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.
On the 19th anniversary of September 11, 2001, we honored those who lost their lives and gave thanks for the brave Americans, first responders, emergency personnel and law enforcement officers who answered the call on that day and continue to do so today.
May we never forget the way we united in the aftermath of the attacks, as one nation under God. And may we renew our commitment, respecting one another in order to work together for the common good and answer the call to serve.
On Thursday – World Suicide Prevention Day – I authored an editorial as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee with Ranking Member Jon Tester regarding the importance of passing comprehensive legislation to address veteran suicide. We know from the VA that 14 out of the 20 veterans who die by suicide each day are not enrolled in the VA system. My bipartisan legislation introduced with Ranking Member Tester, S.785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, would enable the VA to better work with and amplify the efforts of organizations already serving veterans across the country who are filling gaps, especially in rural and medically underserved areas.
My legislation was unanimously passed by the Senate on August 5, and this week I held a hearing on the need for S.785 to be passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law. The committee heard overwhelmingly supportive testimonies from organizations that serve veterans on how vital this legislation is for saving veterans’ lives and how it will enact substantive reforms in veteran mental health care and suicide prevention services.
As we are nearing the end of this Congress, it is imperative that the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act be passed and signed into law, so that veterans, and those who work to serve them, can start seeing tangible actions to help those in need and save lives. America’s veterans deserve the best we can offer, and this bill will make an impact on the lives of veterans.
Read my joint editorial on addressing veteran suicide here in The Hill. Watch my opening statement here.
This week, I announced with Representative Ron Estes, Senator Pat Roberts and the city of Wichita a $21 million Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant to replace and modernize the single-lane system connecting I-235 to I-135, K-96 and K-254. This grant will invest significant resources into the efficiency and safety of this interchange that joins three major highways in Wichita. Additionally, it will help connect nearby businesses, Wichita State University, rural communities, downtown Wichita and local commuters with the rest of the city and state. Modernizing our highway system not only improves commerce in the area, but will also increase travel throughout south central Kansas.
This grant will fund construction of a new two-lane system ramp, a flyover ramp, continuous auxiliary lanes and improvements to the bridge. Earlier this year, I joined Senator Roberts and Representative Estes in urging U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to invest in this project, and I look forward to seeing its completion.
Over the last several weeks, I have traveled across Kansas meeting with local leaders, families, business owners, farmers, aviation workers, educators, doctors and many others to discuss how previous federal relief packages have impacted them and what assistance is still needed to help us combat this pandemic. The most common concerns I hear from Kansans are the need for more personal protection equipment, widespread testing, an effective vaccine that we can administer quickly and broadly and resources to provide our children with a safe, quality education.
This targeted approach helps meet those needs without spending trillions of dollars that we don’t have. While this legislation doesn’t include every need, idea or want, I voted to support this legislation on Thursday to help keep Kansans safe while we continue to reopen our economy and get our students back to school. However, the package failed to receive the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate, and it was not advanced.
On Wednesday, I testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to advocate for reforming how the federal government classifies and declassifies information. More than $18 billion is spent annually classifying data, and the process to declassify information in a timely manner is lengthy and out of date, impacting taxpayers and government transparency. I introduced the Declassification Reform Act of 2020 with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to name an executive agent to promote programs to modernize declassification programs across all executive agencies. In front of the committee, I advocated for this legislation and pledged to work with my colleagues to secure the resources needed to achieve reform that is long overdue.
Read my joint editorial with Sen. Wyden here in Just Security.
On Wednesday, I participated in the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing regarding the status of the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities, namely the Main Street Lending Program (MSLP). This program was established to support lending to small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits that are struggling due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the uncertainty businesses are facing during this nation-wide crisis, there are additional risks for private lenders and their ability to provide loans to smaller businesses. However, those cash-strapped businesses need funds quickly to stay afloat. To respond to this need, the Main Street Lending Program was created to serve mid-size firms that are too large to be eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), created by the CARES Act. This hearing provided a critical opportunity to hear from experts regarding how this program is serving the American people. As a member of the Banking Committee, I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to ensure that American businesses are supported during this public health emergency.
This week, I was pleased that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented two new aviation workforce grant programs that invest in the next generation of aircraft pilots and maintenance technicians. I worked to include these programs within the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 and urged the administration to move forward with these programs. These grants will support technical education and career development at a local level through grant opportunities provided to academia and the aviation community, and I look forward to continue working with my colleagues and the FAA regarding this important field.
This week, I gave opening remarks at the Blosser Municipal Airport’s ground breaking ceremony. Our local airports are crucial to regional economies across the state, and I am pleased this project will allow for much-needed infrastructure improvements, supporting not only Concordia, but north central Kansas’ aviation needs for years to come.
This project will lengthen and widen the runway, increasing the ability for larger planes to utilize the airport and allow local businesses to expand. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, as well as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I know the importance of initiatives like the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which funded the nearly $7 million award utilized by Blosser Municipal. Through programs like the AIP and successful projects such as the one undertaken by Blosser Municipal, aviation will continue to flourish across Kansas and help connect smaller communities and businesses with the rest of the state.
Read more about the event here in the Concordia Blade-Empire.
This week, I had the opportunity to join Executive Director Jeffery Stamm and his staff on a tour of the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). The HIDTA Program was established in 1988 to provide assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement entities in areas that are most adversely affected by drug trafficking. HIDTA provides resources to combat the drug threats of specific regions across the country, targeting regional needs. More specifically, the HIDTA program helps establish and operate drug enforcement task forces designed to dismantle and disrupt drug trafficking organizations as well as improve communication and information sharing between federal and local law enforcement agencies. Because metropolitan, suburban and rural areas each face their own unique threats for home-grown and transnational drug trafficking, the HIDTA program is an important resource that allows federal support to be tailored to the specific needs of each area. As our nation continues to face the constantly evolving threat of drug trafficking and the crime that comes with it, I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure law enforcement in Kansas and across the country have the support and resources they need to respond effectively and keep us safe.
This week, I visited AdventHealth Ottawa to meet with hospital staff and tour the emergency room. We discussed their operational changes during this pandemic and the importance of telehealth. Thank you to President Dallas Purkeypile, CFO Harmat Beebe, CNO Stacy Steiner, Director of Advocacy Molly Haase, Kansas State Senator Caryn Tyson and John Cohen with the Ottawa Chamber and an AdventHealth Ottawa Board Member for the tour and discussion.
Community Oriented Policing Services
I am pleased to share that the City of Olathe, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation were recently awarded a combined $274,340 in funding as part of the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) grants for the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act Program. This program is intended to improve the delivery of and access to mental health and wellness services for law enforcement through training and technical assistance, demonstration projects and implementation of promising practices related to peer mentoring mental health and wellness, and suicide prevention programs. Our nation’s dedicated law enforcement professionals face overwhelming stress on a daily basis and must respond to many tough situations. Ensuring the mental health our officers, sheriffs and deputies should be a priority. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I will continue to work to make certain our law enforcement officers are equipped with the necessary tools they need to keep themselves and the public safe and healthy.
School Violence Prevention Program
Additionally, it was announced that Unified School District No. 373 in Harvey County will receive a School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) grant award of $374,787. This grant is part the $50 million in SVPP grants being awarded through the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office). SVPP provides up to 75% of the funding needed for school safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools and school grounds. I am pleased to learn that this grant and these measures will continue to keep students in Harvey County safe as they continue their education.
I am currently accepting nominations to the United States Service Academies. The academies include the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Those selected will enter the academies in June 2021.
Selections are based on SAT or ACT test scores, class rank, grade point average, school records, extracurricular activities, leadership potential, motivation, recommendations and interview evaluations. Applicants must meet the individual admission requirements of each academy in order to receive Sen. Moran’s nomination: applicants must be legal residents of the state of Kansas, at least 17 years of age but not past their 23rd birthday on July 1 of the year of admission, citizens of the United States, unmarried, not pregnant and without legal obligation to support children or other dependents.
The application deadline is October 1, 2020. Applicants will be required to interview with Sen. Moran’s Service Academy Selection Board on Saturday, November 14, 2020 by Zoom. Academies will make the final decision on who will receive an appointment of admission in early 2021.
Interested applicants can request application materials on Sen. Moran’s website at moran.senate.gov under the “Services” menu, or by calling Sen. Moran’s Olathe office at 913-393-0711.
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.
Newsletter Sign-up Form
Note: Fields marked with an * are required.