Kansas Common Sense
Recognizing President’s Day
On President’s Day, Monday, we recognized the contributions our American presidents have made to our freedom and to the success of our nation like Abilene native and Kansas’ favorite son, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike, a five-star general in the United States Army and the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, represents the best of our country. His name, adorned on schools, memorials and hospitals across our state and nation, lives in our memory, and we are inspired by his selfless service and sacrifice to our nation.
Working to End Alzheimer’s
On Wednesday, I spoke on the Senate floor to reflect on the life and work of President Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and to discuss their work – and our ongoing work – to end Alzheimer’s disease. In 1994, President Ronald Reagan wrote a handwritten letter to Americans announcing that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – a disease that would ultimately take his life. In this letter, he wrote: “At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done...”
Americans watched with sadness, but enduring hope, as President and Nancy Reagan together used their platform to advocate for Alzheimer’s research, which led to the eventual creation of the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, Illinois. Over the past several decades, this research institute has awarded millions of dollars in Alzheimer’s research grants and has continued to see breakthroughs in our understanding of this aggressive disease.
Now, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, I have advocated for and successfully worked to sustain funding for Alzheimer’s disease research in FY2019 – finally reaching the funding goal for research laid out in the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s. And as co-chair of the Senate NIH Caucus, I am optimistic that these funding increases, combined with NIH initiatives to map the human brain and further develop personalized medicine, will lead us closer to an Alzheimer’s treatment and a cure. To view my floor remarks, click here.
Passing the Remaining Government Funding Bills
On Thursday, the Senate passed the six remaining appropriations bills for FY2019, which included a number priorities important to Kansans.
Included in the FY2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Appropriations Act are several priorities that are important to our state, including funding for the Southwest Chief and the FAA Contract Tower Program, language to deter air traffic control privatization and resources to continue critical research being done at our institutes of higher education. The bipartisan agreement proves that good things can happen when Republicans and Democrats come together to focus on everyday issues to improve the lives of all Americans: reliable transportation, affordable housing and responsible development of cities and towns.
Additionally, there are several important ag-related provisions included in the FY2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill. What our farmers and ranchers grow in Kansas not only puts food on our tables here at home, but provides nourishment to the hungry worldwide. The priorities I worked to include for our rural communities – including broadband expansion and mental health services – reflect the resources farmers and ranchers across our state have expressed to me they need to do their jobs during a tough time in agriculture. I appreciate the Senate coming together in a bipartisan fashion to show our care, appreciation and support for our nation’s producers.
Finally, my own Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee’s funding bill is included in this package, which funds critical agencies such as the United States Trade Representative, NASA, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice and other agencies important to Kansas and the nation. This bipartisan bill achieves an appropriate balance between fiscal responsibility and investing in our future by supporting law enforcement, national security interests, economic development and scientific innovation.Passing the Natural Resources Management Act
On Tuesday, the Senate passed two pieces of legislation I authored – the Fort Scott National Historic Site Boundary Modification Act and Wichita Project Equus Beds Division Authorization Extension Act – as part of the Natural Resources Management Act. This legislation, also known as the “Lands Package, is comprised of over 100 individual bills all relating to public lands, natural resources and water projects.
The Fort Scott National Historic Site Boundary Modification Act will modify the Fort Scott National Historic Site boundaries, allowing future improvements to be made to enrich the quality of visitors’ experiences. Specifically, an emergency shelter is needed in the event of severe weather to protect volunteers and visitors, such as local school children. The potential future purchase of buildings in the site’s new boundaries could be used for other functions, such as an on-site storage area for artifacts currently stored outside the community due to space limitations, or as an educational center for visitors and local schools. The legislation also allows the care of the Lunette Blair Civil War Block House to be transferred to the National Park Service.
The Wichita Project Equus Beds Division Authorization Extension Act would extend federal funding authorization for the Equus Beds Aquifer Recharge and Recovery Project for 10 years to increase the amount of groundwater available for later use and to raise water levels in the aquifer. The inclusion of the provision will allow for ongoing discussions to take place within the Department of the Interior regarding the available options to make certain the federal government fulfills its obligations to protect Wichita’s primary source of potable water. Equus Beds is the primary fresh water source for South Central Kansas and lies under parts of Sedgwick, Harvey, Reno and McPherson Counties.
This package now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
WSU Tech President Dr. Sheree Utash Appointed to White House Advisory Board
Congratulations to Wichita State University Tech President Dr. Sheree Utash who this week was named to The White House’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. This group, led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House Advisor Ivanka Trump, is comprised of 25 leaders from across the country, including Apple, Wal-Mart, Lockheed Martin and VISA CEOs, nonprofit and education leaders, and elected officials from across the country, including the governors of Iowa and Indiana. The group will work with the National Council of the American Worker to develop job training programs to meet the complex and changing demands of American employers – Dr. Utash’s role on this committee will make certain the Kansas voice is heard in top-level discussions on the future of our nation’s workforce.
Dr. Utash has been a strong partner in our work to increase opportunity for young people across our state, especially as it relates to skilled and technical education and careers in STEM. Congratulations, Dr. Utash! I look forward to working with you in this additional capacity. Read more on Dr. Utash and this appointment in The Wichita Eagle by clicking here.
Introducing Legislation to Hold VA Healthcare Providers Accountable
Last week, I joined my Senate colleagues in introducing the VA Provider Accountability Act, legislation to bring much needed accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs by requiring the VA to inform the National Practitioner Data Bank and state licensing boards of major adverse actions committed by medical providers at the VA.
A troubling 2017 GAO report revealed an unacceptable trend of VA facilities failing to report providers who made major medical errors to the National Practitioner Data Bank and the relevant state licensing boards responsible for tracking dangerous practitioners. As a result, these practitioners can go into private practice or move across state lines without disclosing prior mistakes to patients or state regulators. In 2017, a USA Today story uncovered specific, horrific medical care failures and mistakes that the VA concealed and allowed to continue.
It is critical that those on the front lines of caring for our veterans are held to the highest level of accountability. I introduced this legislation to make certain no adverse medical outcome impacting a former servicemember is swept under the rug. Our veterans deserve a VA that is worthy of their service and sacrifice, and holding providers accountable is an important step to restoring trust in the VA. To read more on this measure, click here.
Meeting with CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield
On Wednesday, I met with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield to discuss the CDC’s priorities and to receive an update on efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Our discussion reaffirmed the importance of strong and continued federal investments in the CDC – specifically the agency’s global health security mission – to make certain future disease outbreaks throughout the world are detected and action to contain the disease is taken before posing a threat to Americans and the to the globe.
We also discussed the status of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the potential for future collaboration between the CDC and the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan. This collaboration could strengthen our ability to protect global food systems and the overall health of our nation. As a member of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations subcommittee, I will continue my efforts to bolster the capabilities of the CDC, advancing its mission to protect public health.
Introducing Legislation to Provide Congressional Oversight of the CFPB
I joined 17 of my colleagues in introducing the CFPB Accountability Act of 2019, legislation that would hold the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) accountable to the American people and Congress by bringing the agency under the Congressional appropriations process.
In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, otherwise known as “Dodd-Frank,” established the CFPB with a budget at as much as 12 percent of the Federal Reserve’s annual operating expense, roughly $680 million, without any Congressional oversight of the agency’s funds. The CFPB Accountability Act of 2019 would subject the CFPB to the annual Congressional appropriations process, like other commerce and financial services regulators, including the Securities Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, providing oversight for an agency that has evaded substantial Congressional review since its creation.
With a substantial budget and broad regulatory authority, the American people deserve to have the CFPB under Congress’ watchful eye. Additional oversight and Congressional influence is necessary for the CFPB to make markets for consumer financial products and services work better for our economy, without partisan politics shifting the agency’s mission with each change in administration. This sensible measure would make certain that Congress has the ability to appropriately influence the CFPB when necessary. Click here to read more on this legislation.
Meeting with Community Colleges Across Kansas
I met with leadership of community colleges from Kansas, including Johnson County Community College, Kansas City Community College and Hutchinson Community College. Our conversations centered around how we can work to increase access to education and student success. I reiterated my support for Pell Grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and discussed how we can create flexibility so that every student can pursue and achieve an education.
We also discussed the work being done by our community colleges in regard to Career and Technical Education programs, which places a special focus on teaching skills that immediately translate to the job market, unlocking economic freedom for many. I look forward to addressing some of these issues in the Higher Education Act reauthorization, which will give the Senate the opportunity to create polices that increase the attainment of a college or technical education and reduce student debt in the process. I am thankful for the role our community colleges play in educating Kansans and supporting our workforce through their career and technical education programs, and I appreciate their time spent in Washington, D.C. last week.
Meeting with Johnson County Community College leadership.
Meeting with Kansas City Kansas Community College leadership.
Attending the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting
On Friday evening, I attended the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting. During the reception, I met with the new President and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Jason Smith, and welcomed him to the community and discussed ways in which we can work together to advance the region. Jason comes to Manhattan from Norman, Okla. and succeeds retiring President and CEO Lyle Butler, whom I also visited with on Friday. Thanks to the Chamber and its many members for inviting me to the evening’s events and ,more importantly, for all they do in the Manhattan community. Additionally, thanks to Kansas State Institute for Commercialization Director of Economic Development Rebecca Robinson for her warm welcome.
Hosting Kansas Listening Tour Stops
On Saturday morning I was in North Topeka for my Shawnee County Listening Tour stop. During this meeting, we discussed immigration and border security, tariffs and the importance of more trade for our farmers, veterans’ healthcare, affordable housing and healthcare for the state’s elderly populations. In October, Topeka Metro was awarded a substantial grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to purchase new, safer busses, acknowledging the importance of public transporation in Kansas communities. Topeka Metro General Manager Susan Duffy gave an update on the grant, Topeka Metro's work and on our partnership to grow public transit in Kansas. Thanks to Shawnee County residents for visiting with me on Saturday, and to Topeka City Manager Brent Trout for attending. In addition, thanks to the American Legion Topeka North Post #400 for hosting my visit.
Following my Shawnee County Listening stop, I visited Porubsky’s in north Topeka. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "No better food, no finer people. C.W. Porubsky’s has been my favorite since 1988."
And since 1988, my order has remained the same: ham salad sandwich with whatever cheese they decide to give me.
On Monday, I was in Galena for my Cherokee County Listening Tour stop. During this meeting, we discussed a wide range of topics including border security, immigration, healthcare, making certain we care for our veterans, mental health resources in our communities, the opioid epidemic and what we can do to protect Kansans, the Farm Bill and its importance to our farmers and ranchers, farmer suicide prevention, our efforts to complete the expansion of Highway 69 to Interstate 44 and my support for the Route 66 project. Thank you to the many local residents who took time to visit with me, and to Columbus Mayor Grant Spieth, Galena Mayor Lance Nichols, Sheriff David Groves and County Commissioner Neal Anderson for attending. In addition, thank you to Galena City Councilman Doug Gatewood and the City of Galena for hosting my visit.
Kansans in the Office
Eric Fitzsimmons of Manhattan
Don Marsolek of Overland Park
Marcus Leck of Neodesha
Talia Leck of Neodesha
Tayte Leck of Neodesha
Tucker Leck of Neodesha
AFGE Local 85
Jennifer Gum of Leavenworth
Heather Beuhlman of Bonner Springs
Shawn Givens of Leavenworth
Lucinda Stuart of Topeka
Kelli Ross of Topeka
Diana Hicks of Topeka
Shane Reedy of Topeka
Alliance for Headache Disorders
Sarah Hendren of Lenexa
Chloe La Combe of Newton
Julie La Combe of Newton
Olivia Rehberger of Prairie Village
American Burn Association
Dhaval Bhavsar of Kansas City
Jennifer Parks of Kansas City
Brennan Schartz of Hutchinson
American Endurance Ride Conference
Monica Chapman of Pleasanton
American Federation of Government Employees
Don Halliburton of Kansas City
Amy O’Rourke of Bonner Springs
Latrise Morrison of Kansas City
American Hiking Society
Kaci Stringer, Pittsburg
Austal KS Suppliers
Dan Burch of Overland Park
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area
Jim Ogle of Topeka
Julie McPike of Lawrence
Greater KC Foreign Trade Zone
Al Figuly of Kansas City
Chris Gutierrez of Kansas City
Mary Rooney of Kansas City
Hutchinson Community College
Dr. Carter File of Hutchinson
Marla Eriksen of Hutchinson
IHC Retail Group
Gina Prieto of Overland Park
Robert Somers of Olathe
International Dairy Foods Association
Doug Glad of Lenexa
Johnson County Community College
Dr. Joe Sopchich of Overland Park
Lee Cross of Overland Park
Angeliina Lawson of Overland Park
Kate Allen of Overland Park
Tiger Harris-Webster of Lenexa
Kansas City Kansas Community College
Donald Ash of Wyandotte
Dr. Greg Mosier of Wyandotte
Dr. Ray Daniels of Wyandotte
Dr. Janice McIntyre of Wyandotte
Kansas Medical Society
Robert Gibbs of Parsons
LaDona Schmidt of Lawrence
Jill Linville of Lakin
Jon Rosell of Olathe
Rachelle Colombo of Topeka
Nancy Sullivan of Holton
Michale Lievens of Wichita
Patricia Wyatt-Harris of Wichita
Katie Rosell of Wichita
Phillips Brownlee of Wichita
Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition and Transportation Energy Partners
Kelly Gilbert of Kansas City
Beth Pauley of Kansas City
Kim Trinchet of Wichita
Kansas Small Business Development Center
Greg Panichello of Topeka
Karl Klein of Lawrence
Kansas Special Olympics International
Josh Alters of Topeka
John Lair of Mission
Kansas Wheat Commission/Kansas Association of Wheat Growers
Jay Armstrong of Muscotah
Aaron Harries of Manhattan
Jordan Hildebrand of Manhattan
Justin Knopf of Gypsum
Brian Linin of Goodland
Kyler Millershaski of Norton
Chris Tanner of Norton
Shawn Thiele of Manhattan
Taylor Williamson of Manhattan
Ken Woods of Chapman
Kansas 911 Coordinating Council
Josh Michaelis of Lyons
National Association of Foster Grandparent Program Directors
Suesan Harrington of Manhattan
National Association of RSVP Directors
Lori Bishop of Manhattan
Melody Gault of Augusta
Jessica Noble of Topeka
Amy Pinger of Topeka
Michael Graham of Wichita
Praire Band Potawatomi Nation
Zach Pahmahmie of Mayett
Wade Pahmahmie of Mayett
Joesph Rupnick of Mayett
Tracia Banuelos of Wichita
Jonathan Cole of Wichita
Matt Cooper of Overland Park
Jack Delehanty of Olathe
Emma Hahn of Wichita
Southwest Kansas Coalition
Jennifer Cunningham of Garden City
Ernestor DeLaRosa of Dodge City
Brian Delzeit of Dodge City
Dan Fankhauser of Garden City
Doug Smith of Topeka
Sygenta Leadership Program
Jared Nash of Parson
US State Department Future Leaders Exchange
Alibek Abzhapper of Atchison
Russalina Akhemerova of Topeka
Otilia Apostol of Junction City
Yelyzaveta Borysenko of Junction City
Eva Gusatu of Delphos
Marta Michalik of Overland Park
Polina Rakusheva of Kansas City
Sofiia Shamanska of Salina
Kateryna Svertilova of Salina
Adel Zhumanova of Caney
Mike Kelley of Overland Park
Now Accepting Summer Internship Applications
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works. I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today, where I have interns year-round working closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans.
Applications for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for summer 2019 session are due next Friday, March 1. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information and to apply.
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.
Very truly yours,
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