.
Companies like NetApp that create high-tech jobs in Kansas improve our state’s ability to attract high skilled workers and ensure that Kansas college graduates have career opportunities here at home. I’m glad NetApp executives recognize that talented, hard-working Kansans can contribute to the success of their company. Thank you to employee Matt Forney for the kind invitation and to company vice president Joel Reich for leading an informative and enjoyable tour. Click here to see pictures from my visit.
Iola's Bowlus Fine Arts and Cultural Center
On Thursday I visited the Bowlus Fine Arts and Cultural Center in Iola. The Center was a gift to the community by Thomas H. Bowlus, an Iola banker, in the 1960s. Opened in 1964, the Center offers classroom space and a main auditorium that seats 750 people. Its mission is “to broaden the cultural background of area youth and make available to the citizens of the area facilities, programs and entertainment not otherwise available.” The Bowlus Center is a great example of philanthropic efforts that enrich our communities now and for generations to come.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the US Capitol this week including:
Edward & Denise Klimek, and son Andrew
Susan and Shannon Souder
Sheldon & Norma Snell
Nicholas & Terra Hamblen and children
Hayley Turpen and children
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,
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