Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you 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.
This week, the Senate continued debate on S. 1813, the Surface Transportation reauthorization bill. The legislation will authorize highway funding for the fiscal years 2012 and 2013. While many amendments to this legislation have been filed, the amendment process has not formally begun, and it is likely the Senate will resume consideration of the bill following next week’s recess.
On Wednesday, the Payroll Tax Conference Committee reached an agreement on a 10-month extension of the 2% Social Security payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefits, as well as a delay to a scheduled reduction in the Medicare reimbursement rate for physician services. The Payroll Tax Cut package, H.R. 3630, comes at a total cost of $150 billion, of which only $50 billion is covered by offsets including the auctioning of spectrum and requirement that federal workers pay more into retirement benefits. The remaining $100 billion will simply be added to our nation’s deficit.
I voted “no.” The revenues generated from auctioning spectrum were recommended by the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission to help our government pay down its debts. Instead they are being used to compensate for another short-term reduction in FICA taxes which will not produce the long term economic benefits our country needs. On Friday, the Senate passed the Payroll Tax Cut package by a vote of 60-36. Our economy needs long-term solutions that create jobs, not short-term, temporary patches.
President’s Budget Ignores Our Fiscal Reality
On Monday, President Obama delivered his fiscal year 2013 budget to Congress. At a time when our national debt stands at more than $15 trillion, President Obama’s budget once again ignores our country’s fiscal reality and offers no real solutions to our debt and deficit problem. Instead, his budget calls for new taxes, increased spending and record debt. His budget demonstrates that increased taxes go toward increased spending – not deficit reduction. What’s even more frustrating is that the President’s own fiscal commission – the Bowles-Simpson Commission – has put forth recommendations that recognize that real reforms and real cuts must take place across the board if we are going to get our fiscal house in order. Unfortunately, the President continues to ignore its proposals. Click here to read more.
Budget Fails to Provide Vital NBAF Resources
The President’s budget also fails to provide resources for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), despite his administration’s overwhelming support for it in the past. Click here to read more. On Thursday I questioned Secretary Napolitano during a Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing about whether she thinks the NBAF facility should still be constructed. I was happy to hear Secretary Napolitano reiterate her support for NBAF. Click the photo to watch my exchange with Secretary Napolitano.
Supporting Domestic Energy Production
The American wind industry continues to grow and contributes greatly to our country’s diverse energy needs. Kansas is ranked second in the United States in wind resource potential and leads the nation in wind capacity currently under construction. With hundreds of Kansans employed in manufacturing and installing wind farm components, Kansas is a national leader in wind energy production. As the American wind industry nears completion of its transformation into the cost competitive marketplace, a stable tax policy is necessary to aid its growth.
This week, I authored a letter along with Sen. Mark Udall (D-Col.), co-signed by several of my Senate colleagues, that calls on Senate leadership to address this issue. I have also sponsored an amendment with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) that would reauthorize the wind production tax credit (PTC) for one year without any additional federal spending. This temporary extension will provide both Congress and the wind industry with the necessary time to plot a path forward for American wind production in the free market. Both the letter and the amendment have drawn bi-partisan support as Congress works to provide certainty for an industry seeking to contribute to our country’s economic growth. I am encouraged by the support these efforts have received and I will continue to work toward policies that will keep Americans working and grow our economy. Click here to read more.
DOL Youth Farm Labor Rule Update
Recently, we received some good news when the Department of Labor (DOL) announced it would withdraw and “re-propose” the parental exemption portion of its proposed rule to regulate the activities of youth in agriculture. If the rule had been implemented as it was written, parents would no longer have discretion over the responsibilities they gave their children on farms or ranches jointly owned and operated by multiple family members.
The Department’s action is not close to being enough. The entire rule must be withdrawn. If the remaining portion is implemented, the education and training of the next generation of farmers and ranchers will be severely disrupted. The DOL is still proposing to do away with successful farm safety programs like cooperative extension, 4-H, and FFA, which play a critical role in training and certifying young people to safely carry out farm and ranch activities. The remaining portion of the rule would also prohibit youth from participating in common farm activities such as operating a tractor, cleaning out stalls with a shovel and wheelbarrow, and rounding up cattle. To most young people growing up on a farm or ranch, these jobs are just part of their daily routine.
If the DOL’s proposal goes into effect, not only will the shrinking rural workforce be further reduced, and our nation’s youth be deprived of valuable career training opportunities, but most importantly – a way of life will begin to disappear. This week, my colleague John Thune (R-S.D.) joined me on the Senate floor to drive home the importance to stopping this destructive rule before it fundamentally alters the future of agriculture. Click the photo to watch our discussion.
I have shared my concerns and the concerns of many farmers and ranchers with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis now on two separate occasions. However, we need to continue to make our voices heard and try to prevent this rule from going into effect. Please visit www.KeepFamiliesFarming.com to share your thoughts about why the family farm is important. Together, we can make certain this destructive rule does not move forward, and can preserve our values for the next generation of American farmers and ranchers.
Honoring the Life of Frank Weimer
On Monday morning before flying back to Washington, I traveled to Shawnee to attend the funeral of Frank Weimer. Frank served the people of Lenexa in the Kansas State House of Representatives while I was a state senator. He also served his community as the Executive Director of the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce.
Frank was a gentleman and someone who cared deeply for his community and state. Prior to his tenure in the Kansas Legislature, Frank gave several years of service to our county in the U.S. Air Force from which he retired as a Colonel in 1972. During his military service he served as an adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
Frank will be missed greatly by many, especially by his family and his neighbors at Lakeview Village in Lenexa. His community and our state are better off because of his service. Please join me in keeping Frank’s family in your thoughts and prayers.
Conducting a Tele-Town Hall with Thousands of Kansans
This week, I reached out to thousands of Kansans on the phone through a tele-town hall meeting. This technology allows me to stay in touch with Kansans while I am working in Washington during the week. I appreciated the opportunity to talk with Kansans across our state and discuss a wide range of topics. Several folks brought up the threat to Americans’ religious liberty posed by the Department of Health and Human Services’ insistence that employer-provided health insurance plans cover procedures and pharmaceuticals despite citizens’ moral and religious objections. Click here to read an opinion piece I recently wrote on this issue.
Thanks to everyone who participated and listened in, and to those who left messages with my office following the call. My office will work to respond to your questions and comments as soon as possible. Click here to view a photo.
Accepting Applications for Summer Internships
Congressional internships are a great way for Kansas students to learn about Congress and gain professional work experience. Having worked as a congressional intern myself, I know what a valuable experience it can be. Interns serving in my Washington, D.C., office have the opportunity to interact with staff and Kansans visiting our nation’s capital, attend congressional hearings and briefings, and work on issues currently before the Senate. I encourage anyone with an interest in government and public service to apply.
I am currently accepting applications for the summer term. Completed applications must include a resume, cover letter, academic transcript and two letters of recommendation, and all parts must be submitted for consideration by March 2, 2012. Please visit the interns page on my website to apply and for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
Transportation Equity Network
Cynthia Jarrold of Overland Park
U.S. Custom Harvester
DeAnn and Jim Deibert of Colby
Pat Morse of Dodge City
Kansas Soybean Commission
Dennis Hupe of Topeka
Dave Slead of Lebo
Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce
Pat Gallagher of Wichita
Barby Jobe of Wichita
American Hiking Society
Vern and Carol Osborne of St. Marys
Sante Fe Trail Association
Ross Marshall of Overland Park
Kansas Grain and Feed Association; Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association
Stan Stark of Haviland
Ted Schultz of Moundridge
Doug Wright of Moundridge
Mike Shirley of Oakley
Tom Tunnell of Topeka
U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth Local 919
Brian Hundley of Atchison
Mike Erdley of Leavenworth
Shawn Wagner of Leavenworth
Allen Steward of MO
Local Taxpayer Advocate Kansas
Desiree Frierson of Wichita
American College of Nurse Practitioners
Ruth Busch of Wichita
Seward County Community College
Duane Dunn of Liberal
Families Together, Inc.
Kayzetta Bigler of Topeka
Grace Burke of Salina
Margaret Burke of Salina
Dodge City Community College
Don Woodburn of Dodge City
Morris Reeves of Dodge City
Hutchison Community College
Ed Berger of Hutchinson
David Marshall of Salina
Kansas Medical Society
Kevin Hoppock of Wichita
Mark Synovec of Topeka
Doug Gleason of Topeka
Tom Estep of Wichita
James Wetzel of Overland Park
Donna Weet of Wichita
Kim Schrage of Wichita
Jon Rosell of Wichita
Jacque Amspacker of Shawnee Mission
Rachelle Colombo of Topeka
Nancy Sullivan of Topeka
Johnson Country Community College
Terry Calway of Overland Park
Don Weiss of Overland Park
Greg Musil of Overland Park
Stephanie Sharp of Overland Park
Jerry Cook of Overland Park
Joe Sopcich of Overland Park
Kate Allen of Overland Park
Dick Carter of Kansas City
Butler Community College
Jackie Vietti of El Dorado
Ron Englbrecht of Wichita
Garden City Community College
Ron Schwartz of Garden City
Philip Guries of Salina
DeWayne Donaldson of Salina
Haskell Indian Nations University
Paulette Blanchard of Lawrence
Stephen Prue of Lawrence
Chris Redman of Lawrence
Joel Hernandez of Lawrence
Kansas City Orthopaedic Institute
Paul Kerens of Leawood
Bob Burris of Overland Park
Kansas Chiropractic Association
Paul Brackeen of Derby
Ed McKenzie of Holton
Travis Oller of Topeka
Melinda Pregont of Atchison
Ameilia Wilson of Lawrence
Jeremy Rodrock of Lawrence
Brian Asbury of Olathe
Paul Brackeen of Derby
Tobi Jeurink of Gardner
Ed McKenzie of Holton
Travis Oller of Topeka
Kansas Hospital Association
Fred Lucky of Topeka
Les Lacy of Saint Francis
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including: Kevin Hoppock of Wichita; Mark Synovec of Topeka; Doug Gleason of Topeka; Tom Estep of Wichita; James Wetzel of Overland Park; Donna Weet of Wichita; Kim Schrage of Wichita; Jon Rosell of Wichita; Jacque Amspacker of Shawnee Mission; Rachelle Colombo of Topeka; and Nancy Sullivan of Topeka.
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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