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.
Supporting Air Traffic Controllers
On Wednesday, I introduced the Continuity for Operators with Necessary Training Required for ATC Contract Towers (CONTRACT) Act of 2019, along with my colleagues Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Contract towers are an important part of our national air traffic control system—serving communities through a proven public-private partnership that increases safety and improves air traffic control services while lowering the cost to the federal government and the American taxpayer. Today, there are 256 air traffic control facilities participating in the FAA’s Federal Contract Tower Program, including Garden City, Hutchinson, Manhattan, Salina and two locations in Olathe and Topeka.
Federal contract towers face a unique hurdle to hiring trained and well-qualified retired FAA controllers. Because FAA air traffic controllers are one of several federal employee groups whose retirement is mandated at 56 years of age, retired FAA controllers are penalized for continuing to work as controllers at federal contract towers. This legislation would eliminate that penalty and allow experienced retired FAA employees the opportunity to use their skills at a federal contract tower without facing a financial penalty. The CONTRACT Act has received strong support from stakeholders, including the U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA), the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). Click here to read more on this bill.
Passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act
On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which supports those protesting for their basic rights. For years, and particularly in the past six months, Chinese leaders have been undermining the autonomy and freedoms granted to Hong Kong under an international agreement. This legislation, which was later passed by the House, sends a clear message that the United States will not ignore Beijing’s ongoing efforts to deprive liberty for its people. 
Hosting Attorney General Barr
On Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr joined me for breakfast to discuss his recent trip with me to Kansas, hear updates on work to bolster the nation’s law enforcement and ongoing work at the Department of Justice to better equip communities across Kansas and the nation to combat the opioid epidemic, violent crime and more. As the chief appropriator for the Department of Justice, my close partnership with AG Barr is valuable as we work to make certain our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to keep our country safe. Thanks, AG Barr, for your commitment to these officers and for your work to advance Kansas public safety.
Introducing Legislation to Combat ‘Deepfakes’
On Wednesday, I introduced bipartisan legislation to fund research into ways of detecting “deepfakes,” which are online videos that are manipulated to realistically mimic a person’s identity, and this legislation would help raise awareness of deepfakes and determine ways to combat the rising threat of this technology. The Identifying Outputs of Generative Adversarial Networks Act (IOGAN Act) directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support research to accelerate the development of technologies that could help improve the detection of deepfakes. Deepfakes can be means for a variety of ill-intentioned uses, but the technology poses a specific threat to U.S. voters and consumers by way of misinformation that is increasingly difficult to identify. This bill will assist the federal government to effectively coordinate its efforts to address this threat by accelerating research and development of deepfake technology detection.
Participating in BVNW National Honors Society Induction
On Thursday, I joined a group of Blue Valley Northwest students in the Capitol for a National Honors Society Induction Ceremony. The students were in town for the National High School Journalism Convention, co-hosted by the Journalism Education Association headquartered at K-State. I was happy I could assist in creating a special moment for them in our nation’s Capitol building, and honored to swear them in with the same pledge I took some years ago as a student at Plainville High School.
Afterward, we discussed the future and importance of journalism to our communities. I look forward to seeing the good work each of them do in the future. Thank you to the advisors and teachers who provided them the opportunity to visit and learn in Washington, D.C.
Meeting with K-State Grain Science Students
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of students that are a part of the Bakery Science Department at K-State, the only place in the United States to get a four-year degree in bakery science and management. During the meeting, we discussed facilities at K-State, policy issues of the day, and my path to becoming a United States senator. I appreciate the conversation with the students and wish the students continued success in their college careers. Thanks to Dr. Gordon Smith for leading the group out to DC.
USDA Announces Rural Development Grants for Kansas Entities
On Wednesday, USDA Rural Development (USDA-RD) announced grants to 133 distance learning and telemedicine projects across the country, including four grants for projects in our state. These projects will improve healthcare and education for Kansans by investing in interactive video equipment installation that will improve opioid addiction and mental health treatment, develop distance learning courses in STEM fields, and other activities. The grants, which were awarded to Farm & Home Cooperative, Pawnee Mental Health Services, Dodge City, and K-State, are estimated to benefit over 20,000 Kansans and 4,500 students in rural areas of our state.
USDA-RD also announced a series of loans and grants to rural communities for water infrastructure projects. The loans and grants will fund upgrades to the City of Minneola’s water infrastructure, a new municipal water treatment facility for the City of Horton, and improvements to the City of Fredonia’s wastewater collection system. As a member of the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee that funds USDA-RD, I will continue working with my colleagues on programs that sustain and improve rural communities in Kansas.
Touring Schwan’s Pizza Plant in Salina
On Friday, I was in Salina to tour the Schwan's Pizza Plant, where 'Tony's Pizza' is made. As part of their operation in Salina, the men and women of this facility produce 336 million pounds of pizza per year, using milk from 41,000 cows a day. The company is an important factor of the Salina economy, and I was pleased to visit with employees and leadership during my tour.
Visiting the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic
I spent Friday morning visiting Salina’s Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, part of the Robert Dole VA Center system based out of Wichita. I was honored to spend time visiting with our nation’s veterans and their healthcare providers. During the visit, we discussed the recently-implemented VA MISSION Act and how we can better partner with VA providers to improve healthcare for our veterans. Hearing their personal experiences within the VA healthcare system informs the work I do in Washington, D.C. on behalf of our current and former service members.
Union Pacific’s Big Boy Locomotive Chugged Across Kansas
To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Union Pacific Railroad, the historic Big Boy steam locomotive No. 4014 made its way across Kansas last week, with stops including Kansas City, Topeka, Salina and Abilene. Robba had the opportunity to attend Big Boy’s stop in Manhattan and shared with me the photo below. It was great to know that Kansans of all ages were taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to witness the world’s only operating Big Boy locomotive in action, following over two years of restoration. Thank you to Union Pacific for showing off such an important symbol of rail transportation to Kansas and the country.
Visiting Lincoln County
Listening Tour Stop
On Saturday morning, I was in Lincoln to visit with local residents, business leaders and community officials. During these conversations, we discussed a number of issues including trade and the need to pass USMCA, the importance of a vibrant farm economy, rural broadband and access to healthcare. Thanks to all those who took time to visit with me on Saturday. 
Touring Lincoln County Hospital
Following my townhall meeting, I toured Lincoln County Hospital with CEO Steve Granzow. During the tour, I enjoyed visiting with hospital staff, their Board and community leaders. Amid constant challenges for community hospitals, their employees find ways to go above and beyond to give back to their communities. I saw this first-hand through a room full of needed food pantry items – the result of an employee Thanksgiving food drive. Thank you to Steven Granzow, CEO of Lincoln County Hospital, for hosting and everyone who took time to speak with me during my visit.
Kansans in the Office
Sarah Weekley of Leavenworth
Jeffrey Zindel of Mission
Diane DeNoon of Overland Park
Mike Flenthrope of Olathe
Dustin McMurry of Franklin
Alyssa Rumple of Valley Center
American Bakers Association KSU Student Group
Isabella Alvarenga of Manhattan
Kacee Campbell of Arkansas City
Andrew Dorsch of Manhattan
Hulya Dogan of Manhattan
Sarah Maddock of Topeka
Jackson Phillips of Manhattan
Gordon Smith of Manhattan
Emily Stangel of Manhattan
Georgeanna Stockemer of Garden Plain
Capitol Tour
Aaron Avery of Overland Park
Imran Bangash of Overland Park
Olivia Baxter of Overland Park
Janet Bohren of Hutchinson 
Emily Burgan of Overland Park
Addie Cowell of Overland Park
Grace Davis of Overland Park
Allison Dragoo of Overland Park
Erin Fitzgerald of Overland Park
Gina Foster of Overland Park
Katelyn Foster of Overland Park
Emma Gau of Overland Park
Charles Hovey of Lenexa
Ella Hutnick of Overland Park
Marissa Jacobs of Overland Park
Emma Johnson of Overland Park
Izze Lentfer of Overland Park
Jacquie Luhar of Overland Park
Jim McCrossen of Overland Park
Jay Oakes of Overland Park
Lindsey Owens of Overland Park
Kathryn Rich of Sterling
Scott Rich of Sterling
Kate Rizza of Atchison
Pamela Rizza of Atchison
Robert Rizza of Atchison
Rachel Sarff of Overland Park
Marie Schulte of Overland Park
Lola Shipman of Overland Park
Mack Smith of Overland Park 
Sydney Stremming of Overland Park
Lily Torres of Overland Park
Deb Wood of WaKeeney
Mark Wood of WaKeeney
Kim White of Overland Park
Melanie Wilkins of Overland Park
Congress Bundestag Students
Emily Bomblies of Easton
Jana Fetzer of Fredonia
Julia Haegele of Wichita
Tomke Juilfs of Wichita
Valerie Line of Hutchinson
Frontier Farm Credit
Janet Bailey of Manhattan
Ignition Teaching for Justice
Grace Snider of Overland Park
Kansas Independent College Association and Foundation
Dr. Amy Bragg Carey of Wichita
Matt Lindsey of Lawrence
Dr. Scott Rich of Sterling
Dr. Reggies Wenyika of Ottawa
Kansas LEND
Mallorey Beckloff of Prairie Village
Skylar Bellinger of Shawnee
Amy Newport of Lawrence
Kiki Oyetunji of Prairie Village
Jessica Schuttler of Shawnee
Alica Zhang of Lawrence
Kansas Soybean Commission
Dennis Gruenbacher of Andale
Bob Haselwood of Topeka
Dennis Hupe of Topeka
Gary Louis of Shawnee Mission
Mid Star Lab
Kari Wagner of Tonganoxie
National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association
Steve Sloan of Pittsburg
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Youth
Violet Apodaca of Kansas City
Transportation Intermediaries Association
Brett Wilson of Colby
Wichita Mayor-Elections
Brandon Whipple of Wichita
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.