Kansas Common Sense

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Outlining a New Approach to Jumpstart Our Economy: Startup Act

This week, I delivered a speech on the Senate floor to share some of my thoughts on a topic that has a daily impact on every American: job creation. Whether or not a dad or mom can find a job directly impacts their ability to put food on their family’s table, pay their mortgage, save for their children’s education and prepare for their own retirement. In August our economy failed to create any jobs and in September our economy created about 100,000 jobs – not nearly enough to get us out of this economic slump. There are still 14 million Americans out of work and about 42 percent of those unemployed have been looking for a job for 6 months or longer.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Kansas business owners in Overland Park and Hutchison to talk about the economy and their outlook on the future. Throughout our conversation, it became clear that one of the main reasons businesses aren’t hiring is because of economic uncertainty. In fact, in a survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than half of small-business executives cited “economic uncertainty” as the greatest obstacle to hiring more employees. The reality is that small businesses have created 65 percent of all new jobs in the last two decades and have historically been the engine of job creation in our country– so we should be doing everything we can to encourage businesses to create more jobs.

On Thursday, I outlined a new approach to strengthen our economy, one that is based on a proven track record of success – the success of the American entrepreneur. I will soon be introducing legislation called the Startup Act – to help jumpstart our economy through the creation and growth of new businesses. In Kansas City, there is a foundation dedicated to the promotion of entrepreneurship called the Kauffman Foundation and many of their good ideas are included in the Startup Act. The Startup Act is based on 5 pro-growth principles: removing barriers to growth; attracting business investment; bringing more research from the lab to the marketplace; attracting and retaining entrepreneurial talent; and encouraging pro-growth state and local policies. The Startup Act will encourage American entrepreneurs to do what they do best – dream big and pursue their dreams. The American economy can and will recover when we give American entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Click here to watch a video of my comments to my colleagues in the Senate.

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Congratulating Roger Kemp on 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal

President Obama announced this week that Roger Kemp of Leawood will be awarded the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor. This award was established in 1969 to recognize Americans who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.

In 2002, Mr. Kemp faced a parent’s worst nightmare when his daughter, Ali, age 19, was killed in a random act of violence. Instead of succumbing to bitterness, Roger created The Ali Kemp Educational Foundation (T.A.K.E.), and has committed himself to making his community and country a safer place by launching self-defense training for women. Since 2003, more than 46,000 women have been trained in self-defense through T.A.K.E. Roger has also empowered the public to help law enforcement officials apprehend criminals with a “wanted” billboard initiative that posts photos of criminals. The billboards have spread nationwide and have helped apprehend more than 40 fugitives, including the “East Coast Rapist” earlier this year.

In May, President Obama called on members of the public to nominate outstanding individuals who have performed exemplary deeds of service. I had the privilege of nominating Roger for his outstanding service to his community. From among the nearly 6,000 nominations, thirteen men and women were chosen and will be awarded the Citizens Medal at the White House on October 20, 2011. Congratulations Roger, you are most deserving of this high honor. Click here to read more about Roger’s story and the other recipients of the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal.

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More Exports Will Lead to More Jobs

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Colombia, Panama and South Korea trade agreements. These agreements will open more markets overseas for our nation’s agricultural commodities and manufactured goods, increase U.S. exports by an estimated $13 billion, and create and support an estimated 250,000 American jobs. In Kansas alone, the three trade agreements are expected to increase agriculture sales by $129 million per year. When American businesses are given better access to markets, our economy will be strengthened and more jobs will be created. Click here to hear more of my thoughts on the passage of these agreements.

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Full Implementation of Sanctions Necessary to Stop Iran            

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing this week to review the Administration’s implementation of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010. I asked the chairman of the committee in July to hold a meeting to review U.S. sanctions policy. Thursday’s hearing could not have come at a more critical time. Just two days prior, the Administration revealed that it had disrupted an Iranian-backed plan to assassinate a foreign ambassador to the United States in our nation’s capital. News of this plan only underscores the threat Iran poses. Not only is Iran a top state sponsor of terrorism, but it has enriched enough uranium to build three nuclear bombs.           

Witnesses from the Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce spoke to the committee about sanctions that have been enacted. These sanctions, and the threat of others, have impacted Iran but have yet to achieve the fundamental goal, which is to compel Iran to change its behavior and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Saying we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is good—but it is not enough. I will continue working with the Administration and my colleagues to make sure the President has every tool he needs to stop Iran and that all of the tools Congress has given him are being fully used. Click here to see my remarks at this week’s hearing.

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Introducing Legislation to Limit EPA Regulations Harmful to Rural America

This week I introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate, S. 1702, to exempt existing stationary engines from two final rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), called the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE). Municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives use stationary diesel and natural gas engines to generate electricity during periods of high demand or during emergency situations – typically operating no more than 100 hours in a given year. In Kansas, there are 56 cities with 306 engines affected by these rules representing 603 megawatts of generation capacity. 

Agriculture producers also utilize stationary diesel, gasoline and natural gas engines to pump water necessary for crop and livestock production. Unless these EPA rules are modified, by 2013 municipal utilities, electric cooperatives and agricultural producers will be required to update existing engines used to generate electricity or pump water with costly emission control technology. S. 1702 would exempt existing stationary engines if they are used by municipalities, electric cooperatives, or agricultural producers to generate electricity or pump water, from the two final rules issued by the EPA. The RICE rules would still be effective for new engines or existing engines that do not fit in the above categories. Click here to read more about this legislation.

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Recognizing President Eisenhower’s Birthday

On Saturday morning I paid respects to President Dwight D. Eisenhower during an annual ceremony in Abilene to recognize his birthday. Major General William C. Mayville Jr. and Command Sergeant Major James Tomson of the First Infantry Division led a procession to his burial site for a wreath laying ceremony. I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Mack Teasley of the Eisenhower Foundation, President Eisenhower’s great grandson Merrill Eisenhower Atwater from Kansas City, Abilene Mayor Lynn Peterson and Major General Mayville Jr. from Ft. Riley. Thanks to all the VFW and American Legion posts and the Patriot Guard from across Kansas for participating in this special event. Thanks also to Director Karl Weissenbach and Archives Specialist Linda Smith of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum for their dedication to preserving President Eisenhower’s legacy. 

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Participating in Naturalization Ceremony for New U.S. Citizens

Later in the day on Saturday, I had the unique opportunity to witness Judge Robert Berger administer the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to 50 individuals, who became citizens of the United States of America. Our country has long been known as “the land of opportunity” – a place where people come from across the world to make a better life for themselves and their families. During the ceremony at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, I was reminded of how fortunate we are to live in America and enjoy the freedoms and liberties that come with U.S. citizenship.

Following the oath, I encouraged the newly sworn-in citizens to become active citizens in their communities. Our country’s democracy depends on engaged citizens, who contribute to our society and help shape our country’s future. It was an honor to join some of our nation’s newest citizens during a very memorable moment in their lives. Thanks to Greg Cotton and Chris Wyche for the invitation to participate in the ceremony and attend a soccer match. 

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Celebrating 40 Years with Solomon Corporation

On Monday morning I had the opportunity to join in the celebration of Solomon Corporation’s 40th anniversary. Solomon Corporation, which rebuilds, repairs and recycles electrical distribution equipment for utility companies and industry nationwide, was founded by the late Gene Hemmer in 1971 with two partners and three employees. Today the company is owned and operated by the second generation of the Hemmer family, Gene’s four sons and one daughter. They employ 480 people at four locations around the country, including 350 employees in Kansas. Solomon Corporation is a great success story and is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of Kansans. Private sector companies like the Solomon Corporation are the engines of job creation in this country and are critical to helping our economy climb its way out of the recession. Congratulations to the Hemmer family, the employees of Solomon Corporation, and the city of Solomon. Here’s to another 40 years. Click here to view a photo from my visit.

Celebrating Solomon Corporation's 40 Years of Success

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Visiting with Faculty and Students at Chapman High School

Following my stop in Solomon, I headed east down I-70 and stopped at Chapman High School, home of the Chapman Irish. After a tornado destroyed much of the community in 2008, the community has been busy rebuilding. Chapman has a beautiful new high school as a result of their efforts. I enjoyed my tour with new Superintendent Lacee Sell and Principal Kevin Suther. We stopped by a government class, a journalism class, and finally a business class. I enjoyed learning more about the printing business called “Irish Ink” that students in the business class manage. Chapman has pulled together impressively after the damaging tornado and their community spirit serves as an inspiration. Thank you to Lacee, Kevin and the students of Chapman High School for hosting me, and congratulations on your impressive new high school. Click here to view photos from my visit.

Visiting Chapman High School

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Touring Bio-Microbics in Shawnee

On Friday, I had the opportunity to visit Bio-Microbics, Inc. of Shawnee, which develops and sells equipment for treating wastewater and storm water for decentralized homes, communities, and commercial properties. The need for additional sources of fresh water across the world has allowed Bio-Microbics to become a significant supplier in the global market. For more than 35 years, this company has met a basic human need for water with their innovative equipment, and we are fortunate they call Kansas home. Congratulations on being named the 2011 Kansas Exporter of the Year. Special thanks to Bio-Microbics President Bob Rebori for showing me around.

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Supporting Good Work of Easter Seals Capper Foundation in Topeka

On Monday, I had the opportunity to tour the Easter Seals Capper Foundation (ESCF) in Topeka. Easter Seals Disability Services is an international organization that helps meet the needs of infants, children and young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Earlier this year, ESCF celebrated 90 years of serving Kansans. It is because of the hard work and dedication of the Board of Trustees, leadership and staff that former U.S. Senator Arthur Capper’s vision of enhancing the independence of people with disabilities has endured for nine decades. 

At the end of my visit, I had the opportunity to read a book to preschoolers who were participating in the KidLink program at ESCF. I enjoyed learning more about this program and the numerous ways ESCF is caring for Kansans with special needs. Thanks to KidLink Director Linda Berger and Volunteer Manager Jeanette Waters for welcoming me into their classroom. Also, thanks to President & CEO Jim Lieker and Pam Walstrom for the tour, and thanks to Julie Smrha, Sandy Warren and Steve Knoll for joining us. Click here to view a photo from my visit.

Visiting Easter Seals Capper Foundation

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Visiting Head Start of Shawnee Mission

On Tuesday, I visited Head Start of Shawnee Mission, an early education program for young children in Johnson County. Shawnee Mission Head Start began in 1965 as a summer enrichment program for preschool-age children in low-income families and now serves over 218 children throughout the Shawnee Mission School District. The program relies heavily on private donations and a volunteer force of 300 individuals to manage programs and activities for the children.

In addition to providing education and childcare services, Head Start provides a range of services for the children’s families including immunizations, nutritional guidance, and financial education. Thanks to Head Start Executive Director Terrie VanZandt-Travis for leading the tour and sharing more about the important education and life skills provided by the teachers and numerous volunteers at Head Start. Thanks also to Head Start Program Manager Joanie Burke and Head Start Community Relations Coordinator Renee Miller for joining us on the tour. Click here to view a photo from my visit.

Visiting Head Start of Shawnee Mission

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In the Office

This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office from across the state, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits.

Kansas Corn Growers Association
Jere White of Garnett

Kansas City Power & Light
Paul Snider of Lenexa 

The Nature Conservancy of Kansas
Rob Manes of Wamego 

Junction City Chamber of Commerce
John Seitz of Junction City
Jim Sands of Junction City
Pat Landes of Junction City
Cecil Aska of Junction City
Gerry Vernon of Junction City
Ben Bennett of Junction City
Cheryl Beatty of Junction City
Ty Arneson of Junction City
Larry Hicks of Junction City 

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)
Dalton Noakes of Chanute
Raimie Platt of Salina
Jordan Deters of Eskridge
Jenny Koops of Downs
Jordan Ivey of Columbus
Ryan Haxton of Salina 

American Association of Orthopedic Executives
Barbara Slack of Kansas City 

Association of Flight Attendants
Maxwell Fisher of Overland Park 

Women Impacting Public Policy
Denise Farris of Kansas City
Kelly Scanlon of Overland Park 

Governor’s Military Council
John Armbrust of Manhattan 

Dick and Linda Wertzberger of Manhattan
Lyle Butler of Manhattan
Whitney Lukenbill of Manhattan
Fred Willich of Manhattan
Mike Shilling of Manhattan
Rich Crowley of Manhattan
Jim Sherow of Manhattan
Ron Fehr of Manhattan
Rich and Caroline Jankovich of Manhattan

Field and Stream Magazine’s Heroes of Conservation Finalists
Tommie, Theresa, and Fritz Berger of Sylvan Grove

National Community Tax Coalition
Julie Riddle of Kansas City 

Professional Beauty Association
Oliver Steinnagel of Overland Park 

Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas
Jan Lewis of Overland Park
Beatrice Swoopes of Topeka 

PBC Consulting
Philip Bradley of Lawrence

Many Kansans stopped by the office to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol including: Gary Diers, Marla McDonough and Lauren Scott of Salina; Dr. and Mrs. Stanley and Ann Hatesohl of Topeka; Paul Snapp and children Katherine, Aubrey, Clarise and Emma of Great Bend; Rev. and Mrs. Philip and Sonya Hubbard and son, Ian of Spring Hill; Spencer and Susan Atha and daughter, Jackie of Wichita; Mark and Diane Cosper of Overland Park; Glen and Doreena Douglas and their children, Blake, Douglas and Maximus Sublett of Hutchinson; Bob and Kay Richter of Assaria; Brian and Debra Kleinow of Ottawa; and Gene and Annette Rogers of Olathe. Ed and Nina Beason of Hepler also stopped by the office to say hello.

Contact Me

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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