Kansas Common Sense
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Supreme Court Ruling Protects Individual Privacy
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision that police must obtain a warrant before searching a cellphone or personal electronic device of an individual in custody. In the ruling, the court recognized the vast amount of information stored and produced by smartphone and tablets as compared to a general search of a house. As Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “A cell phone search would typically expose to the government far more than the most exhaustive search of a house: A phone not only contains in digital form many sensitive records previously found in the home; it also contains a broad array of private information never found in a home in any form — unless the phone is.” Despite this ruling, federal agencies still have access to Americans’ emails that are stored on a server for more than 180 days without obtaining a warrant. I look forward to working with my colleagues to support commonsense updates to our electronic communications privacy laws that reflect changes in technology and offer Americans a sense of privacy from their government.
External Review of IRS Email Disappearance Necessary
Every April, American taxpayers are required to provide a full accounting of their personal finances to the federal government. In turn, Americans rightfully expect that the agency that executes our tax laws will operate fairly and free of politics. Last year, I questioned Treasury Secretary Jack Lew about reports that the IRS had unfairly targeted the applications of several organizations simply because the names listed on the applications had been associated with conservative principles. Secretary Lew responded by saying that he agreed that politics have no place at the IRS. Click here to watch me initially raise the issue. Less than 48 hours after my inquiry, the then-Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division admitted that conservative groups had indeed been identified based on their political leanings.
Recently, over the course of the Congressional pursuit for answers, we have learned that tens of thousands of e-mails from Lois Lerner – the ex-IRS official at the center of the targeting scandal – disappeared because of what the IRS has described as a “broken hard drive.” Secretary Lew appeared before the Senate Banking Committee last Wednesday where I took the opportunity to follow up. The Secretary answered my inquiries by simply saying that the IRS had done an “extraordinary” job responding to this scandal. Click here to see Wednesday’s exchange.
I don’t believe that these emails were lost due to some coincidental technology mishap, or if they were they can’t otherwise be retrieved. The Department of the Treasury oversees the IRS. Since the Secretary of the Treasury believes the IRS does an extraordinary job, then an independent, third-party investigator must be brought in. I know of very few Kansans who think the IRS has done an extraordinary job. Rebuilding the trust in the IRS will not be easy, but it will be impossible if the Administration fails to appoint an investigator that is not receiving their paychecks from the Department of the Treasury.
Supreme Court Confirms President Violated Constitution
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned President Obama’s unconstitutional “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012. I joined 44 of my Senate colleagues in filing an amicus brief in the case (Noel Canning v. NLRB), and counsel representing our stance participated in oral argument before the Supreme Court. This Supreme Court ruling against President Obama nullifies all decisions by these Board members – Democrats Sharon Block, Terrence Flynn and Richard Griffin – since January 2012.
The legal controversy with the appointments was tied to whether brief Senate breaks called pro-forma sessions, which Congress states are not formal recesses, are in fact recesses. The federal court of appeals ruled that the only congressional break that counts as recess is the one that occurs between formal, year-long sessions of Congress. Even then, the President may only fill vacancies that come open while the Senate is in recess.
The Obama Administration has a practice of sidestepping Congress and ignoring the Constitution when they find it politically convenient. This decision by the Supreme Court puts both the U.S. Constitution and best interests of Americans first.
Continued Efforts to Fix the VA
On Monday, I repeated me call for the release of reports by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of the Medical Inspector (OMI) on their investigations into wrongdoing at VA facilities. The release of a letter this week from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) detailing how VA officials have consistently glossed over problems pointed out by whistle-blowers illustrates the importance of making certain the findings of all OMI investigations see the light of day. Currently, OMI reports are not made public or released to Congress. Because OMI reports are not available for review, it is impossible to know whether the VA has taken any action to implement the OMI’s recommendations for improvement in each case of wrongdoing.
Carolyn Lerner, who leads the OSC, states that the VA, and particularly the VA’s Office of the Medical Inspector, has consistently used a ‘harmless error’ defense, where the department acknowledges problems but claims patient care is unaffected. This approach has prevented the VA from acknowledging the severity of systemic problems and from taking the necessary steps to provide quality care to veterans.”
The Administration continues to say that action will be taken if ‘allegations prove to be true,’ but it is difficult to have faith in their word when we know the VA has turned a blind eye to wrongdoing for so long. The fact is, many of the same VA facilities and cases receiving attention today have already been investigated and the claims have been substantiated in years past – yet we do not know what action has been taken because the OMI reports are not made public. The release of past and future OMI reports will allow Americans, the press, Congress and veterans to see what the VA knew, when they knew it and what they did about it. Click here to learn more.
Weak GDP Numbers Highlight Need to Pass Pro-Jobs Policies
New economic data released this week showed that the U.S. economy contracted at the annualized rate of 2.9 percent. While the sources of this economic slowdown are numerous, the drop marks the worst quarterly GDP measure since 2009. Consumer purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, grew at a 1percent annual rate - the weakest in five years.
This data serves as a reminder that the American economy is not where it could or should be. Smarter policymaking from Congress and the President can help change this. A less burdensome tax and regulatory environment would allow American businesses to easier invest, innovate, expand and hire. I have sponsored several pieces of legislation that focus on economic growth, including Startup Act 3.0, MLP Parity Act, American Savings Promotion Act, Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory (CLEAR) Relief Act. Each of these bills has gained support from senators from both parties and would improve the American economy. I will continue to fight to pass these bills and other commonsense policies that would facilitate economic growth and get our country moving in a better direction.
Supreme Court Affirms Right to Protect Peacefully
On Thursday, in addition to the decision on President Obama’s unconstitutional “recess” appointments, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the freedom of speech in its ruling on McCullen v. Coakley. The Court ruled that a state law prohibiting protests or counseling near abortion clinics violated the First Amendment. Americans have used public streets and sidewalks to advocate for a particular cause throughout our nation’s history, and this decision affirms the right to protest peacefully, which is vital to a functioning democracy. There is no greater purpose than standing for life and the most vulnerable among us.
Cosponsoring the Autism CARES Act
This week, I sponsored the Autism CARES Act, legislation to reauthorize important autism research and screening programs for five years. This bill is designed to update and improve research initiatives originally established in 2006. For example, the Autism CARES Act includes provisions to prevent unnecessary duplication of federally-supported autism research projects. It will also require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to designate an official to oversee national autism spectrum disorder research, support activities and services. Furthermore, this bill requires HHS to report to Congress on the progress of research related to young adults with autism spectrum disorder and their transition from school-based services to adult services.
Autism is a complex disorder marked by deficits in social behavior and communication and a restricted range of activities. Autism symptoms vary by person from mild to severe. The reported prevalence of autism has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that autism affects 1 in 68 children. Congress passed legislation in 2006 to address increasing rates of autism, increase existing autism research, and promote state-level coordination of health, education and disability programs supporting individuals with autism and their families. The Autism CARES Act takes what we have learned over these past eight years and improves policies to boost our ability to meet these crucial objectives. I urge the Senate to take up this bill as soon as possible.
Visiting with Honor Flight Veterans
I was happy to greet a Kansas Honor Flight of veterans this week who came to Washington to visit the memorials built in their honor. It is always inspiring to meet those willing to give so much for our country. These memorials serve as a testament to the courage of all those who are willing to put themselves in danger so that others may enjoy the freedoms we hold dear. I am thankful for the service of all of our veterans and appreciate the great sacrifices made by them.
Country Stampede – A Summer Tradition for Kansans
On Friday night, I had the pleasure of joining thousands of Kansas country music fans at Country Stampede. This annual, four-day music and camping festival attracts notable country music singers and is held at Tuttle Creek State Park. I enjoyed visiting with Kansans and listening to many talented performers. It was also a real honor to witness more than a dozen young men and women taking the U.S. Air Force Oath of Enlistment. I thanked them for their commitment to our country.
Listening Tour Stop in Wabaunsee County
On Saturday, I continued my Kansas Listening Tour in Wabaunsee County. Twenty-five area residents came out to discuss a variety of issues including EPA regulations, veterans issues, Senate rules and rural health care. Thanks to the folks at the Barnyard Café in Alta Vista for hosting us.
It was also great to stop by the Alta Vista Market on its grand opening day. As Kansans know, sometimes economic development in our communities depends on whether or not it has a grocery store.
Death of Senator Howard Baker
This week, we learned of the passing of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, husband of former Kansas Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker. Senator Baker was a true statesman who dedicated his extraordinary life to serving our country. From the South Pacific in World War II and the Watergate trial, to his leadership of the U.S. Senate and the Reagan White House, Senator Baker was an iconic political figure and remarkable American. I am honored to have met him. I wish to send my deepest sympathies to Howard’s wife, former Kansas Senator Nancy Kassebaum. I ask all Kansans to join me in keeping Senator Baker’s family and friends in our thoughts and prayers during the days ahead.
Accepting Applications for Fall 2014 Internships
My office is accepting applications for congressional internships in my Washington, D.C., and Kansas offices for fall 2014. A legislative internship in my office is an opportunity for students to work closely with Senate staff on a variety of issues on behalf of Kansans and gain professional experience. Legislative interns will gain knowledge of the Congress’s legislative process and gain the skills and knowledge necessary for future career pursuits.
The application deadline for fall 2014 internships is July 8, 2014. Applications may be obtained and completed under the “Services” section of my website at www.moran.senate.gov. Applicants should submit a completed application form, resume, academic transcript, two letters of recommendation and a cover letter explaining their interest in public service and detailing a policy issue of personal importance. Please submit required materials to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kansas in the Office
Nathan Hendricks of Manhattan
American Foundry Society
Ron Pomeroy of Belle Plaine
Kurt Eck of Wellington
American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Christian Sinclair of Shawnee
Jessica Kalendor-Rich of Overland Park
Alliance for Childhood Cancer
Amanda Gray of Manhattan
Robert Gray of Manhattan
Easter Seals Capper Foundation
Jim Leiker of Topeka
Both Ends Burning
Sandy Bequette of Wichita
The Wendy’s Company
Don Haynes of Wichita
Dietrie Haynes of Wichita
National Association of Secondary School Principals
Jacque Feist of Dodge City
Clark Wedel of Moundridge
American Jersey Cattle Association
Jerry Spielman of Seneca
American Physical Therapy Association
Ken Pitetti of Wichita
Carol Pitetti of Wichita
Presidential Scholar for Kansas
Ryan Dahl of Olathe
Russ Dahl of Olathe
Angela Dahl of Olathe
Jimmy Todd of Lenora
Students Against Destructive Decisions
Selena Hernandez of Topeka
Mennonite Central Committee
Michelle Armster of North Newton
Capitol Leadership Academy
Noorina Soofi of Leawood
Formosa Foundation Ambassador Program
Mindi DePaola of Manhattan
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Paul Freeman of Mission Hills
Stephanie Freeman of Mission Hills
Bobby Freeman of Mission Hills
Paul Freeman Jr. of Mission Hills
United Spinal Association
Finn Bullers of Prairie Village
David Jewell of Olathe
Maria Jewell of Olathe
Madison Jewell of Olathe
Paige Jewell of Olathe
Jeffrey Tudas of Leawood
Mary Tudas of Leawood
Sean Tudas of Leawood
Deborah Altus of Lawrence
Jerry Jost of Lawrence
Elijah Jost of Lawrence
Roxie Sneath of Windom
Chase Sneath of Windom
Kassie Sneath of Windom
Selma Keller of Elmdale
Gabriel Dorsey of Cottonwood Falls
Sandra Dorsey of Cottonwood Falls
Elijah Dorsey of Cottonwood Falls
Mayah Dorsey of Cottonwood Falls
Bruce Ellis of Wichita
Ruth Ellis of Wichita
Rachel Wise of Overland Park
Steve Bryant of Concordia
Krista Bryant of Concordia
Evelyn Keopke of Basehor
Hayden Keopke of Shawnee
Shawn Reinert of Colby
Cindy Reinert of Colby
Hayden Reinert of Colby
Jenna Reinert of Colby
Charles Steffes of Olpe
Amanda Steffes of Olpe
Cameron Steffes of Olpe
Camille Steffes of Olpe
Cale Steffes of Olpe
Jessica Klumpe of Olpe
Douglas Burenheide of Olpe
Andrew Burenheide of Olpe
Carolyn Cole of Emporia
Jade Cole of Emporia
CheyAnne Cole of Emporia
Chris Golledge of Lawrence
Nona Golledge of Lawrence
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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