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.

Responding to Devastating Fires Across Kansas
I spoke on the Senate floor this week to shed light on the wildfires impacting families in Kansas. This week, wildfires have burned nearly 700,000 acres and hundreds, if not thousands, of livestock have been killed. Kansans have been forced to evacuate and far too many have lost their homes, fences and barns along with their cattle. While I am saddened by the losses from these wildfires, I’m thankful for the willingness of so many living nearby – and across the country – who have volunteered to help us rebuild fences, bring in much-needed hay, and offer any assistance needed. I am working with officials to make sure that the eligible federal resources are in place to assist these producers and landowners, including through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and other services.

I traveled to southwest Kansas on Sunday to attend a worship service at United Methodist Church and visit the Bouziden and Giles ranches near Ashland where it’s estimated 85 percent of their acreage has burned. I was joined by Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer and many other state and local officials to hear from Kansas Division of Emergency Management experts and other people in the affected communities. I am proud to serve Kansans in the United States Senate for many reasons, but especially because of the way we take care of each other, as a family, as many have done for those dealing with loss and destruction. For instance, I saw numerous donated trucks of hay headed toward Ashland that came from different places, but were donated to aid those in need. My continued prayers are with these families and the many others whose livelihoods have been threatened. Please watch the video below to see what I saw during my visit.

The House Takes Up Healthcare Reform
Across the Capitol, the House is currently considering the American Health Care Act, which would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it simultaneously with a new framework for our healthcare system. Congress must make certain that Americans have better options and more affordable care. Obamacare took the freedom to make healthcare decisions away from Kansans and Americans and gave too much authority to the federal government. I’m eager to review the legislation passed by the House and will be working to ensure it provides real, substantive improvements to our healthcare system. 

Extending and Improving the Veterans Choice Program
I joined my Senate colleagues this week to introduce the Veterans Choice Improvement Act (S. 544) to improve the Choice Program and extend access to timely care for more veterans in their local communities. This legislation would remove the August 7, 2017, sunset date for the Choice Program and allow the remainder of the funds authorized for the program to be used. It also cuts unnecessary red tape between the VA and community providers who are nobly serving our veterans. Many Kansas veterans and veterans across the country rely on the Choice Program to receive timely, quality care, and this important legislation will offer peace of mind that they can continue to seek care in their community. I hope to see this legislation pass the Senate soon. To read more, click here.

Calling for the Restoration of Trade with Cuba
I recently reintroduced legislation (S. 472) to lift the trade embargo against Cuba and grant the private sector the freedom to export U.S. goods and services to Cuba while protecting U.S. taxpayers from any risk or exposure associated with such trade. Cuba is only 90 miles from our border, making it a natural market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers. At a time when we need more markets, lifting the embargo and opening up Cuba for American agricultural commodities would help increase exports, create new jobs, and boost the U.S. economy. Keep in mind that when we don’t sell agricultural commodities to Cuba, somebody else does.

While our unilateral trade barriers block our own farmers and ranchers from filling the market, willing sellers such as Canada and France, China and others benefit at the American farmers’ expense. This legislation would amend our own country’s laws so that American farmers can operate on a level playing field with the rest of the world. After more than 50 year, it is time for American farmers and ranchers to truly have market access to Cuba’s 11 million consumers. To read the High Plains Journal's piece on this bill, click here.

Importance of Cancer Research at KU Med
During Wednesday morning’s Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee hearing that focused on medical research, I expressed how important I believe it is that Congress passes all 12 appropriations bills this year to make certain our priorities become law. I also asked one of the panelists what the University of Kansas Medical Center Cancer Center’s application to receive comprehensive status from the National Cancer Institute could mean for the care received by Kansas patients based on his previous experiences of working at an NCI facility. 

The National Cancer Institute is a component of NIH, and it is our nation’s principal agency for cancer research and training. Obtaining NCI comprehensive designation would enhance the KU Cancer Center’s already impressive ability to discover, develop, and deliver innovative treatments to patients in our state, improving their quality of life.

Medical research has changed the lives of millions of Americans and has the potential to impact millions more because the possibilities are endless. But in order to plan for the future, scientists and researchers need certainty. Our consistent, sustained support of medical research is essential to saving and improving lives, growing our economy, and maintaining America’s role as a global leader in medical innovation. This commitment will benefit our children and our country for generations to come. Most important, it provides hope to the millions of Americans who suffer from diseases that lack treatments and cures.

Questioning Interior Secretary Zinke on Tribal Issues
As a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I had the opportunity to question Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about priorities for Indian tribes in Kansas and across the country. Secretary Zinke committed to working with me to implement the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, legislation I introduced, should it be passed by Congress and signed into law. This bill would promote the sovereignty of tribes by enabling them to make their own labor decisions and therefore provide economic stability. Also, I invited Secretary Zinke to visit Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence to discuss the need for improving facilities there and enhancing opportunities for students. Haskell is one of two four-year universities operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, and it serves tribes across the country. The school’s success is integral to the long term success of Indian country. The list of issues to address for Indian Country is long, and I will continue working to find solutions.

Underscoring the Value of NATO
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations held a hearing Tuesday on the Russian threat to our allies and partners in Eastern Europe. Russia’s military has illegally entered Georgia and Ukraine to support separatists, and it has amassed troops on the borders of NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Russia is also funding anti-Western propaganda in these countries. The committee heard testimony from the ambassadors of Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, as well as the Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine, to hear their perspectives on the urgency of defending against Russian behavior. I asked about the importance of maintaining U.S. sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, and all on the panel stated European unity relies on continued American leadership. They also affirmed to me the importance of American energy supplies shipped to Europe to ease their dependence on Russian natural gas. The hearing underscored the value of the NATO alliance and that American assistance to these countries remains a crucial factor in maintaining peace in Europe. 

Visiting Fort Belvoir
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, I had the opportunity to visit Army Cyber Command on Fort Belvoir on Friday. Their critical operations and cyber missions are serving soldiers overseas, as well as Army systems and programs that protect our nation from adversaries seeking to disrupt our way of life. There is a growing need in our U.S. Armed Forces for “cyber warriors,” and I appreciated learning more about the critical missions carried out by these specialized soldiers, as well as the challenges facing the services for training, recruiting and retaining those in these positions. I found the visit at ARCYBER incredibly valuable and enjoyed the insight in to all the hard work of the young, motivated soldiers I met including two Kansans. I even got to visit with Fort Leavenworth CG Michael Lundy while I was there. A special thanks to Commander of Army Cyber Command Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone for hosting me.

Discussing Energy Solutions at Tradewind Energy in Lenexa
On my way to Washington early Monday morning, I visited Tradewind Energy, a Lenexa-based company specializing in wind and solar energy development. They are one of the nation's largest wind and solar developers with projects throughout the country. I appreciated learning more about their presence in Kansas. We discussed federal energy policy and how to improve veterans’ opportunities to find meaningful employment. While no single form of energy can provide the solution to our country’s energy needs, developing renewable sources like wind and solar helps to allow an ample energy supply that is affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible. Thanks to Rob Freeman and Geoff Coventry for hosting my visit.

Congratulating Students from Shawnee & Holton
I met with Jack Campbell of Shawnee and Tel Wittmer of Holton this week while they were in Washington as the Kansas delegates to the 55th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Jack and Tel are accomplished students at Mill Valley High School and Holton High School, respectively. During their time in Washington, they attended meetings and briefings with members of Congress, cabinet members and more. They even had the opportunity to hear from a justice of the Supreme Court and the President of the United States. Their selection represents a real honor. It’s students like them across our state who have an interest in making a difference in the lives of others who continue to give me confidence that good things are going to happen in this country, and especially in Kansas.

Kansans in the Office

Kansas State Alliance of YMCAs
Jennifer Bruning of Kansas City
Rebecca Sommers of Olathe
Daphne Bascom of Kansas City 

Steve Irsik of Ingalls
Connie Kays of Weir 

Kansas Humanities Council
Julie Mulvihill of Perry
Tracy Quillin of Lawrence
Lisa Stubbs of Topeka
Will Ramsey of Topeka 

Nathanial Faflick of Wichita
Christine Rock of Olathe
Nick Bouzianis of Topeka
Alexis Gatson of Kansas City 

National Association of Postal Supervisors
Kit Rogers of Wichita
Kelly McCartney of Lawrence
Larry Ewing of Tecumseh
Will McIntyre of Gardner
Chas Rogers of Wichita

Anti-Hunger Policy Conference
Donna Long of Clay Center
Erin Petersville of Dighton
Beau Heyen of Kansas City
Mandy Caruso-Yahne of Kansas City
Renee Bryan of Olathe
LaTonia Wright of Lawrence
Christina Ostmeyer of Lawrence
Rebekah Gaston of Topeka
Alyssa Carodine of Kansas City 

Kansas Psychological Association
Theresa Coddington of Kansas City 

Arthritis Foundation
Marsha Clark of Newton
Corey Penner of Newton
Staci Penner of Newton 

Kansas State Council for Fire Fighters
Matt Jackson of Junction City
Bob Wing of Kansas City 

Defense-wide Military Construction Officials
Ross Draney of Wichita
Beth Lemmons of Wichita 

Thrivent Financial and Modern Woodman of America
Alex Gehring of Atchison
Joyce Duitsman of Atchison
Bill Turner of Wichita 

League of American Bicyclists
Mary Orem of Lawrence
Kirsten Yunuba Stephens of Lawrence 

Apartment Association of Greater Wichita
Michael Pharis of Wichita
Sheila Tasker of Wichita 

Andrew Etkind of Olathe
Angela Watson of Rantoul 

CAEAR Coalition
Sean Ryan of Kansas City
Frank Thompson of Kansas City 

National Apartment Association
Dennis Watts of Kansas City
Michael Pharis of Wichita
Debbie Haukenberry of Mission
Kelly Clark of Kansas City 

Kansas Wheat Growers
Will Zorilla of Manhattan
David Schemm of Sharon Springs 

University of Kansas
Elizabeth MacGonagle of Lawrence 

American International Automobile Dealers Association
Rick O’Neill of Fairway 

Midwest Innocence Project
Tricia Bushnell of Kansas City 

American Medical Association
Audrey Wadood of Overland Park
Anna Pavelonis of Kansas City
Jenn Kownack of Kansas City
JJ Stolz of Colwich
Simi Singh of Lawrence 

International Rescue Committee
Michelle Green of Wichita 

Social Work Advocacy Day
Chrycka Harper of Wichita 

Mid-America Manufacturing Technology Center
Mark Chalfant of Overland Park
Ed Honesty of Kansas City 

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
Peggy Johnson of Wichita
Danny Welch of Kansas City
Kristen Bruce of Lindsborg
Carli Good of Leawood
Maggie Swenson of Leawood 

Spirit AeroSystems
Jarrod Bartlett of Wichita
Tony Kondrotis of Wichita 

Human Rights Campaign
Abbey Logan of Overland Park
Jeff Harris of Westwood 

MOARC and Kansas City Industrial Council
Tom Poer of Overland Park
Jeff Fisher of Kansas City 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas
Sunee Mickle of Topeka 

Kansas PTA
Wayne Bauman of Overland Park
Denise Sultz of Olathe 

National Hemophilia Foundation
Brooke Connell of Lenexa
Mark Cox of Leawood 

National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
The Honorable Thomas Foster of Olathe 

Capitol Tour
James Kaufman of Overland Park
Jane Kaufman of Overland Park
Bob Anderson of Mission
Andrea Leavitt of Overland Park
David Leavitt of Overland Park
Luke Leavitt of Overland Park
Rasmmus Halvorsen of Overland Park
Adam Smith of Overland Park
Nick Smith of Overland Park
Noah Smith of Overland Park
Timarie Trarbach of Salina
Amanda Gnadt of Alma
Diane Barrett of Alma
Paul Barrett of Alma
Janet Gould of Leavenworth
Kristen Gould of Leavenworth
Gary Gould of Leavenworth
Jake Gould of Leavenworth
Cindy Green of Atchison

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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