Kansas Common Sense


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

Joining Gen. Myers at K-State to Discuss Ag Research
I joined Kansas State University researchers and Interim President General Richard Myers this week to learn about the university’s efforts to protect our nation’s food supply and bolster our national defense. Gen. Myers and I visited with Dr. Barbara Valent and her team who are leading the response to “wheat blast,” a pathogen which is a threat to worldwide wheat production and could have a catastrophic effect on our state and national economy. The multi-university project led by K-State is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), our nation’s premier competitive grant program for agricultural research. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee – the subcommittee that oversees USDA funding – I have prioritized support for USDA-AFRI and other agricultural research programs. My visit also reaffirmed the importance of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) and what an asset it will be to have more research on the animal side of agriculture done right here in Kansas – research that will benefit every American. Click here to read more about our visit in the K-State Collegian.

Bonus Repayment Request is Unacceptable
Last week we learned of the Department of Defense’s unacceptable plan to reclaim bonuses paid out to California National Guard members years after they volunteered to serve and protect our country overseas. When a bureaucratic federal agency is at fault, their wrongdoing should not burden soldiers who executed their missions in good faith. The department has a duty to uphold their financial obligation to soldiers, particularly those who take on more dangerous missions when promised a financial bonus as in this situation.

While I am glad the Secretary of Defense responded to public outcry and congressional pressure to do the right thing by suspending attempts to collect these years-old bonuses, I will continue to push for a permanent fix to make certain this does not happen again. In addition, I joined several of my Senate colleagues to call upon the Secretary of Defense to return the bonuses already recouped by soldiers who had undertaken the burden to repay the Department. Servicemembers who have sacrificed for our country deserve praise from a grateful nation, not a collection notice from the federal government they serve and protect.

G&W Foods Groundbreaking in Iola
I joined more than 100 Iola-area residents to break ground on their new G&W Foods grocery store on Wednesday. In many parts of Kansas, having a grocery store has a huge impact on the economic development of our towns. In this case, the G&W is a key part of a larger local effort to jumpstart economic development in the community, including expanded housing options. It took hard work and a cooperative effort of both private and government entities to make this a reality, and the results help ensure a bright future for Allen County.

Meeting with Sprint Employees in Overland Park
I visited the Sprint World Headquarters Campus in Overland Park on Friday to discuss issues important to Sprint and those who work there. I met with Sprint employees and had a conversation focused on opportunities to improve the federal regulatory framework on broadband, voice and data services. Kansans and our businesses need access to high-quality telecommunications services to compete in today’s global and digital economy, and Sprint plays a critical role in making sure that these resources are accessible and affordable for all Kansans.

Visiting Logan County Hospital and Conference Call with Kansas NFIB Members
On Monday morning, I visited Logan County Hospital (LCH). We discussed concerns I’ve heard during my visits to hospitals across the state – health insurance premiums are skyrocketing and many Kansans are worried about how they will afford the increased premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Critical Access Hospitals like LCH represent a major part of how health care is provided to Kansans’ across our state. Thanks to Hospital CEO Mel Snow for hosting me.

I also reached out to NFIB members in Kansas this week who expressed similar frustrations about the Affordable Care Act. Until we can fully repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, I remain committed to making improvements to the law to address the cost and quality of health care including incentives for states to care for their unique populations, eliminating burdensome regulations, promoting wellness and disease prevention, and giving small businesses the power to offer health insurance at lower prices.

I met with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Kansas this summer about the impact the president’s health care law is having on health insurance costs in our state. I was told BCBS will have to significantly raise their premium rates to help offset the massive losses they and other insurance providers have experienced since its implementation. Health insurance companies are being forced out of the market, leaving people with fewer choices about how to provide coverage for their families. Unfortunately, this situation is repeating itself across the country as more insurers leave state exchanges and premium increases continue to rise as much as 70 percent each year.

Olathe Advanced Technical Center
I stopped by the Olathe Advanced Technical Center (OATC) on Friday to visit with automotive technology, collision technology and welding students. The current facility opened in 2013 and serves high school juniors and seniors in the Olathe, Blue Valley and Spring Hill communities. These young Kansans receive high-skilled training and are prepared to immediately join the workforce and an industry that needs their skills following graduation. Technical education is a critical part of making certain our students can reach their full potential in their careers and lives, and I appreciate seeing OATC making that positive difference. Thanks to OATC Career & Technical Education Administrator Amy Stolz for arranging the tour, Interim Superintendent Dr. Pat All for joining, and student Austin Kilbur for the die-cut nameplate.

NWKTC Precision Ag Event 
I was in Goodland at Northwest Kansas Technical College (NWKTC) for a luncheon this week to highlight precision agriculture and technology workforce development across our state. Precision agriculture allows farmers to be more efficient producers – to grow more food on less land using fewer inputs. Advances in technology in the future will continue to drive our nation’s food and fiber production, make us better stewards of the land, and increase farmer profitability. The college’s precision agriculture program, launched this fall, will equip farm kids in the area with the skills needed to incorporate new technology into farming operations. It also aims to attract other science- and tech-minded students to pursue careers in agriculture. I’m proud of the efforts at NWKTC to prepare Kansas students for farming and entrance into the agriculture workforce.

St. Francis Community High School
I stopped in Cheyenne County on Monday to hear from students and teachers at St. Francis Community Junior/Senior High School. During my tour of the school, I met Student Council President Quinton Cravens, Vice President Taylor Rogers and Secretary-Treasurer Brock Waters who told me about the excitement surrounding the football team’s undefeated season. Thanks to Principal David Morrow and all the students for their hospitality. Sorry I left my green tie at home.

Stopping at Local Businesses in Collyer
I was in Trego County on Monday morning to visit Collyer, where I stopped at the Frontier Ag Co-op, one of Frontier Ag’s many locations across northwest Kansas offering grain, feed, agronomy, petroleum and transportation products and services. I then headed to the post office on Ainsile Avenue and concluded my visit at Walt’s Repair & Machine shop. At Walt’s, which has been a staple of the community since 1962 and provides vehicle, engine and machine repair and maintenance for customers in Collyer and the surrounding areas, I caught up with Mayor Leroy Schmidtberger. Great to see friendly faces in Collyer.

Distinguished Eagle Scout Award Honoring Kevin Mitchelson
I traveled to Pittsburg on Saturday evening to recognize Kevin Mitchelson as a Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (DESA) recipient. The DESA award is the highest honor given by the National Eagle Scout Association and “acknowledge[s] Eagle Scouts who have received extraordinary national-level recognition, fame, or eminence within their field, and have a strong record of voluntary service to their community.” 

An attorney in Pittsburg, Kevin has been engaged in scouting at the local and national levels throughout his lifetime. His contributions include helping to found Boy Scout Troop 81 and serving on the executive board of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. Boy Scouts teaches great principles and the value of community service. Kevin is well-deserving of this award and I commend him for his dedication.

Rooting on Washburn University
Robba (former Washburn Board of Regents member) and I were in Topeka Saturday for Washburn University's homecoming. Congrats on the win over Missouri Western, and thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Farley for the warm Ichabod welcome.

Kansans in the Office
Military Officers Association of America
Sheli Sweeney of Topeka
Mark Sweeney of Topeka
Ray Rhodd of Topeka
John Becker of Westwood Hills

Cal-Maine Foods
Bob Scott of Chase

Capitol Tour
Nathan Steele of Lyons
Carey Steele of Lyons
William Steele of Lyons
Samuel Steele of Lyons
Jonathan Steele of Lyons
Michael Fyler of McPherson
Melinda Fyler of McPherson
Alice Miller of McPherson
Jean Railsback of McPherson
Sheryl Railsback of McPherson
Steven Salter of McPherson
Terry Salter of McPherson
Thomas Harms of McPherson
Darlene Harms of McPherson
Gary Latimer of McPherson
Lowell Schmidt of McPherson
Jean Schmidt of McPherson
Bernard Musselwhite of McPherson
Glennice Musselwhite of McPherson
William Toews of McPherson
Dayle Toews of McPherson
Donna Fitch of McPherson
Shannon Michaud of Wichita
Richard Osborn of Rose Hill
Greg Drumright of Wichita
Cameron Drumright of Wichita
Carter Drumright of Wichita
Maddox Drumright of Wichita
Hudson Drumright of Wichita
Stephen Ermgodts of Overland Park
Elizabeth Ermgodts of Overland Park
Alexander Ermgodts of Overland Park
Ella Ermgodts of Overland Park
Sophie Ermgodts of Overland Park

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,

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