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.

On Thursday, I visited Northeast Kansas to meet with local leaders and city officials regarding the recent flooding of the Missouri River that has devastated the Midwest. Thank you to Atchison Mayor Shawn Rizza, Atchison City Manager Becky Berger, Atchison City Commissioners Allen Reavis and David W. Butler for their productive conversation. Also, thank you to State Representative John Eplee for joining me during my visit.


Following my visit to Atchison, I joined Kansas Farm Service Agency (FSA) Director David Schemm, National Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Karen Woodrich and Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam to see firsthand the damage caused by recent flooding and its impact on our farmers and ranchers. Throughout the afternoon, we toured areas of Doniphan County near White Cloud where much of the ground is underwater. We also met with area producers to discuss assistance available through USDA emergency programs that would help producers remove river debris and recover their ground. Local officials continue to be concerned for public roads and highways that have been damaged by flood waters, along with the increased volume of diverted traffic on insufficient highways. On Thursday, I also stopped by the Leavenworth City Hall and met with Leavenworth City Manager Paul Kramer to hear an update from Leavenworth and to discuss their flood recovery efforts.


Throughout these visits, I continue to witness the resilience and strength of Kansans as they come together in times of disaster. Faced with an increasing water level and the possibility of a levee break, emergency responders and volunteers filled hundreds of sandbags to help protect communities as the river crested last week. Thank you to these volunteers for their work to protect the community.

I remain concerned about the early arrival of this flooding and what our state ought to be expecting as snow from northern states begins to melt and spring rain increases. It is important that the management of the Missouri River by US Army Corps of Engineers is done in the interest of protecting our communities along the riverfront with sensible solutions. I will also work with my colleagues to find ways to assist those impacted in Kansas and the Midwest. 


On Tuesday, I convened a hearing in my Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection to hear small business perspectives on our work to write federal data privacy legislation. During this hearing, I was pleased to have the President of the Kansas City Tech Council, Ryan Weber as a witness. Ryan provided valuable testimony on behalf of small businesses in the Kansas City-area, and he reiterated their need for a federal data privacy law to protect consumers and provide certainty for businesses.

The need for a federal law to govern what companies can and cannot do with our personal data has become abundantly clear. However, when crafting this legislation we must consider the perspectives of our small business community and how this new law will impact their ability to compete and innovate. As Chairman of this Subcommittee and a member of the bipartisan working group drafting privacy legislation, I will continue to work to find a solution that will both protect consumers from undue harm, as well as create an environment that allows business of all sizes to thrive and innovate. Click here to watch my opening statement to this hearing.


On Wednesday, prior to our Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on the state of aviation safety, I joined Bloomberg TV to discuss the role of federal oversight in aviation. During my interview, I also discussed the ongoing trade talks with China and my recent discussion with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. To watch this interview, click here.


On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues in questioning leaders from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) during the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation and Space.

The hearing was scheduled after recent tragic accidents involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and the FAA’s subsequent decision to ground the plane. The hearing gave me the opportunity to hear from federal aviation leaders regarding their investigation into the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and how the aircraft certification process relates to suppliers and their ability to design, manufacture and supply authorized parts. I will continue to make certain both the federal government and the aviation sector work together to further airline safety. To watch my questioning, click here.


On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed our measure to award an honorary promotion of Colonel to Senator Bob Dole. With this passage, the legislation now heads to the president’s desk for signature. Today and every day, we are thankful for the service and sacrifice of this American hero.

Recently, KWCH (CBS) in Wichita was in Washington, D.C. to film a special segment on the life and work of Senator Dole. I was honored to participate in this special series, and encourage Kansans to watch and read more by clicking here.

On Tuesday, I voted against the ‘Green New Deal,’ sweeping environmental legislation that would upend nearly every sector of the Kansas and American economy. The Green New Deal is an irresponsible proposal that fails to recognize the significant advancements and efforts being made by Kansas farmers and ranchers to protect our soil, air and water. How we do things matters, and while we must continue working to conserve our environment, we ought to do so in a commonsense manner. Besides costing trillions of dollars, proposals contained in the Green New Deal would raise energy prices for Kansas families, harm small businesses and manufacturers and cost our state jobs.

This ‘Deal’ is a divisive step backward that takes away from serious policy discussions about efforts to address our changing climate, and is yet another reminder that many coastal elites choose to overlook the significant contributions rural America makes to the issues facing our nation. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I remain committed to working in a bipartisan fashion to support NASA, NOAA and the research they conduct in climate science to encourage continued innovation.

On Tuesday, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie testified in front of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee regarding the VA’s FY 2020 Budget Request. I used the opportunity to ask Secretary Wilkie what message he would like relayed to Emporia-area veterans who will be impacted by the closure of the Emporia VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic, and he assured me that under the VA’s new community care program required by the VA MISSION Act, Emporia veterans would not lose their access to healthcare. I appreciate Secretary Wilkie’s message, and will work to make certain that all veterans impacted by this closure will continue to have access to the timely, quality healthcare they have earned. Click here to watch our discussion.


This week, the Western Kansas Delegation visited Washington, D.C., and I had the opportunity to meet with leaders from Dodge City, Garden City, Great Bend, and Liberal. While each city shared with me specific issues of local interest, consistent themes from the meetings were immigration reform and rural transportation.

Our nation’s immigration system is broken, and too often we let politics get in the way of Congress making meaningful progress. I believe Congress should deal with the issues that many Republicans and Democrats can agree on, such as providing certainty to DACA recipients and strengthening high-skilled and agriculture-based immigration visas – all of which are important to western Kansas. I am a sponsor of several bills in the U.S. Senate to accomplish each of these objectives. For western Kansas, additional resources for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is also a significant area of need and I will make every effort to foster dialogue between USCIS and our local communities toward mutually beneficial outcomes.

Travelers in western Kansas understand the value of Essential Air Service (EAS) and Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route, two topics that came up frequently in last week’s meetings. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have been a strong supporter for full and dedicated EAS funding to preserve air service invaluable to local economies. I was encouraged to hear that daily enplanements are increasing and regional air carrier reliability has improved in recent months. Regarding the Southwest Chief, I will continue my efforts to be a leader in Congress in preserving the route and ensuring local Kansas communities and businesses are connected by passenger rail to the rest of the country.

Thanks to the Western Kansas Delegation and each of the local leaders for making the trip to Washington, D.C. and visiting with me. I look forward to seeing each of you again soon back home.

I had the opportunity of joining Kansas TRIO students this week at their annual breakfast in Washington D.C. I enjoyed hearing personal stories from students on how TRIO enabled them to advance their education, and was inspired and impressed by their level of commitment to education and bettering themselves for successful futures.

As a first-generation college student, and a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that provides resources to TRIO, I will continue to be a strong supporter of federal TRIO programs that support the higher education endeavors of first-generation college, low-income individuals, and individuals with disabilities. 


On Wednesday, I questioned Secretary of the Army Mark Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army Mark Milley during their testimony in front of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. We discussed the great partnership opportunities that Kansas universities can offer with applied research and prototyping expertise as the Army looks to expand their modernization efforts through the Army Futures Command. I also expressed to them my belief that the Big Red One soldiers at Fort Riley can play a large role in testing and developing capabilities in the field. Wednesday’s hearing was an important step as we work to make certain that our Army leaders understand the resources Kansas can provide to our nation’s defense strategy. To watch my questioning, click here.


On Tuesday, I met with AIPAC members from Kansas taking part in the organization’s annual policy conference. We discussed the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, including ongoing U.S. support to ensure Israel’s security, current and future collaboration on research and development, particularly in the realm of space exploration, and the need to continue countering anti-Semitism in all its forms. I was especially impressed by the large number of university students participating and posing questions, and I reaffirmed to them my commitment to protecting and enhancing the bilateral relationship to the mutual benefit of both countries.


On Saturday, I held a townhall meeting in Emporia for area veterans ahead of the June closure of the VA's Emporia community based outpatient clinic. This townhall meeting for veterans was an important step forward in making certain local veterans receive access to the healthcare they need, whether in the VA or in the community.

Currently, the Emporia CBOC is only open to serve veterans two days each week and our discussion focused on the area veterans’ access to healthcare in the VA as well as in the community as the VA MISSION Act Community Care Program is implemented. I appreciated the many questions from local veterans and our productive conversations regarding their access to healthcare, and how we can all work together to improve the delivery of healthcare for veterans across our state and nation.

Thanks to the Emporia American Legion Post #5 for hosting us and to the local VA officials for taking questions and to the many local veterans for taking time to visit with me on Saturday. Click here to read more on this townhall from the Emporia Gazette.


During Thursday’s visit to Atchison, I joined the Atchison Rotary Club meeting. I enjoyed visiting with fellow Rotarians and hearing updates on what is happening around the community and in the region. Thank you to Atchison Rotary Club President Lucas Hunziner for hosting me at your meeting.


I also stopped by MGP Ingredients to visit CEO Gus Griffin, meet with employees and celebrate the announcement of the formal approval of its citizen petition requesting dietary fiber status under the Food and Drug Administration’s new nutrition facts labeling regulations. Headquartered in Atchison, MGP Ingredients is a leading supplier of premium distilled spirits and specialty wheat proteins and starches. Thanks to the many employees who took time to visit with me and to CEO Gus Griffin for the productive conversation.


Honored to Serve You in Washington

Kansans in the Office
Dorothy Tannahill-Moran of Overland Park
Brooke Conrardy of Wichita

American Association of Colleges of Nursing
Cheryl Geifer of Pittsburg
Amy Hite of Pittsburg
Dr. Voncella McCleary-Jones of Wichita
Andrea Morgan of Topeka

Alliance for Childhood Cancer
Hannah Soderstrom of Wichita
Scott Soderstrom of Wichita

American Diabetes Association
Iris Culbert of Olathe 

American Health Information Management Association
Seth Katz of Overland Park
Ann Nowlin of Salina
Richard Ryan of Lecompton
Taryn Shraad of Lecompton

American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
Jack Cline of Lawrence
Dr. Kenneth Fischer of Lawrence
Dr. Steve Soper of Lawrence

American Rental Association
Phillip Kelling of Overland Park
Lynne Kelling of Overland Park

American Water Works Association
Darci Meese of Lenexa
Michael Armstrong of Lenexa

Brain Aneurysm Foundation
Barry Holmes of Overland Park

Capitol Tour
Maxine Atkinson of Garden City
Alina Bell of Overland Park
Elizabeth Benshoff of Overland Park
Avi Brudoley of Overland Park
Jacob Bunch of Garden City
Myca Bunch of Garden City
Brady Cessna of Garden City
Colby Cessna of Garden City
Julie Cessna of Garden City
Roy Cessna of Garden City
Gavi Glickman of Overland Park
Rabbi David Glickman of Overland Park
Sam Kosiborod of Overland Park
Josh Kriesler of Overland Park
Becca Levine of Overland Park
Janene Radke of Garden City
Liz Scheopner of Garden City
Sylvia Shapiro of Overland Park
Michael Delaney of Cassoday
Dianna Delany of Cassoday
Randle Ward of Topeka
Mark Collins of Topeks
Linsdey Kannady of Manhattan 

City of Great Bend
Andrew Erb of Great Bend
Kendal Francis of Great Bend
Jessica Milsap of Great Bend
Jan Peters of Great Bend
Cory Urban of Great Bend

City of Liberal
Kris Musgrave of Liberal
Rozelle Webb of Liberal
Darrel Webb of Liberal
Nathan McCaffrey of Liberal
Chris Ford of Liberal
Brad Beer of Liberal
Alicia Hidalgo of Liberal

Dodge City
Chris Boys of Dodge City
Tara Burkhart of Dodge City
Michael Burns of Dodge City
Ernestor De La Rose of Dodge City
Cherise Tiben of Dodge City
Mollea Wainscott of Dodge City 

F-35 Supplier Team
David Cool of Derby
Whitney Cool of Derby
Rodney Heying of Overland Park
Hannu Maltala of Overland Park
Gina Prieto of Overland Park
John Volpe of Overland Park

Friends Committee on National Legislation
Amy Loomis of Overland Park

Garden City Chamber of Commerce
Matt Allen of Garden City
Roy Cessna of Garden City
Rachelle Powell of Garden City
Troy Unruh of Garden City

Karen Siebert of Prairie Village
Chad Higdon of Kansas City

Kansas Automobile Dealers
Tom Holcombe of Manhattan
Don McNeely of Topeka

Midwest Assistance Program
Gary Smith of Topeka
Shelly Underwood of Atlanta

National Association for Alternative Certification
Dr. Jim Granada of Wichita
Shannon Hall of Emporia

National Association of Community Health Centers
Teresa Lovelady of Wichita
Ashley Thorne of Wichita
Tim Rogers of Wichita
Renee Hively of Emporia
Teresa Briggs of Emporia
Bryant Anderson of Hutchinson
Michelle Keller of Kansas City
Amy Faulk of Kansas City
Amy Feimer of Wichita
Matthew Schmidt of Newton
Katrina McGirerh of Topeka
Robyn Coventon of Lawrence

National Association of Wheat Growers
Taylor Williamson of Manhattan

National Association of Workforce Boards
Brian Cavataio of Kansas City
John Coen of Ottawa
Jennifer Hughes of Wichita
Kathy Jewett of Wichita
Gabe Schlickau of Wichita
Keely Schneider of Kansas City
Barbara Stapleton of Topeka

National Hemophilia Foundation
Aimee Hoyt of Wichita

National Sustainable Ag Coalition
Gene Albers of Wichita

Plastics Industry
Paul Goodwin of McPherson

Society of Hospital Medicines
Marcus Scarbrough of Lawrence
Harold Taylor of Topeka

Society of Women Engineers
Jen Jewers Bowlin of Lenexa

State Dept YES Exchange Students
Calil Cyle Imam Andaloc of Rossville
Muhammadharis Jiman of Lawrence
Hiede Naharine Andig Magangcong of Olathe
Amira Naji of Olathe
Lemogang Andy Nkwane of Winfield

Tommie Fields of Kansas City
Brill’Yant Butler of Kansas City                                             

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 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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