Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter.

I hope you and your loved ones took the opportunity to spend time together this Labor Day. I spent my day in Hoisington and Chapman to join the communities for their annual parades – Hoisington’s 120th and Chapman’s 107th. My thanks to all who helped make these community gatherings such a success.

Labor Day serves as a reminder about the dignity of a hard day’s work – something I’m proud is rarely taken for granted in our state. Just as always, the success of Kansas and the country depends on her citizens’ positive work ethic and the passing down of this value through generations.

Why Listening Comes First
Kansans, no matter where they live, ought to have the opportunity to be heard by those who serve them. Since Kansans first sent me to our nation’s capital, I have made an effort to regularly visit and hear from every county I represent. One of the principles I think of most frequently when making choices about which legislation I should draft or support is the idea that, the vast majority of the time, the decisions that have the most impact on our daily lives are best made at the state and local level. No one has a better understanding of the needs of their community than a small-town mayor who talks firsthand with business owners in her town, the police chief of a major metropolitan city who spends his days in the neighborhoods he works to keep safe, or the high school principal who has helps generations of students graduate and enter adulthood.

I wrapped up my third 105-stop tour since being elected to the Senate recently with a stop in Sharon Springs. Though much has changed since my first town hall, my efforts in Washington, D.C., remain much the same today as they were when I was first elected: to see that we protect our Kansas way of life and have opportunity for all in the communities we call home. Watch the video linked below to find out why listening to Kansans is my highest priority and read my editorial on the topic by clicking here.

Demanding Justice for Kansas Veterans
I wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on Friday to demand answers and information regarding the disturbing reports of a Physician Assistant at the Leavenworth VA Medical Center who sexually abused veterans under his care. When I first learned of this appalling situation in July 2015, I immediately reached out to local VA leadership to learn more about the allegations and the VA’s response. Since that time, more information has been revealed about the individual in question – most notably a felony conviction prior to his employment with the VA. This raises serious questions about the VA’s hiring process, particularly with regard to background checks and the proper vetting of applicants. 

I also spoke with the VA Inspector General Michael Missal to learn more about the timeline of events leading up to the current court proceedings. Veterans deserve to know whether, at every step of the way, the VA acted in a timely and appropriate way to protect the people who walk in the doors of its hospitals. I will continue to work with the IG’s office to explore the VA’s response.

It is a tragedy that the agency created to serve and take care of veterans employed a criminal who took advantage of those who sought his medical care. It is an injustice that veterans who put their lives on the line came home to experience abuse at the hands of a VA provider. The revelations of the provider’s background and the depth of his abuse must be fully investigated, and I want to make certain the VA is taking every action possible to determine how such a horror could have happened and to prevent such a situation from ever happening again. To read WIBW's coverage, click here or to read my letter to Sec. McDonald, click here.

Providing Relief to American Farmers
Access to credit is essential to keeping American farmers in business, especially in the context of a farm economy as poor as it is right now. That's why it was so important to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans available to the farmers who need them after the shortfall we've seen in the past year. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to work with USDA to make certain the demand for FSA operating loans is met. Farmers need every tool available to them as they deal with the strain of declining crop prices and revenues. To read more, click here.

Understanding Food Safety from Farm to Fork
The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Robert Califf, joined me on a tour of the Denver District Laboratory this week. As Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, which oversees funding for the FDA, the tour provided valuable insight as to how ongoing FDA research helps make our food supply healthier and safer. I appreciate the tour from Lab Director Mark Madison, Deputy Commissioner Howard Sklamberg and Deputy Association Commissioner Dr. Steve Solomon. Thanks to Dr. Califf and all the lab staff for their work to keep our nation's food supply safe from farm to fork. To read more, click here.

Taking Steps to Reverse Struggling Farm Economy
As Kansans, many of us have seen firsthand how depressed grain prices are causing financial stress for farmers and ranchers and harming our rural communities. A new study from CoBank found that farm income over the past three years has fallen faster than any time since the Great Depression. Ag producers need a Farm Bill that better meets the challenging times. I have engaged the financial regulators in Washington, D.C., to make sure they're aware of the economic conditions in farm country and are able to respond with the appropriate flexibility to ensure continued access to credit for producers. I have also been working with other lawmakers on legislation that will reduce unnecessary regulations that hurt community lenders. And I’ve called on USAID and USDA to increase exports of wheat in U.S. food aid programs to help reduce the oversupply that's contributing to the low prices. To read the CoBank study, please click here.

Spending Thursday in Coffeyville
I made a couple of stops last week in Montgomery County at John Deere Coffeyville Works and The Dr. Jerry Hamm Early Learning Center. The John Deere plant designs, tests and manufactures power-transmission products for industrial and agricultural equipment that helps keep farms and businesses running nationwide. Factory Manager Joe Fons, Operations Manager Bob Jerauld and Project Manager Steve Reid gave me a tour of the facility during which we discussed workforce opportunity and retention, the increased role of technology in agriculture, and the importance of good community/corporate partnership.

Next, I heard from Jerry Hamm ELC’s Principal Amanda Cavaness and USD 445’s Superintendent Dr. Craig Correll about the ELC's critical role in the community and the facility's recent expansion and renovation, which allows them to serve more than 200 area children. Early childhood education matters – daycare is important, but so too is quality education preparation that helps our kids get their best start heading in to kindergarten. Thanks also to Coffeyville Area Chamber of Commerce Director Stacie Meek for joining both my visits today.

Touring Hospitals in Dighton and Scott City
I visited two hospitals who work hard each day to provide quality care to their communities: Lane County Hospital and Scott County Hospital. Their staff shared how federal policies can help enable facilities like these serving Kansans who depend on them. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, visiting providers across our state helps me get more information about how they utilize resources to care for patients. Thanks to CEOs Donna McGowan and Mark Burnett for hosting my visits.

Joining Clay Center Lions Club Members
I traveled to Clay Center to speak with the Lions Club about the ways each of us can contribute to our community. Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization. Our state has more than 270 clubs and I'm proud to belong to the Hays chapter. Our conversation focused on caring for our veterans and the burden of federal mandates on schools and businesses. I appreciated the invite from program chair and former State Rep. Vern Swanson. Before the meeting, I stopped in at KCLY 100.9 FM to talk with Mike Schrant, Michelle Tessaro and Duane Toews with farm radio KFRM about issues currently affecting the agricultural economy.

Learning More at K-State’s Research Extension Center in Colby
I had the chance to visit the Kansas State University (K-State) Northwest Research Extension Center on Tuesday afternoon. The center is focused on agricultural research and extension. I visited with Dr. Rob Aiken and Dr. Freddie Lamm, our state's experts on the Ogallah Aquifer. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which also oversees federal water projects, the discussion I had with many of the center's staff about their water conservation research was very useful. I was also reminded of the value and importance of 4-H programs to youth and our state.

Meeting Students and Leadership at Russell High School
I met with student leaders and educators and took a tour of Russell High School (RHS) on Thursday morning. It was good to meet RHS Principal Larry Bernard and Guidance Counselor Dave Zachman and to hear from them about the school’s efforts. A group of young student leaders shared with me their educational and extracurricular experiences at RHS, as well as their perspective about their teachers. I appreciate the efforts of all the educators and administrators in Russell working to help Kansas students have bright futures. To learn more, click here.

Photo credit: KRSL

Kansans in the Office

Capitol Tour
Marshall Hollingsworth of Shawnee
Annette Hollingsworth of Shawnee
Linda Hogg of Great Bend
Dale Hogg of Great Bend   

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.

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,

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