Kansas Common Sense
Jul 06 2021
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Happy Independence Day!
Independence Day offers us a time to come together as Americans and celebrate our nation’s founding and freedoms. I hope you were able to safely gather and celebrate with family, friends and loved ones and that you had the opportunity to take a moment to reflect and thank our veterans and servicemembers who have defended our principles of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It is because of these ideals and sacrifice that America is still the land of opportunity and the greatest nation on Earth.
I joined Fox News on Sunday to discuss how on the day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we must remember the countless sacrifices that have been made to protect our freedoms, democracy and way of life. Watch my full interview by clicking here or below.
Listening Tour Stops Across Kansas
On Saturday afternoon, I hosted a town hall meeting in Johnson County at the American Legion Post #153 in Olathe. Over 300 Kansans attended and everyone was very engaged on a number of issues important to our country. Topics included the need to better protect our borders, the January 6 commission, federal election laws, supporting our law enforcement and my work to defend the Constitution.
We also discussed my leadership role on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and my efforts to help veterans receive better access to care and those who are struggling with mental health. If there is one thing we could all agree on, it was our appreciation for our nation’s veterans and those who serve our communities. In addition, we discussed infrastructure, taxes, the rising national debt, gas prices, China’s negative influence on the world, the FASD Respect Act and COVID-19 vaccines.
It was a full house, and I appreciate everyone who joined me during their Independence Day weekend to share their thoughts and ideas. A special thank you to all of the state and community leaders who attended, including Sheriff Cal Hayden and Undersheriff Daryl Reese, Police Chief Mike Butaud, Council members Kevin Gilmore, Wes McCoy and Karin Brownlee, County Commissioners Mike Ashcraft and Charlotte O’Hara, Kansas Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman, Kansas Senators Beverly Gossage, Kellie Warren and Mike Thompson, Kansas Representatives Chris Croft and Megan Lynn, Will Ruder, JCCC Board of Trustees Vice Chair Paul Snider, Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm, Mike Kuckelman, Fabian Shepard, Curtis Mullen, Mike Brown, Ken Selzer, as well as former Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Governor Jeff Colyer.
I’m especially grateful to The American Legion Post #153 for hosting me during the holiday weekend.
It was great to be back in Rooks County for a town hall at the local VFW in Stockton on Thursday. I appreciated talking with members of the community about a range of issues including assistance for veterans, mental health resources, strengthening our border, bolstering law enforcement across the country, protecting the filibuster and my legislation to help small meat packers. As a Kansas Senator, it’s important to me that rural America has a voice in Washington, D.C.
I appreciate the folks who came to my town hall to help me understand what issues are important to their community and how I can help tackle those issues for them in Washington, D.C.
While in western Kansas on Thursday, I hosted another town hall in Phillips County. I appreciate the Sand Trap Bar and Grill in Phillipsburg for allowing me to host a forum where I was able to hear from folks in the community about their thoughts and ideas. We discussed Kansas’ election laws, protecting rights for gun owners, assistance for veterans, support for meat packers and expanding rural health care.
The COVID-19 pandemic has especially put a strain on rural health care, and my conversations emphasized the need for more flexibility in rural communities to allow nurse practitioners and other health care providers to step in and fill various roles when doctors and physicians aren’t accessible.
I also enjoyed catching up with folks in Smith County on Thursday during my town hall at the local VFW post. Members of the community shared with me their concerns and questions on strengthening our border to prevent human trafficking and illegal drugs from entering the U.S. We also discussed our nation’s care for veterans and complications people were facing with the IRS. Thanks to everyone who attended.
Hosting Blue Origin in the Air Capital of the World
Welcoming CEO Dr. Bob Smith to Kansas
On Tuesday evening, I welcomed Dr. Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, and his team to Wichita where over 120 community and industry leaders attended to learn more about the company. Nowhere else in the world can you find this cluster of industry workforce and educational institutions working together to develop the aviation and aerospace industry for generations to come. I thank the Blue Origin team for traveling to Wichita, as well as the Greater Wichita Partnership and Wichita State University for hosting us.
Showcasing Local Aerospace Manufacturers
On Wednesday, I showcased Wichita as the Air Capital of the World to Blue Origin. We met with leading aviation and aerospace manufacturers and learned more about their operations, from building individual aircraft components to assembling complex machined components. We spoke with businesses who develop cutting-edge engineering and innovation that continues to further our flight and space capabilities. With the highest concentration of aviation manufacturing workers in the U.S., Wichita is the future of flight, and we have the talent to prove it.
During our visits, I was able to learn more about several impressive supply chain capabilities in Wichita, including state-of-the-art surface finishing and plating as well as high-tech desk top assemblies. I also had the opportunity to speak with folks who dedicate their lives to this specialized and highly-talented ecosystem, as well as ask questions about how Blue Origin can further contribute to the recovery and diversification of our state's aerospace industry. Thank you to Globe Engineering CEO Jeff Teague, Harlow Aerostructures President Jim Barnes, Metal Finishing Company President Rob Babst and all the employees who met with us for demonstrating to Blue Origin how Wichitans work hard every day to earn the title Air Capital of the World.
Working to Get Kansans A Good Deal on Infrastructure
I joined the bipartisan infrastructure group to try and get Kansans a good deal on infrastructure – one that doesn’t raise taxes, doesn’t change the Trump tax cuts and doesn’t recklessly spend trillions of dollars. We must focus on the real infrastructure needs for our country and not a Democrat wish list.
I joined Larry Kudlow on Fox Business this week to discuss the current infrastructure negotiations. Watch by clicking here or below.
Requesting An Update from CDC & TSA on Public Transportation Mask Requirements
I recently joined my colleagues in asking the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for updated information on when and how the agencies will update their travel guidance for vaccinated people. We requested information on the process for updating the mask requirement for fully vaccinated individuals and what the science is showing about the transmission of COVID-19 for fully vaccinated individuals while traveling.
I support measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and end the pandemic as soon as possible, but also support steps to safely lift restrictions when appropriate. I look forward to hearing these responses by the CDC and TSA as travel continues to resume.
Federal NIL Standard Still Needed Following NCAA Rule Announcement
On Wednesday, the NCAA adopted a temporary policy to suspend its rules related to student athlete compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL). This decision by the NCAA was made ahead of the July 1 deadline on which numerous state policies dictating student athlete compensation went into effect.
This decision by the NCAA to adopt interim rules to allow college athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness is a step in the right direction as states begin enacting their own student athlete compensation laws. However, this is not a long-term solution and further demonstrates that Congress must act to establish a consistent, federal standard on NIL. Creating a level playing field regarding student athlete protection and compensation through federal legislation will empower amateur athletes while maintaining the integrity of college sports that we all know and love.
I’ve introduced the Amateur Athlete Protection and Compensation Act to create a national standard of guidelines to make certain student athletes can benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness without hurting their eligibility to compete as a student athlete. At the same time, it protects the existing model of college athletics that has afforded so many young athletes an opportunity to pursue an education.
Working to Improve the Veterans Crisis Line
While Congress has made substantial improvements to the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) in recent years, deficiencies remain that must be addressed to ensure every veteran receives the care they deserve when in crisis. As leaders on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I introduced a bipartisan bill with Senator Tester aimed at improving the VCL staff training, management and response to veteran callers at high risk of suicide. This legislation directs the VA to implement key recommendations made by the Office of Inspector General including improved VCL staff training, an extended safety planning pilot program and a smooth transition to 9-8-8 as the national three-digit suicide crisis hotline for veterans.
Eisenhower Museum Announces Extended Hours
I was pleased to hear that the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Museum added two additional hours to their operating day beginning Saturday, July 3rd. The museum’s expanded weekly schedule will allow for visitors to stay from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
I have been lobbying for months with the National Archives, which oversees presidential libraries, to re-evaluate the museum’s operating restrictions to better reflect the status of local conditions and updated federal guidelines. I will continue to call on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and press for a rapid and safe reopening of the remaining facilities, including the research library and boyhood home. The Eisenhower Library, Museum & Boyhood Home is a cornerstone of the Abilene community and a center of international learning that gives unique insight to students, researchers and tourists alike.
Remembering Auschwitz at Union Station
While in Kansas City earlier this week, I had the opportunity to visit Union Station’s recently opened exhibition, “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.” This is the most comprehensive Holocaust exhibit about Auschwitz ever displayed in North America, and the only exhibit in the U.S., with 700 original artifacts and 400 photographs and unpublished memoirs which have now been made available to the public through January of 2022.
When I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, I wrote, “To the victims and the survivors – may all humans every day have the courage to never look away.” This exhibit allows us to look and to remember the 1.1 million lives lost inside Auschwitz alone, providing anyone who visits a stark reminder of the atrocities committed during one of the darkest eras in human history. Thank you to Union Station COO Jerry Barber for his time. I encourage Kansans to visit and witness this powerful exhibit as people are traveling from across the country to visit “Not long ago. Not far away.”
Attending the Ribbon Cutting for the Lunette Blair-Blockhouse in Fort Scott
On Saturday, I was pleased to participate in the ribbon cutting for the Lunette Blair-Blockhouse at the Fort Scott National Historic Site in southeast Kansas. Over the last decade, I have worked to introduce and pass the Fort Scott National Historic Site Boundary Modification Act, to improve the Fort Scott National Historic Site by allowing for the care of the Lunette Blair Civil War Block House to be transferred to the National Park Service. This weekend I gathered with the community to celebrate passage of the legislation and officially welcome the Blockhouse onto the National Park Service grounds. Thank you to Park Superintendent Betty Boyko and Friends of the Fort Chair Reed Hartford for the invitation to speak at the ribbon cutting and for their support throughout the process. Congressman Jake LaTurner joined me at the event along with Mayor Josh Jones and City Commissioner Kevin Allen. Read more here from KSN about the event.
Announcing Grants to 11 Rural Kansas Communities
On Friday, I was pleased to announce $785,200 in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants for 11 rural Kansas communities, which are funded through a USDA Rural Development program to support community facilities that provide essential services. These grants provide important resources to meet local needs, from upgrading equipment to supporting necessary renovations, which help improve the quality of life for Kansans living in small towns.
- City of Cherryvale: $37,400
- City of Girard: $13,400
- City of Goessel: $34,000
- City of LaHarpe: $46,400
- City of Osawatomie: $46,000
- City of Redfield: $38,700
- City of Winfield: $125,400
- Historic Preservation Corporation (Council Grove): $85,800
- Hodgeman County: $14,600
- USD #220 Ashland: $100,500
- USD #380 Vermillion: $243,000
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over USDA, I will continue to advocate for programs that are important to preserve our rural communities.
Rain in Kansas
While it has rained all over Kansas this past week, I know farmers need a break to get the wheat cut. However, it is good to see my hometown’s Big Creek is full bank-to-bank and over the spillway. I grew up always thankful for rain no matter when or how much.
Programs for Aviation, Meatpacking Accepting Applications
Aviation Manufacturers Protection Program
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is accepting applications for the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program (AMJP), a program designed to protect our aviation manufacturing workforce. The program was created by legislation I introduced with Congressman Ron Estes and is structured as a temporary, emergency program as aviation manufacturers deal with the unprecedented crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program works to ensure the experienced and invaluable aviation manufacturing workforce will be safeguarded and available to contribute as the industry recovers.
AMJP applications must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. I urge any eligible business interested in applying to visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s webpage for more information here. Additionally, anyone is free to submit questions, particularly about the application process, to AMJP@dot.gov. An overview of the AMJP application process is available here.
Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications to help small and midsized meat processors increase market opportunities through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program. This program was created by my legislation, the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processers for Upgrading Plants (RAMP-UP) Act, and provides $55.2 million in grants for small and midsized meatpacking plants to make the necessary investments to become federally inspected. Currently, meatpacking facilities can only make sales across state lines if they are federally inspected.
MPIRG applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, August 2, 2021. For more information about grant eligibility and program requirements, visit the MPIRG webpage, or contact email@example.com.
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.
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