Kansas Common Sense
Jul 25 2016
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter.
Unfortunately, the Kansas City Kansas Police Department is mourning the loss of another officer this week. Captain Robert Melton was shot in the line of duty on Tuesday. It was heartening to learn that officers from Mission, Prairie Village, Topeka, Lawrence and other cities throughout Kansas were on patrol so KCK police officers could attend his funeral over the weekend. I attended services for Captain Melton on Saturday at Children's Mercy Park to extend my and Robba's prayers and support to his family, the KCKPD and all grieving.
Relief & Wariness Over Lesser Prairie Chicken
In compliance with a court order, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) formally removed the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) from the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) this week. The action brings a sigh of relief for farmers, ranchers, energy developers and other stakeholders in the region who would be harmed by the listing. The USFWS intends to reevaluate the status of the LPC and it’s critical that we do not let our guard down. A provision I had included in the FY2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill would provide certainty for stakeholders by prohibiting the use of funds to restart the listing process. More rainfall has helped the LPC population rebound from the historic drought, and locally-driven, voluntary conservation plans are a better approach to conserving the species than unnecessary federal mandates. I will continue to advocate for efforts to conserve the LPC in ways that protect private property rights and do not harm the rural economy. To read more, click here.
Protecting Benefits our Servicemembers Have Earned
I joined my Senate colleagues this week to urge members of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Committee to protect the housing benefits of dual-military families, women and junior members of the Armed Forces. Currently there is a provision included that would unfairly penalize married servicemembers or single servicemembers who cohabitate in order to make ends meet by reducing the amount of Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) based on the number of service members living together. Members of our Armed Forces have earned these benefits, and they should not have their benefits taken away after they were assured. We have a duty to provide for those who serve our nation, and I will continue to push to make certain this provision is not included in the final bill.
Requiring Obama Administration to Increase Enforcement of Immigration Law
The man charged with murdering five people in Kansas and Missouri this March is an illegal immigrant with an extensive criminal history. His lengthy criminal record includes two Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges in the state of Kansas that did not result in deportation or even in federal immigration officials taking him into custody.
In response to this terrible action and others like it, I sponsored the Taking Action Against Drunk Drivers Act (S. 3276) this week to require that federal immigration officials attempt to take custody of illegal immigrants charged with DUI/DWI. This bill also increases penalties for habitual drunk driving, empowering Immigration and Customs officials to deport visa holders and illegal immigrants with drunk driving convictions. Immigration policies should not endanger the public or turn a blind eye to crimes committed by illegal immigrants. This law would take steps to reduce the number of drunk drivers on American roads and require the Department of Homeland Security to actively enforce immigration laws that the Obama Administration has gone great lengths to ignore.
Project ARCH Veterans Will Not See Lapse in Care
A welcome announcement was made this Thursday by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that veterans enrolled in the Project Access Received Closer to Home (ARCH) pilot program will continue receiving health care close to home and without interruption after the program ends on Aug. 7, 2016. Veterans living in rural America face unique challenges accessing health care, and deserve access to quality, timely care in the communities they call home. The VA intends to contact Veterans enrolled in the ARCH program; however, if a Kansas veteran enrolled in ARCH should have any questions about the upcoming transition, please contact my Olathe office at (913) 393-0711. To read more, click here.
Visiting Hodgeman County Health Center
This week I traveled to Jetmore to learn about great work being done at the Hodgeman County Health Center (HCHC). HCHC is a Critical Access Hospital with 13 beds. We discussed the importance of Critical Access Hospitals, information technology requirements and regulatory burdens. Thanks to HCHC Administrator Terri Deuel, family medicine physician Dr. Robert Clark, his wife Dr. Kristie Clark – a pediatrician – and Wichita State University Student Andrew Dale for the informative tour.
In the Final Stretch of My 105-County Kansas Listening Tour
This week I made 10 stops on my Kansas Listening Tour in counties across Western Kansas:
Norton, Ulysses, Hugoton and Elkhart
I drove from Norton County to Morton County in a 24-hour stretch with stops in Norton, Ulysses, Hugoton and Elkhart on Monday and Tuesday. I heard from local residents about a number of common themes, including veterans, agriculture, national defense and terrorism taking place at home and across the globe. Special thanks to State Rep. Ken Rahjes and Valley Hope Association CEO Pat George for joining me in Norton, and State Rep. Steve Alford and Rotary Club President Matt Schonlan for joining me in Ulysses.
Johnson and Sublette
On Wednesday, I was in Johnson and Sublette. In Johnson, local residents spoke with me about the VA Choice Act, health care for our veterans and for the locals, crop insurance and the Farm Bill, and higher education. In Haskell, I met with 4-Hers at the Haskell County Fair including the Webbers – Rhesa, Clayrsa, Drake, Brecken, Grant and Ethan – who are exhibiting pigs this year.
Fowler, Coldwater and Medicine Lodge
Spending time in Fowler on Thursday gave me the chance to talk with Meade County residents as I stopped into City Hall. The locals I met shared their thoughts on protecting community banks, the U.S. Postal Service, advancing agricultural education and making Washington work. My thanks to all who joined the conversation, including Vince Koons, Jan Brock and Darrin Golliher, pictured here.
I walked down Main Street in Comanche, talked with the locals and stopped in several of the town's small businesses. Topics of discussion included health care and frustration that Secretary Clinton seems to be above the law. In Medicine Lodge, I heard from a group in Hibbard's Pharmacy about the Veterans' Choice Act, health care reimbursements for local hospitals and pharmacies, debt reduction, the Iran nuclear deal and ways we can work to fix welfare fraud. Thanks to pharmacy owners Lance and Sloane Freeman and County Commissioner Dr. Steve Garten for attending.
Another topic of concern was the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs available for producers impacted by the Anderson Creek fire earlier this year. The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), administered by USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA), offers cost-sharing assistance to help reimburse eligible producers for rebuilding fences burned in the fire. A letter was sent to producers who applied for ECP earlier this year indicating a lack of funds for the program; however, USDA has confirmed to me that the full amount of assistance requested by the local and state FSA offices has been made available by USDA. Producers must still work closely with USDA to make certain they meet the eligibility requirements for assistance. I encourage producers to stay in contact with the helpful staff at the local FSA offices regarding ECP, and please keep me and my office staff informed if issues arise. I appreciate the work of the county FSA offices and hope that financial relief for impacted producers is delivered as soon as possible.
I made my way to Rossville Friday morning to visit with area residents for the 92nd town hall meeting of my third trip to all 105 Kansas counties. I had several good conversations centered on issues like the unique challenges presented by life in a small town, the importance of the rule of law and concerns with exceptions to that rule. I also heard about the rising cost of flood insurance and the steps that need to be taken to lower the community’s risk of future flooding events. It was good to get some helpful feedback – focused locally and nationally.
Meeting Kansans in Hill City, Lenora & Rush Center
This Monday I visited the northwest Kansas communities of Hill City and Lenora before my town hall meeting in Norton. While in Hill City, I stopped by a number of area businesses and spoke with area residents – pictured here are Buck's Bar & Grill Owner Chris Schroeder, Sheriff Cole Presley and Deputy Raymond Smee. In Lenora, I spoke with Kansans at the local Decatur Cooperative Association and Nex-Tech among others. Later in the week, I spent time in Rush Center where I stopped in to Mid-State Farmer’s Coop, Golden Belt Telephone and KBK Industries.
Paying Respects to Darrell Sutor and the Sutor Family
I attended services in Palco this week to remember Darrell Sutor, a lifelong cattleman who touched the lives of so many during his 95 years. As anyone involved with ranching in western Kansas knows, the Sutor family have long been stalwarts of the livestock community and it would be difficult to overstate Darrell's dedication to cattle ranching as a way of life. To speak to the kind of character Darrell possessed, I'd like to share a quote from his obituary that does it better than I ever could: "It has been said the Cattleman's Motto is: 'If it's not yours, don't take it. If it's not true, don't say it. If it's not right, don't do it.' Darrell lived every day of his life, teaching us by example, how to work hard and be thankful for what we have, and how to love one another through everything we say and do. Not just because it's right, but because it's the only way a true cattleman should live." May he rest in peace.
Attending the Ellis and Riley County Fairs
I met with residents at the Ellis County Fair in Hays on Wednesday evening. I was glad to see so many young Kansans participating in 4-H, which continues to be one of rural America’s most important youth development organizations. This year’s theme was Heroes in the Heartland, and it was a fitting description of the families I met.
Sunday night I stopped by my third county fair of the summer in Riley County — these gatherings showcase the efforts of local 4-Hers, and are a great opportunity to celebrate our Kansas way of life and get input from constituents.
Kansans in the Office
Jessica Feldhausen of Hays
National High School Equivalency Program
Andy Dolton of Manhattan
Stacy Mendey of Lawrence
Lynne Wheeler of Fort Scott
Jena Russell of Fort Scott
North American Elk Breeders Association
Travis Low of Anderson County
Jessica Sholin of Topeka
Corrine Nilsen of Wichita
Morgan Seamen of Topeka
Shauntelle Thompson of Wichita
Jessica Carter of Wichita
National Hospice and Palliative Care
Sandy Kuhlman of Athol
Crystal Nashwick of Salina
Alicia Stover of Topeka
Myla Weakland of Topeka
Christians United for Israel
Carmen Metzger of Topeka
Linda Hurlburt of Shawnee
Tyler Walker of Kansas City
Donna McGinty of Topeka
Alisha Burnism of Lawrence
Kansas Corn Growers
Bob Timmons of Fredonia
Charles Foltz of Garnett
Steve Rome of Hugoton
Pat Ross of Lawrence
Kansas National Guard
Major Dana Graf of Wichita
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Sarah Schefter of Olathe
Randall Jennings of Overland Park
Amy Jennings of Overland Park
Jennifer Jennings of Overland Park
Jeff Crispin of Hays
Tina Crispin of Hays
Landon Crispin of Hays
Karlee Crispin of Hays
Amy Lindahl of Manhattan
Logan Lindhal of Manhattan
Randall Trimble of Burlington
Angela Trimble of Burlington
Brennan Brown of Burlington
Brian Florea of Topeka
Tricia Florea of Topeka
Mitchell Florea of Topeka
Lauren Florea of Topeka
Garrett Florea of Topeka
Tracy Gaylord of Goddard
Evonne Gaylord of Goddard
Nicholas Gaylord of Goddard
Jordan Gaylord of Goddard
Courtney Gaylord of Goddard
Deann Tiede of Topeka
Keith Teeple of Lenexa
Lisa Teeple of Lenexa
Layla Griffin of Mission
Joe Farrar of Manhattan
Nancy Farrar of Manhattan
Gregg Farrar of Leawood
Sarah Farrar of Leawood
Mitchell Farrar of Leawood
Mallory Farrar of Leawood
Maverick Farrar of Leawood
Matthew Kentzler of Atchison
MSgt. Mike Money of Topeka
Kristen Money of Topeka
Avery Money of Topeka
Hudsyn Money of Topeka
Kennedy Money of Topeka
Deanae Ollenberger of Spring Hill
Madalynn Ollenberger of Spring Hill
James Soady of Overland Park
Rosalind Soady of Overland Park
Mark Niederee of Wichita
Myra Niederee of Wichita
Jack Niederee of Wichita
Elizabeth Niederee of Wichita
Will Niederee 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.
Very truly yours,
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