Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter.

My colleagues and I discussed and voted this week on legislation to address specific concerns stemming from the terror attack in Orlando. We must keep suspected terrorists from acquiring guns while also protecting law-abiding citizens’ rights. These two efforts are not mutually exclusive, and it is Congress’s duty to responsibly debate and negotiate plausible solutions.

I voted for a proposal that would require the proper authorities be notified should any suspected terrorist attempt to purchase a firearm, while also giving law enforcement the tools they need to detain a would-be terrorist trying to purchase a firearm provided proof of probable cause.

Calling on the House to Restore Certainty to Aviation
I spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday about the importance of passing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016 (S. 2658). In April, this bipartisan legislation passed the Senate by a 95-3 vote, but the House of Representatives has yet to act, and expiration of the FAA’s current authorization draws near on July 15.

Reauthorization of the FAA is essential to protecting and improving accessible and efficient transportation options for Kansans. In addition, the Senate-passed bill contains many critical reforms to improve national aviation safety, rein in costly federal regulations, and stimulate job growth. It also streamlines aircraft certification, which is vital to the ability of Kansas manufacturers to compete in the global marketplace.

Unfortunately, these important reforms are being held up in the House by a lone, controversial proposal to privatize the national Air Traffic Control (ATC) system – a proposal that divides both Congress and the aviation community with staunch opposition from general aviation advocates. I remain deeply concerned with the long-term implications of ATC privatization, particularly its impact on small airports and rural communities who rely more on the services of general aviation – Kansas’ largest industry.

If the House does not take action on FAA reauthorization soon, Congress will be forced to pass a short-term extension that’s detrimental to our national aviation system and would represent a missed opportunity to pass into law the overwhelmingly bipartisan reforms of S. 2658. It is my hope that the House will not pass up the opportunity to restore certainty to our aviation system by taking up this bill now.

Urging Greater Accountability from VA Executives
Recently the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced they would no longer use the expedited firing authority that Congress provided them in the wake of the 2014 VA scandal when VA whistleblowers and the Inspector General revealed disturbingly-long wait lists at facilities nationwide. Following his confirmation, the VA Secretary said he would take “aggressive, expeditious, disciplinary action” to address wrongdoers who violated the values of the Department in its mission to serve all of our vets. But, over the past two years, the VA has demonstrated it has no interest in fulfilling that promise, and the latest decision to ignore the authorities that Congress has provided him only harms VA employees and veterans.

This frustrating news shows the need for Congress to pass the bipartisan Veterans First Act. This week, I took to the Senate floor to urge my colleagues to pass this bill containing several provisions I introduced designed to increase accountability at the VA from the top down. The VA’s problems are not budgetary or a matter of supply and demand; they are based on poor management of resources and poor leadership in using the authorities in the best interest of veterans and the VA workforce. Veterans deserve a VA worthy of their service, not a VA that prioritizes the protection of bureaucrats.

Expressing Economic Struggles to the Federal Reserve Chair
I questioned Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Tuesday about the value of the U.S. dollar, its impact on commodity pricing and why Kansans aren’t seeing our economy recover. Many Kansans are worried about why they don’t feel more secure in their jobs, about what opportunities their kids will have to go to school and pay back their loans, and about whether or not they can save for their own retirement or for healthcare emergencies. I expressed these feelings to Chairwoman Yellen, to which she admitted that business investment outside the energy sector has been “surprisingly weak.”

It’s clear that when business owners are hit with regulation after regulation, when the Department of Labor ignores productivity and free market wages and when potential entrepreneurs can’t see a path to success, Americans will remain out of work and worried about their futures. A growing economy should be Congress’s highest priority and I will continue to promote policies achieve that.

Introducing the Veterans’ Identity Theft Protection Act

I introduced legislation this week that would help protect the privacy of veterans. The Veterans’ Identity Theft Protection Act would prohibit the VA from using Social Security numbers as identifiers in their electronic systems. Recent privacy breaches at the Department have left a number of veterans vulnerable to identity theft due to the VA’s dependence on identifying veterans through their SSN. By phasing out the use of SSNs, we can better protect our veterans and make certain their privacy is protected. To learn more, click here.

Honoring Great American Defense Communities
As co-chair of the Senate Defense Communities Caucus, I am proud to recognize communities around the nation that go above and beyond to provide for our nation’s military members and their families. In Kansas, we are fortunate to have a number of incredible communities that provide critical support to our military installations. When I meet with military leadership in my office, those who have spent time at Forbes Field, Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth or McConnell Air Force Base always tell me that they were welcomed to town with open arms and share their fond memories of their time in Kansas. On Tuesday, I joined the Association of Defense Communities in recognizing the Flint Hills Region as a “Great American Defense Community” for their unwavering support of the Big Red One at Fort Riley. The program aims to recognize the unique contributions of cities, counties and regions that host military installations and work to improve the quality of life for service members, veterans and their families. Congratulations to all those who call the Flint Hills home, and thank you for your commitment to supporting the men and women who serve our nation.

Greeting Honor Flight Participants on the National Mall
It is a privilege to welcome Kansas vets who’ve traveled to our nation’s capital as part of an Honor Flight trip. I started my Tuesday morning welcoming a group of veterans and their family members at the WWII Memorial. These veterans visit the memorials built for them and to remind our vets that we respect them and we appreciate their service. It was wonderful to meet three generations of the Breeding family – Pat, Jake and Tyler, who live in the Salina area. Pat served in Vietnam.

Viewing Overland Park Regional Medical Center Facilities
I took a tour of Overland Park Medical Center's new ER and very impressive new trauma rooms Saturday morning. The Center provides quality care for all in the Kansas City area, with trauma outreach to rural hospitals around the state and a brand new pediatric intensive care unit opening in August. It was a pleasure to meet Dr. David Brewer, Nurse Leader Michael, Nurses Heather and Eileen and many other members of their friendly, passionate staff. Thanks to CEO Kevin Hicks and Tom Bell for helping to arrange the visit, and to the dedicated staff serving local families.

Touring the Boys & Girls Club of Manhattan
I toured the Boys and Girls Club of Manhattan, which services more than 2,500 children each year in the Manhattan and Wamego communities, on Friday morning. The Club offers a variety of programs that promote reading and education, healthy lifestyle choices, leadership and citizenship. The Kansas Boys and Girls Club reaches 13 Kansas communities total with 35 club sites. Thanks to Executive Director Junnae Campbell, Alliance Director Mandi Bunnell, Board Member Corey Kephart, Marketing Director Leah Braet and Site Coordinator Lacey Salas for sharing their morning with me. Also, thank you to the many staff members who take the time to invest in young Kansans across our state. 

Enjoying the Country Stampede
I had the pleasure of joining thousands of Kansas country music fans at the Country Stampede this weekend. Now in its 21st year, this annual event is a three-day country music festival that hosts live performances from country’s biggest stars. I enjoyed spending the evening visiting with Kansans and listening to the many talented performers. Thanks to Jeff and Marla Copper for arranging the details of my visit and thanks to all the event organizers for their hard work to ensure this year’s Country Stampede was a great success. 

Apply to be a Fall 2016 Intern – Deadline July 15
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 who have a unique opportunity to work closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans. Applications are already being accepted for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Manhattan, Kansas, offices for the fall 2016 term. The deadline for the fall is Friday, July 15. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence.

Kansans in the Office
Madison Scott of Belleville
Audrey Sheets of Belleville
Kendra Scott of Belleville
Kendsey Johnson of Belleville
Elly Dahl of Belleville
Justin Stindt of Belleville
Christian Tipton of Munden
Celianna Shobe of Oberlin
Brett Stindt of Belleville
Broc Yakel of Wamego
Jodi Yakel of Wamego
Caelei Yakel of Wamego
Gavin Yakel of Wamego
Ella Yakel of Wamego
Lauren Yakel of Wamego
Pete Ochs of Wichita 

Humane Society Legislative Fund
Midge Grinstead of Lawrence
Lisa Fevia of Stillwell
Jennifer Lane of Leawood 

Hindu American Foundation
Abhay Bisarya of Leawood
Mina Bisarya of Leawood 

Citizens Climate Lobby
Alisha Gridley of Wichita
Tony Schmidt of Lawrence
Mark Shobe of Wichita
Tomes Green of Lawrence 

Emporia State University
Pres. Allison Garrett of Emporia
Brian Denton of Emporia 

Midwest ATC
Andy Groth of Overland Park 

United States Presidential Scholars Program
Zhubo Huang of Leawood
Jenny Huang of Leawood
Steven Huang of Leawood
Feng Xie of Leawood

NFIB Young Entrepreneur
Gracie Schram of Leawood 

The Society of Plastics Industry
Susan Avery of Overland Park
Liz Novak of Overland Park 

Manhattan Regional Airport
Jesse Romo of Manhattan 

National Athletic Trainers Association
Murphy Grant of Lawrence
Mark Padfield of Tonganoxie
John Vardiman of Manhattan 

The Nature Conservancy
Kimi Piper of Manhattan
Lisa Carlton of Topeka
Kelly Harrison of Lawrence
Robbie Harding of Overland Park
Rob Manes of Wamego
Betsey Solberg of Wabaunsee
Rick Solberg of Wabaunsee
Brad Bradley of Overland Park
Robbie Harding of Overland Park 

Angel Capital Association
Marianne Hudson of Prairie Village 

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
Doug Furnell of Leawood
Patti Bosset-Mellard of Topeka
Mark Vanhoesen of Junction City
Jeremy Singer of Overland Park 

Kansas Music Educators Association
Martha Gabel of Olathe
Fern Stevermer of Lawrence
Gretchen Bixler of Maize
John Taylor of Wichita
Mike Quilling of Garden City
Steve Oare of Wichita
Arian Bear of Blue Valley 

Jim Frank of Shawnee
Kent Jackson of Shawnee
Jason Klenklen of Ozawkie
Rich Carlson of Overland Park 

American Nurses Association
Adam Tebben of Emporia 

Associated Builders & Contractors Heart of America Chapter
Robert Brown of Shawnee
Carole Brown of Shawnee 

Kansas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Gretchen Strathe of Wichita
Johannah O’Malley of Hiawatha 

Capitol Tour
Meg Thimmesch of Wichita
Cale Thimmesch of Wichita
Robert Thimmesch of Wichita
Katherine Stevens of Wichita
Kenneth Hughes of Clay Center
Julie Hughes of Clay Center
Anastacia Hughes of Clay Center
Delana Hughes of Clay Center
Brian Hughes of Clay Center
Janet Kerr of Topeka
Hunter Kerr of Newton
David Vogel of Hillsboro
Hanna Vogel of Hillsboro
Elizabeth Stoddard of Overland Park
Dean Stoddard of Overland Park
Bryd Stoddard of Overland Park
Elise Stoddard of Overland Park
Alexa Hewitt of Wichita
Kaylan Viceros of Wichita
Jerod Brown of WaKeeney
LeAnn Brown of WaKeeney
Nick Schmidt of LaCrosse
Saul Sanchez of Dodge City
Bailey Koerperich of Colby
Lexie Spitler of Hutchinson
Emily Wyse of Hays
Jimmy Jones of Kinsley
Marianna Jones of Kinsley
Natalie Jones of Kinsley
Dylan Edwards of Hill City
Alejandra Medina of Newton
Justin Housman of Manhattan
Robert Pritchett, Jr. of Topeka
Matthew Cox of Dodge City
Sterlin Broomfield 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 form of 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.