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.

Continuing Investigation Into Abuse of Olympic Athletes
This week, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and I received written responses from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG) and Michigan State University (MSU), along with remaining National Governing Bodies (NGBs). As our investigation continues, we expect the USOC, MSU and all NGBs to continue to be transparent and timely with their responses to make certain that, first and foremost, the safety of our athletes remains the top priority.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported on our investigation: “U.S. Senators investigating sexual abuse in sports said on Tuesday they were concerned about ‘potential systemic issues’ involving abuse after written responses from the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics did not provide significant new details about how they responded to accusations of abuse. The Senate subcommittee is waiting for responses from the national governing bodies of 53 other Olympic sports, from swimming to figure skating, to help determine the extent of abuse. The U.S. Senate opened its investigation on Jan. 25 after the first sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the former doctor for USA Gymnastics' national team who has pleaded guilty to molesting female athletes. Nassar was sentenced in January and February in two separate hearings to 40 to 175 years and 40 to 125 years in prison. Senators Jerry Moran, a Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said in a joint statement that they wanted to know if officials at the sport's national governing body and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) could have stopped Nassar's abuse. ‘After our initial review, we remain concerned about potential systemic issues within these institutions and plan to seek additional clarification,’ the senators, who oversee the Senate's Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, said in the statement.”

Appointment to Key Banking Committee Subcommittees 
Earlier this year, I was pleased to re-join the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over policies that impact the strength of our economy and the successes of our small businesses. I was appointed to three Banking Committee subcommittees for the 115th Congress, including the subcommittees on:

  • Securities, Insurance, and Investment;
  • Housing, Transportation, and Community Development;
  • Economic Policy.

These subcommittee appointments will further allow me to advocate for Kansans on a wide array of issues pertaining to banking, insurance, housing, mass transportation and global competitiveness. I look forward to working with my colleagues in each of these subcommittees to promote economic growth and upward mobility for all Americans.

Introducing Immigration Reform Legislation
On Thursday, I introduced an amendment alongside Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that would codify protections for those individuals who, at no fault of their own, entered the United States illegally as children and are currently covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Our bill would also establish a $25 billion trust fund to enhance U.S. border security. 

Congress to date has failed to develop a humanitarian plan that cares for the children who were brought to the United States by their parents through no choice of their own and at the same time protects our homeland. Accordingly, any immigration plan must not inadvertently encourage further illegal immigration and must be coupled with enhanced border security so we limit these circumstances down the road. This bill returns to the basics of what a vast majority of my colleagues and the president support – providing long-term certainty to DACA recipients and better securing our borders. I urge my colleagues to support this sensible solution that provides us a realistic path forward to get a bill to the president’s desk.

The President’s Infrastructure Proposal
For years, Washington has neglected to adequately address the unique issues affecting rural America, including the growing Digital Divide. I am pleased that the president’s infrastructure plan, unveiled this week, includes a strategy to equip Americans living in rural areas with high-quality roads and bridges, modernized communications networks and the ability to quickly create and build infrastructure important to each community. These kinds of investments will make a clear difference in the lives of Kansans across our state. I look forward to working with my colleagues to send an infrastructure bill to the president’s desk that streamlines the permitting process, cuts cumbersome red tape and quickly deploys broadband infrastructure to rural America.

Questioning Federal Trade Commission Nominees on Implementation of Anti-Scamming Law
On Wednesday, I participated in a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on pending nominations to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is an independent commission established by the FTC Act of 1914 to prevent unfair methods of competition in commerce. Over the years, Congress has passed additional laws giving the agency greater authority to police anticompetitive practices. As the Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, I probed the nominees on their commitment to enforcing my Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, which was enacted in 2016, to level the online playing field and make ticket prices fairer so a greater number of people can purchase tickets to see their favorite teams, artists or events. Please click here to watch my questions at the hearing. 

Introducing Legislation to Guarantee Servicemember Death Benefits to Families
I joined a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) this week in introducing The Families of Fallen Servicemembers First Act. When servicemembers perished during government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018, their families were initially denied military death benefits. Our legislation would provide a permanent appropriation of funds to immediately pay military death benefits to survivors of servicemembers killed should the government shut down.

The benefits covered by this legislation include:

  • Death gratuities for survivors of deceased military service members;
  • Funeral and burial expenses;
  • Authorized funeral travel, including to dignified transfer ceremonies;
  • A temporary continuation of a basic allowance for housing (BAH) for dependents.

When our servicemembers make the ultimate sacrifice protecting our freedoms, we must make certain no grieving family is subjected to delayed benefits due to Congressional stalemate. No Congressional disagreements should prevent our heroes’ families from quickly receiving the benefits they are owed. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bill and see it signed into law.

Protecting Farmers and Ranchers from Reporting Requirements for Normal, Low-Level Emissions
This week I sponsored bipartisan legislation to protect farmers and ranchers from reporting normal emissions from animal waste under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). CERCLA plays an important role providing us the necessary tools to respond to problems with hazardous waste disposal and to help clean up pollution sites. However, the law was never intended to apply to normal, low-level emissions from livestock production. Since 2008, the EPA provided an exemption for agriculture from the reporting requirements. A recent court ruling has put that exemption in jeopardy.

Without the exemption, upwards of 100,000 farms will be required to submit emissions reports or be exposed to fines, penalties and civil lawsuits. Not only are the reports burdensome and unnecessary, I am concerned about protecting the privacy of farmers and ranchers and making certain sensitive information – such has farm locations – are not publicly disclosed by the EPA. As a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I continue to work to advance legislation to protect farmers and ranchers by exempting animal waste from the CERCLA reporting requirements. 

Spending Time with Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program Students
This past week, I had the privilege of meeting with more than 20 members of the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership program’s 14th class from across the state. We had an engaging discussion on issues affecting their local communities with topics ranging from regulations affecting farmers and ranchers to the importance of rural healthcare providers and the need for quality services. These individuals will continue to play an invaluable role in strengthening our communities through strong leadership and their desire to benefit and add value to their communities. I look forward to working with current class members and KARL alums to ensure a bright future for Kansas.

Meeting with Special Olympics Representatives
I enjoyed meeting Josh Alters, a Special Olympics athlete from Topeka, and his mom, Sandra, in my office this week. Josh has been an athlete for 33 years, competing in basketball, swimming, track, softball, bocce, bowling and volleyball. Josh even competed at the 2006 USA National Games in Iowa.

The Special Olympics was founded in 1968, and has since been an influential force in fostering acceptance and inclusion of all people. It is a privilege to meet athletes like Josh and to support Special Olympics so that people with intellectual disabilities can discover new strengths and skills through sport. My thanks to Josh and his mom for spending time meeting with me.

Receiving the 2018 Native American Leadership Award
I was honored to receive the 2018 Native American Leadership Award from the National Congress of American Indians on Tuesday. Throughout my time in the Senate, I have advocated for tribal governments to be treated no differently under the law than state and local governments. Unfair treatment in Washington has created uncertainty that hinders economic development, which in turn impacts the services provided to tribal members. I was privileged to receive this award from NCAI’s president, Jefferson Keele, and to have members of our state’s Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in attendance. I am eager to continue working on their behalf and be worthy of this honor. 

Now Accepting Summer Internship Applications
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works. I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today, where I have interns year-round working closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans.

Applications for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for Summer 2018 are due Friday, February 23. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information.

Kansans in the Office

Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Cassandra Sines of Wichita
Donna Yadrich Kansas City

National Agricultural Aviation Association
Steve Hitchcock of Baldwin
Ben McNary of Scott City

Dreamers for a Bipartisan Solution
Janeth Torres of Wichita
Miriam Nunes of Wichita

Lucretia Myers of Lenexa

Hutchinson Community College
Carter File of Hutchinson
Terry Bisbee of Hutchinson

Darryl Laurie of Kansas City

American Federation of Government Employees
Don Halliborton of Kansas City
Latrise Morrison of Kansas City

Johnson Community College
President Sopcich of Overland Park
Trustee Lawson of Shawnee
Jerry Rode of Overland Park
Gerardo Ruiz of Merriam

National Association of RSVP Directors
Lori Bishop of Manhattan
Melody Gault of Manhattan

KCK Community College
Sherrif Don Ash of Kansas City
Aliyah Shaw of Kansas City
Rosalyn Brow of Kansas City
Jackie Viette of Kansas City
Bill Barloon of Overland Park

Special Olympics International
Josh Alters of Topeka
John Lair of Pittsburg
Sandra Alters of Topeka

Alliance for Headache Disorders
Olivia Rehberger of Prairie Village
Tammy Rome of Shawnee
Ed Mkeal of Pittsburg  

US Canola Association
Mike Stamm of Manhattan
Tyson Good of Dodge City

Kansas State Fraternal Order of Police
Ken Gorman of Topeka
Matt Blassingame of Topeka
Scott Kirkpatrick of Kansas City
Mark Bundy of Kansas City
Hans Asmussen of Wichita
Robert Schmeidler of Wichita
Steven George of Dodge City

Kansas Small Business Development Center
Lisa Roberts of Topeka
Brian Dennis of Lawrence
Greg Panaches of Topeka  

Kansas Medical Society
Rob Gibbs of Parsons
Jed Delmore of Wichita
Braden Foster of Wichita
Phillip Brownlee of Wichita
LaDona Schmidt of Lawrence     
Jen McKenney of Fredonia
Jon Rosell of Olathe
Rachelle Colombo of Topeka
Nancy Sullivan of Holton

American Indian Higher Education Consortium
Stephan Prue of Lawrence
Calvin Smith of Lawrence
Weston Smith of Lawrence

Future Leaders Exchange Program
Ani Avanesyan of Olathe
Lida Aristakesyan of Osawatomie
Nurmukhamed Zhanibek of Topeka       
Veronica Palii of Olathe                
Iga Karasinska of Topeka
Oana Teodora Natea of Kansas City

Shape America
Wendy Scholten of Olathe
Claudia Welch of Topeka
Trizah Scholten of Olathe

KC Foreign Trade Zone
Chris Gutierrez of Kansas City

KARL Program
Amanda Ahrens of Salina
Daniel Clinton Anderes of Junction City
Tyson Jay Anderson of Marysville
Melissa Marie Bergkamp of Kingman
Robert Boss of Solomon
Myca Bunch of Garden City
Justin Diehm of Garnett
Brian J. Eilert of Beloit
Simone Elder of Leoti
Jennifer Goering of Galva
Jancey Saunders Hall of Topeka
Patrice Herrmann of Cherokee
Lucy Hesse of Wichita
Jordan Hildebrand of Manhattan
Gimmie Jo Jansonius of Prairie View
Kellen Lee Liebsch of Westmoreland
Sarah Molzahn of Agra
Lynn Moore of Pittsburg
Jared Petersilie of LaCrosse
Laura Miller of Manhattan
Kurt Frederick Schwarz of LaCygne
Brian Sieker of Chase
Stephanie Symns of Atchison
Scott Thellman of Lawrence
Zachery Townsend of Kinsley
Ross Weber of Cawker City
William M. Weeks of Olathe
Jamie Wetig of Ashland
Jill Zimmerman of South Haven

Habitat For Humanity
Ann Fox of Wichita
Kathy Lefer of Wichita
Jared Petersilie of LaCrosse
Stephanie Symns of Atchison
Kart Schartz of LaCrosse
Laura Miller of Manhattan
Brian Sicker of Chase
Zach Townsence of Edna
Jamie Wetig of Ashland
Sarah Molzan of Agra
Ross Webber of Cawker City
Simone Elder of Leoti

National Guard Association of Kansas
Maomi Hume of Wichita 

National Emergency Number Association
Michele Abbott of Hutchinson 

MGP Ingredients
Michael Buttshaw of Atchison

American Endurance Ride Conference
Monica Chapman of Pleasanton

Mid Kansas Coop
Mike Zacharias of Wichita

Freedoms Frontier
Jim Ogle of Topeka
Julie McPike of Lawrence  

American Federation of Government Employees
Jennifer Gum of Leavenworth  
Clifford Lawson of Leavenworth              
Diana Hicks  of Topeka  
Kelli Ross of Topeka       
Shane Reedy of Topeka

Seasonal Employment Alliance
Karl Schottler of Kansas City
Nick Ejin of Shawnee  

National Emergency Number Association
Michele Abbott of Hutchinson
Josh Michaelis of Rice County

Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation
Zach Pahmahmie of Mayetta
Wade Pahmahmie of Mayetta

Capitol Tour
Jason Cleaver of Chanute
Cassandra Weston of Chanute
Jarrett Cleaver of Chanute
Jeremy Johnson of Wichita
Kassy Johnson of Wichita
Bridget Johnson of Wichita
Lila Johnson of Wichita
Sergeant Zachary Bradley of Shawnee
Leonard West of Shawnee
Terri West of Shawnee
James “Gabe” Gough of Overland Park
Heather Gough of Overland Park
Tristan Gough of Overland Park
Emery Gough of Overland Park
Lawrence McClure of Overland Park
Brandi McClure of Overland Park
Jeff Clarkson of Leawood
Hannah Clarkson of Leawood

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,

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