Welcome to "This Week in Congress." I hope you enjoyed spending Mother's Day with your family. Mothers are special people in our lives who care for us, teach us and help us grow. On Mother's Day, we express our gratitude to them. This week's headlines are:
* Honoring Eisenhower at the VE-Day 65th Anniversary Celebration
* Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Announces Good News for Ft. Riley Students
* Congratulating the Class of 2010 at Kansas Wesleyan University
* Rural Veterinarians Can Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness Program
* Government Should Create Conditions for Businesses and Citizens to Prosper
* Working to Protect Kansas Businesses from Burdensome Tax Reporting
* Visiting With Kansas Farmers and Ranchers During the 3i Show
* Farm Broadcasters Help Deliver Vital News to Farmers and Ranchers
* Hearing Examines Health Effects of Vietnam War
* National Day of Prayer Unites Kansans in Common Purpose
* Meeting with Crop Insurance Professionals
* Speaking at the American Veterans Traveling Tribute in Concordia
* Visiting with Kansans in Junction City
On Saturday, I celebrated the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E Day) at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene. This historic day marked the end of WWII in Europe, when the Allies accepted the surrender of the German forces. During this weekend's event, I had the honor of introducing the keynote speaker, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was born and raised in Wichita.
The weekend's activities recognizing the leadership of General Dwight Eisenhower serve as a good reminder to us all that our way of life in Kansas is worth preserving. It was in the homes, churches and schools of Abilene that Eisenhower developed the character and lessons that as commander of allied forces in Europe, led us to victory in World War II. Today, 65 year later, our country faces a different enemy, Al Qaeda, with a similar goal, to destroy our way of life. In these challenging times, our country has once again turned to a native of our state of Kansas to lead the fight.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Announces Good News for Ft. Riley Students
During Secretary Gates' visit to Abilene on Saturday, I spoke with him about the urgent need to address overcrowding at Fort Riley's schools resulting from the Fort doubling in soldier population. Ft. Riley's school facilities are already over their designed capacity by 500 military dependents. Military children deserve quality schools and I asked the Secretary to assist the efforts of the Geary County USD 475, Ft. Riley leadership, and the Kansas congressional delegation in providing more school capacity.
That same day, Secretary Gates visited with military spouses at Ft. Riley and made a welcome announcement that the Department of Defense will make much-needed improvements to elementary and middle schools on post. Secretary Gates pledged to transfer funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to the U.S. Department of Education to improve on-post school facilities, which are part of the Geary County USD 475 School District. It is expected that these resources will build an additional elementary school and upgrade middle and elementary schools on post. I greatly appreciate Secretary Gates' personal involvement in this important education issue. This is great news for military families at Ft. Riley and I will work to ensure this plan moves forward swiftly.
Congratulating the Class of 2010 at Kansas Wesleyan University
On Saturday, I congratulated the class of 2010 at Kansas Wesleyan University for their outstanding achievement. Graduation weekend is an exciting time for both students and their families, who have sacrificed to make this special day possible. Thanks to the many faculty members, coaches and friends who impacted the lives of these students and contributed to their success.
During my remarks, I challenged the graduates to remember that life is not just about making a dollar, but making a difference. Making a difference in this world starts at home with loving moms and dads, strong families, committed churches and caring communities. When individuals serve in their neighborhoods, churches and schools, they can change lives for the better. Thanks to President Lamkin for the kind invitation to speak with the graduates and for presenting me with an honorary degree from KWU, a Doctor of Humane Letters. Congratulations to the following seniors who received an award during the graduation ceremony: Sheryl Hedlund of Salina, Andrew Kohls of Ellsworth, Sabrina Albarran of Lancaster, and Ashley Davenport of Chapman. I wish all of those graduating this spring continued success and happiness as they embark on a new chapter in life.
Rural Veterinarians Can Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is now accepting applications from veterinarians wishing to participate in the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP). This program addresses veterinary shortages in rural America by repaying the student loans of qualified veterinarians in return for their services in areas suffering from a lack of veterinarians. The VMLRP was originally passed by Congress in 2003, but was not implemented because of delays at USDA. To overcome these delays, I helped insert a provision into the 2008 Farm Bill that set a timetable for implementing the program.
It is good news that the USDA is finally taking applications for this long awaited program. In Kansas, access to veterinary services is critical to ensuring a safe food supply and to allowing ranchers to maintain a profitable livestock operation. I am pleased this program will help bring young veterinarians to rural under-served areas in Kansas. NIFA applications will be due June 30, 2010, and offers will be made by Sept. 30, 2010.
Government Should Create Conditions for Businesses and Citizens to Prosper
This week, I was honored to accept the 2009 ACU Ratings Award from The American Conservative Union (ACU) in recognition of my consistent support of conservative ideals. I believe in personal freedom, limited government and individual responsibility. The government should create the conditions for businesses and citizens to prosper. Unfortunately, Congress is spending and borrowing money at an alarming rate that undermines our economic recovery today and threatens the prosperity of our children and grandchildren who will pay these debts. I am one of only 17 of the 435 Members of House of Representatives to vote against every stimulus and bailout plan. I came to Washington to fight for Kansas families and businesses and will continue to oppose reckless spending that threatens our country's future.
The ACU, founded in 1964 to promote these principles of liberty and the strength of the Constitution, serves as the nation's largest and strongest grassroots conservative organization.
Working to Protect Kansas Businesses from Burdensome Tax Reporting
This week, I sponsored H.R. 5141, the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act, to eliminate the unprecedented tax reporting burdens contained in the new health care law. Under this new law, business owners are required to submit a separate 1099 form to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to every company with whom they do business that totals more than $600 in a given year. Under current law, businesses must report services performed by non-corporate entities, but the new health care law vastly expands that requirement by extending it to corporate services and to property and goods.
This burdensome requirement will mean business owners have to obtain employer tax ID numbers and provide 1099 forms for basic business expenses such as phone and internet service, shipping costs, office supplies and travel. These mandates will substantially increase the price of doing business in an economic environment that is already challenging. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and Congress must create an environment where they can grow and create more jobs.
Farm Broadcasters Help Deliver Vital News to Farmers and Ranchers
This week, I had the opportunity to visit with Greg Akagi, President of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) and NAFB members during its annual meeting in Washington. NAFB is the professional association for agricultural broadcasters. These broadcasters help deliver vital news to farmers and ranchers across the country.
I visited with the group about the House Agriculture Committee hearings that were held recently for the 2012 Farm Bill. I shared with the broadcasters that it is more important now than ever that they encourage conversations about how to support those who make farming and ranching a livelihood. With an ever-increasing urban population, it is important for production agriculture to have a strong voice. Recent comments from the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, that off-farm income is "more critical than the safety net" are not helpful to those of us on the Agriculture Committee charged with writing the next farm bill. Rural communities are built around these individuals and they are the ones that keep us fed and clothed.
Hearing Examines Health Effects of Vietnam War
This week, I participated in a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee to examine the health problems Vietnam War veterans experience as a result of their military service, including those exposed to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. During the hearing, the Committee discussed the need for additional studies on the long-term mental and physical impact of the Vietnam War on veterans. These studies are important and help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Congress make informed decisions about veterans' health care and disability compensation.
It is important that our country's Vietnam veterans receive the medical care and disability compensation they deserve as a result of herbicide exposure. Recently, the VA identified three new illnesses it presumes are a result of Agent Orange exposure, including Parkinson's Disease, ischemic heart disease, and B cell leukemia. The VA is encouraging Vietnam veterans with these diseases to submit their applications for compensation now so they can receive benefits once the VA finalizes their rule on this new finding.
National Day of Prayer Unites Kansans in Common Purpose
Thursday was the 59th annual observance of the National Day of Prayer. Despite a recent U.S. District Court ruling that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, tens of thousands of events were held across the country, including more than 60 in Kansas. Americans of Christian and other faiths gathered to pray for our nation. I marked the occasion by participating in a prayer service on Capitol Hill.
The court's ruling that the National Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment is deeply disturbing. Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values and it is important that we not lose sight of our nation's spiritual heritage. I am a sponsor of legislation that calls for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to appeal the court's ruling. The Department of Justice has since announced that it would appeal the decision. Prayer is a powerful thing that has the ability to comfort and encourage. I hope the court's misguided decision is overturned.
Visiting With Kansas Farmers and Ranchers During the 3i Show
On Friday, I was in Great Bend for the 3i Show. The 3i Show is an annual farm show that features over 500 agricultural related exhibits. It provides a good opportunity for Kansas farmers and ranchers to view the latest farm technologies and equipment available. I enjoyed visiting with producers and exhibitors who help keep the Kansas agricultural economy strong.
Meeting with Crop Insurance Professionals
This week, I was in Kansas City and visited the annual meeting of the Crop Insurance Professionals Association (CIPA). CIPA is a national organization that represents crop insurance agents from across the country. Crop insurance agents are a critical component to the delivery of crop insurance, which is vital to the operation of many Kansas farms. I discussed with the group the status of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement and my thoughts about how the current draft could be improved. It is important that we have policies in place to make sure that companies will continue to sell and service policies in higher-risk states like Kansas.
Speaking at the American Veterans Traveling Tribute in Concordia
This week, I spoke to Kansans who gathered on Sunday in Concordia to participate in the American Veterans Traveling Tribute. The weekend events featured a 370 foot-long replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall and other memorials that travel across the U.S. to honor and recognize veterans and educate the public about their sacrifice. Special thanks to Rita Goodwin, Director of Lifeline Service at Cloud County Health Center, for her work in putting this tribute together and for the invitation to speak.
Visiting with Kansans in Junction City
This week, I stopped by Junction City to talk with community members and visit local businesses. I met with residents and county commissioners at City Hall, Central National Bank, KJCK radio station and the courthouse to discuss current issues and provide an update on activities in Congress. I also visited with representatives of Geary County Home Health and Hospice and Geary Community Healthcare Foundation to learn more about their efforts to provide quality, affordable health care services to Junction City residents. It is always helpful to hear directly from the Kansans I represent because I gain a better understanding of their views and the ways I can serve them in Washington, D.C.
In the Office
Members of the Kansas Electric Cooperatives were in to talk about the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulation of greenhouse gases, energy efficiency legislation, smart grid projects in Kansas and other issues related to delivery of electricity in our state. In with the group were Ron Holsteen of Altamont, Ken Maginley of Wamego, Scott Whittington of Burlington, Dave Holthaus of Topeka, Pat Morse and Josh Schmidt of Dodge City, Dan Hellwig of Solomon, Dale Coomes of Girard, Sandy and Dave Schneider of Wakeeney, Mike Rodgers of St. Francis, Perry Rubart of Ulysses, Charles Look of Norton, Claire Gustin of Hays and John Leis of Minneola.
Megan Blatt of Colby was in with the Kansas Association of Naturopathic Physicians to visit about the wellness benefits of naturopathic medicine. Kara Cunningham of Baldwin was in with CureSearch to discuss funding and collaboration for children's cancer research. Amanda Reichard and Martha Hodgesmith of Lawrence were in with the KU Research and Training Center on Independent Living to update me on the center's efforts to enhance independence for Kansas with disabilities.
Chris and Melissa Stratham of Galva were in with the Dystonia Advocacy Network to discuss research initiatives for dystonia, a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions. Kraig Vondran of Manhattan, Ron Pomeroy of Belle Plaine and Dina Knisley of Coffeyville were in with the Metalcasters Industry to share their opposition to the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases and talk about other issues affecting the metal casting industry.
Stephanie Sharp and Roy Jensen of Kansas City were in with the University of Kansas Cancer Center to share their support for National Institutes of Health cancer research. Natise Vogt of Walton was in with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to update me on the latest developments at Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center. G.A. Buie of Gardner was in with the National Association of Secondary School Principals to visit about initiatives to promote excellence in Kansas middle and high schools.
Terry David of Lyons and Chris Way of Parsons were in with Rice and Labette County EMS to discuss the tax treatment of vehicles, Medicare reimbursements and death benefits. Kurt Cooper of Emporia and Lowell Bliss of Manhattan were in with Kansas Interfaith Power and Light to talk to me about the efforts of religious congregations in Kansas to make their places of worship energy efficient. Curtis Sneden of Topeka was in with Collective Brands, Inc to discuss legislation to help reduce tariffs on their foot wear products. Bob Nattier Newton and Catherine Moyer of Ulysses were in with CoBank to talk about financial reform legislation. Garth Strand of Hutchinson was in with the Hutchinson Credit Union to update me on legislation they support. Sean Williams of Junction City and Richard D'Alanno of Salina were in with the National Association of Truck Stop Operators to talk about highway funding legislation.
Several Kansans were in my office this week for tours of the U.S. Capitol, including Scott and Joshua Palecki of Wichita, Lucy and Hannah Fabrizius of WaKeeney, Kathy Richter of Plainville and Leland and Hazel Parker of Council Grove.