Kansas Common Sense
Nov 23 2020
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.
Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I want to encourage all Kansans to continue to take precautions to keep you and your families safe, including wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and frequently washing your hands. As we’ve seen a rise in COVID-19 cases this month, both across the country and throughout Kansas, it is important that as individuals we each take a personal responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 for the protection of ourselves, our families and our neighbors. Despite these unusual times, we have much to be thankful for.
To find further resources on how to protect you and your family, visit coronavirus.gov or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment website here.
Update on the General Election
In America, elections are sacred – the foundation of democratic government.
It is important that the election results be accurate. President Trump has the right to request recounts and can utilize the courts to determine the integrity of the election.
That process will soon be completed, and we must all respect the results of a free and fair election. We cannot afford to spend the next four years divided over who won the election or denying the legitimacy of the president as was the case for President Trump throughout his presidency.
In the meantime, the normal national security briefings and transition courtesies should be granted.
The orderly transfer of power is an enduring symbol of a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Urging the Passage of the RISER Act to Extend Relief to Kansas Communities
As part of the CARES Act, Congress established the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) for state and local governments to disburse resources covering a variety of expenses that have arisen due to COVID-19, such as telemedicine and tele-education projects, and projects that would improve broadband infrastructure in rural and underserved areas. Many of these projects require time to wisely plan and appropriately expend federal funding. However, the CARES Act mandates that CRF funds are spent by the end of this year. This is not enough time for preparation-intensive projects to be carefully planned and executed.
I spoke on the Senate floor this week to urge my Senate colleagues to support legislative proposals that extend the CRF deadline, including the Remove Impediments for a Successful Economic Recovery (RISER) Act, which I introduced last month. States and local governments know what is best for their communities, including where and when to spend federal coronavirus relief funding. Extending the deadline for CRF payments dedicated to economic development projects will allow Kansas and other states to strategically target areas of need over a longer period of time, making certain our taxpayer dollars are having the greatest impact to help our communities throughout this pandemic. This will ensure that these areas in need, identified by states and localities, have a stable source of investment that will aid in the ongoing economic recovery. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to pass the RISER Act and other legislation that would extend the CRF funding deadline.
Attending Dr. Flinchbaugh’s Agriculture Policy Lecture One Last Time
On Wednesday, I surprised the late Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh’s agriculture policy class at Kansas State University one last time, marking my seventh time joining his class during my time in the Senate. Dr. Flinchbaugh was an icon of agricultural policy, and he was well known for his involvement in helping craft farm bills for nearly five decades.
I appreciated the opportunity to speak with his students about the Senate’s role in agriculture. The success of agriculture and our ability to feed the nation and the world is crucial for the next generation. It’s comforting to know that many of our nation’s future agriculture leaders came from his classroom and were taught by the very best. Dr. Flinchbaugh’s presence in ag policy will be felt for generations to come through the thousands of students he taught and mentored during his decades-long career as a professor at K-State.
Read more about my surprise visit in the Manhattan Mercury.
Confirming Kansan Toby Crouse to the U.S. Federal District Court for Kansas
This week, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Galva, Kansas, native Toby Crouse to serve as a federal judge for the United States Federal District Court for the District of Kansas. Toby Crouse is a skilled attorney who has demonstrated his judicial views and respect for the rule of law throughout his career in private practice, as a clerk for Tenth Circuit Judge Mary Briscoe and as the Kansas Solicitor General. He is well qualified for this appointment, and I look forward to him taking his seat as a judge for the Federal District Court of Kansas.
Read more about his confirmation here in the Associated Press.
Recognizing Pat Roberts’ Service to Kansas
I was honored to attend the portrait unveiling of Sen. Pat Roberts this week to recognize his many years of serving Kansans, including as the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairman. Thank you to both Pat and Franki for all you’ve done for Kansas and the agriculture community.
Recertifying the 737 MAX’s Airworthiness
After 20 months and thousands of hours of technical work and review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency has announced its decision to rescind the grounding order for the 737 MAX aircraft and issue its final airworthiness directive.
I met with FAA Administrator Dickson and expressed my appreciation to him and his team for their efforts to ensure this aircraft is safe to fly, as well as prioritizing the safety of pilots and passengers throughout the entirety of this recertification process. While the FAA’s announcement today was a critical step and good news for the aviation industry in Kansas, I will continue to have an ongoing dialogue with the FAA and operators as they complete the remaining steps required for the 737 MAX to return to commercial service.
Read more in the Wichita Business Journal.
Preserving Kansas’ Cattle History
I introduced legislation this week to designate the Chisholm and Western cattle trails as National Historic Trails (NHT). As the country expanded westward, the Chisholm and Western cattle trails helped ranchers move millions of cattle across the plains to train depots, playing an important role in the economy of the country and supplying food for Americans. The Chisholm Trail runs through Caldwell, Wichita, Abilene and Ellsworth, and the Western Trail runs through Dodge City and other Kansas communities.
My legislation, S.4905, the Chisholm National Historic Trail and Western National Historic Trail Designation Act, will allow the Department of Interior to partner voluntarily with landowners, communities, state and local governments to maintain, conserve and promote the trails. These trails will join the 19 other designated historic trails across the nation, including five trails that run in part through Kansas. This legislation includes strong protections for private property rights along the trails, and cooperation by landowners or communities is strictly on a voluntary basis. I was pleased to partner on this effort with Congressman Ron Estes, who introduced companion legislation in the House, and I look forward to working to enact the legislation into law.
Learn more about this legislation here in the Newton Kansan.
Recognizing the Manufacturing Industry’s Leadership During COVID-19
As chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection, I led a hearing examining how the manufacturing industry adapted to meet the public demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other equipment and goods essential to the nation’s public health efforts. During this pandemic, the manufacturing community adapted its operations to help provide the products needed to prevent the spread of the virus. I was pleased to have three Kansas-based organizations represented on the witness panel: MolMas based in Haysville, InkCycle based in Shawnee and Kansas Manufacturing Solutions based in Lenexa.
Whether it is an early stage pharmaceutical wholesale distribution company that completely pivoted to manufacturing face masks in response to a dire national supply shortage, or a successful printer cartridge re-manufacturer shifting to production and distribution of hand sanitizer and other innovative sanitization solutions, these organizations provide examples of how Kansas has taken a role leading and bolstering U.S. manufacturing to compete globally.
I would like to thank the three Kansans on the witness panel: Ravi Bulusu of MolMas, Rick Krska of InkCycle and Tiffany Stovall of Kansas Manufacturing Solutions. I will continue to work with my Commerce Committee colleagues to investigate domestic manufacturing capacity and capability during and after this pandemic.
Strengthening Cyber Protections as Americans Telework
This week, I introduced of the Improving Telework Cybersecurity for Small Organizations Act to provide educational materials and resources for small organizations to safeguard their employees from cyberattacks while working remotely. This legislation would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in consultation with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to publish a resource of best practices for small businesses to boost cybersecurity with respect to teleworking. The bill would also require the FTC to establish a program to help educate consumers and small businesses on improving their cybersecurity for distance learning, telemedicine and telework.
Thousands of Americans have transitioned to working from home during this pandemic, and without the proper cybersecurity measures, our nation’s workforce is at a greater risk for hacking and cyberattacks. This legislation would help to ensure Americans’ data remains secure during this pandemic. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to make certain small businesses and other organizations have the resources they need to effectively secure their data from bad actors during COVID-19.
Congratulating the World Food Program’s Work to Eradicate Hunger
As co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I introduced a resolution to congratulate the World Food Program (WFP) for being awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. As hunger impacts families here in the United States and around the globe, it will take collaboration between producers, Congress and organizations like the World Food Program to eradicate hunger. S.Res.774 reiterates the Senate’s commitment to the goal of working together with our American farmers and ranchers to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition.
Fighting hunger is not only the morally right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do for our producers, and I applaud the World Food Program and the work they do each day to end hunger.
Protecting Health Care for Native-American Veterans
This week, I introduced the Native American Veteran Parity in Access to Care Today (PACT) Act with the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Tester (D-Mont.). Under current law, Native Americans are entitled to free health care from Indian Health Services (IHS). However, Native American veterans that choose to seek medical care at the Department of Veterans Affairs find themselves subject to co-pays for VA treatment. VA co-pay requirements can discourage Native American veterans from seeking treatment and can ultimately act as a barrier to VA care. The bipartisan PACT Act is designed to remove this barrier and create parity for these veterans as they access care in either health system.
Our nation is proud of the 21,000 Native Americans who have served our country, and it is our responsibility to make certain the care they are provided at the Department of Veterans Affairs is in line with current federal practice. As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I work to create greater access to VA care. I will continue my work to make certain all veterans are able to access the resources and care they have rightfully earned through their service to our country.
Addressing Blocked Railroad Crossings
As a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety, I joined Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) to introduce legislation to identify and address blocked railroad crossings.
Many Kansans have experienced the frustration of waiting at a blocked railroad crossing, and in some cases these interruptions can be much more damaging than a delayed arrival home. Whether it is impacting a first responder answering a call or a rancher transporting livestock, blocked railroad crossings can become costly or even hazardous barriers for road travel across the country. This legislation allows the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to continue collecting important data on blocked railroad crossings and assist Congress in developing policies to ensure our roads are safe and efficient for travel.
Improving Aviation Technical Training
This week, the Senate Commerce Committee advanced the Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act, which included my Promoting Aviation Regulations for Technical Training (PARTT) 147 Act. This legislation is a bipartisan effort to improve education and training curriculum at aviation maintenance technician schools.
The Promoting Aviation Regulations for Technical Training (PARTT) 147 Act of 2019 would establish performance-based regulations to make certain aviation maintenance education institutions have the flexibility to teach core curriculum reflective of the ongoing technical advances and innovation happening across the aviation and aerospace industry. Serving as the Senator for the ‘Air Capital of the World,’ I was pleased to support this legislation that will help our academic institutions, like Kansas State Polytechnic and WSU Tech, prepare students for careers in the aviation and aerospace industry, and I look forward to supporting this legislation in the full Senate.
Meeting with Robert Lighthizer, USTR Representative
I met with U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer this week to discuss trade issues facing our nation. Kansas’ economy relies on our ability to sell what we grow and manufacture around the world, which requires trade policies that encourage exports and hold foreign nations accountable to trade agreements.
During our meeting, I spoke with Ambassador Lighthizer specifically about the administration’s efforts to ensure China fulfills their responsibilities under the Phase 1 agreement, including China’s commitment to purchase at least $40 billion in American agricultural commodities annually for two years. I continued to encourage Ambassador Lighthizer to work to resolve the ongoing dispute between the U.S. and the European Union (EU) regarding civil aircraft subsidization due to Kansas’ leading aerospace industry. As chairman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the USTR budget, I look forward to continuing to work to make certain our nation’s trade ambassador understands the importance of trade to Kansas.
Touring K-State Agricultural Research Center
In Kansas this week, I toured K-State’s Agricultural Research Center. As a university research program based in Hays, it primarily focus on agricultural and production challenges specific to the surrounding region. Located in the center of four of the nine Kansas crop reporting districts, Hays is an ideal spot for this center.
During my visit, we discussed cattle production and management practices, as well as wheat genetics and the importance of soil health across the state. I appreciated learning more about the research this center is doing. Special thanks to Spencer Casey for the tour and providing me with more information about how new research continues to drive the future of Kansas agriculture.
I visited Wilson this week, “the Czech capital of Kansas,” and I was able to talk with residents about the issues they face as a small community and how I can help them in Washington. One of my priorities as a United States senator from Kansas is preserving the state’s rural lifestyle; this includes making sure small town Kansans have access to quality food and services in communities like Wilson. Thank you to everyone who took time out of their day to speak with me while I was in town.
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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