Bridges Between U.S. and Mexico Highlight Lack of Border Security
On August 19, the Associated Press (AP) reported the presence of two metal footbridges near Acala, Texas, that cross the Rio Grande River, separating the United States from Mexico. According to the AP, the bridges serve as flood control structures and are owned by the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), an international body responsible for applying boundary and water treaties between Mexico and the U.S. Yet, press reports indicate the bridges are being used by individuals to illegally enter our country.
The presence of these two bridges highlights the failure of the federal government to secure our border with Mexico. Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars on border security measures, including fencing. Yet, not far from a section of fencing, these bridges undermine efforts to secure the border and frustrate taxpayers who want to see the border secured. These bridges also provide quick and easy access into our country for drug smugglers and possibly terrorists. This week, I asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to immediately work with the IBWC to either fully secure the bridges or remove them. Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Representatives Dan Burton (R-IN), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) joined me in sending this letter to Secretary Napolitano. Click here to read the letter.
Honoring a WWII Veteran in Larned
This week, I had the honor of presenting military medals to World War II veteran, Clair "Kenny" Eye of Larned. Kenny enlisted in the U.S. Navy after Pearl Harbor and served our country as an aviation machinist, with more than 3,000 hours of flying time in the Pacific Theater. Kenny completed his service in 1945, but never received of any of the medals he earned. Upon discovering this, his son, Tracy, contacted me, and asked for assistance in securing his father's military medals. In a surprise ceremony organized by Tracy and Kenny's granddaughter, Afton, Kenny received the recognition and honor that was long overdue.
One of the most special opportunities I have as a Member of Congress is to pay tribute to a person who sacrificed, who made a difference and who gave my family, and all other Americans, the opportunity to live with freedom and liberty. Thank you to all the men and women who have bravely served our country in the armed forces and continue to do so today. Thanks to Kenny's family members and longtime friends for joining us at the surprise ceremony. A special thanks to Kale and Marsha Erway for hosting the event. Thanks also to the American Legion Riders for joining us. Click here to view a photo from the special event. Click here to watch a video of the event from KSN TV in Wichita.
Pawnee Valley Community Hospital
Following the medal presentation, I visited Pawnee Valley Community Hospital (PVCH) in Larned. PVCH is a critical access hospital and has been affiliated with Hays Medical Center since March. I had the opportunity to visit with hospital staff and community leaders about Medicare reimbursement issues, rural physician recruitment initiatives, and implications of the new health care reform law. PVCH provides emergency room care and outpatient services to residents of Larned and the surrounding community. Thanks to Administrator Matt Heyn and PVCH staff for their hospitality during my visit. Also joining us at the meeting were Bryce Young, Hays Med Chief Operating Officer; Marlene Winters, PVCH Director of Nursing; Harry Zielke, Chairman of the Pawnee County Community Health Organization; Pawnee County Commissioners Kathy Bowman and Arlis Atteberry; and Pawnee County Attorney John Settle. Click here to see a photo from my visit.
USDA Agriculture Research Service Facility
On Tuesday morning, I had the opportunity to tour the USDA Agriculture Research Service facility in Manhattan. The Center for Grain and Animal Health Research (CGAHR) has five research units that serve a wide swath of production agriculture. During my visit, the center's director, Tom Shanower, gave me a firsthand look at the work the scientists are doing to protect animal health, reduce wind erosion, preserve grain quality, and make sure we have the highest quality end use of the crops grown in farmers' fields.
Thank you to Dr. Barbara Drolet of the Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit; Dr. Floyd Dowell and Dr. Thomas Pearson of the Engineering and Wind Erosion Research Unit; and Dr. Tom Herald and Dr. Brad Seabourn of the Grain Quality and Structure Research Unit for taking the time to explain their research and how the technology will help farmers and ranchers now and in the future. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
VA Health Revenue Center in Topeka
I was in Topeka on Monday to visit the Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Revenue Center. Established in 2002, the Health Revenue Center is responsible for responding to telephone calls from veterans across the country who have questions about their bills and their eligibility for health benefits. The center has been successful at providing cost-effective, high-quality services to veterans who need assistance navigating the VA health system. In recent years, I have encouraged the VA to expand the center's operations and it now employs more than 500 individuals. Thanks to Acting Director Karyn Barrett for leading our tour and to Topeka Chamber of Commerce President Doug Kensinger for joining us. Click here to see a photo from the visit.
Mercy Regional Health Center
On Tuesday, I was in Manhattan to tour Mercy Regional Health Center (MRHC). MRHC is part of Via Christi Health and is a private, not-for-profit, 139-bed medical center. The hospital was created in 1996 by combining The Saint Mary Hospital and Memorial Hospital. MRHC also holds 51 percent ownership of Wamego City Hospital, an 18-bed Critical Access Hospital. On a day-to-day basis, more than 140 physicians, 1,000 employees, and 200 volunteers at MRHC serve the people of Manhattan and the surrounding areas with a wide range of quality health and wellness services. I enjoyed touring MRHC's updated facilities and visiting with hospital staff, who are committed to creating a home-like environment for patients that promotes healing. We discussed Medicare regulations for reimbursement to hospitals and physicans, and the implementation of the health care reform law. Thanks to President & CEO John Broberg for hosting me and members of MRHC's senior leadership and physicians for joining me on the tour. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
Kiwanis Club of Topeka
On Monday, I attended the Kiwanis Club of Topeka meeting at the Jayhawk Tower in downtown Topeka. During the meeting, Washburn University Head Football Coach Craig Schurig spoke about the 9th ranked Ichabods' upcoming season. Over the weekend, the Ichabods traveled to Golden, Colorado to face-off against the Colorado School of Mines. On September 4th, Washburn will host Abilene Christian University in Topeka.
I wish Coach Schurig and the Ichabods the best of luck this season and look forward to their meeting with the Fort Hays State University Tigers on October 2nd. Thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Topeka members for the invitation to join them and hear about the upcoming season for Washburn University Football. Thanks to George Schuler and President Jan Maxwell for their hospitality during the event.
KansasBio's Big Thinkers
On Thursday, I attended KansasBio's 3rd Quarter Big Thinkers Reception in Lawrence. The reception was held at the Bioscience & Technology Business Center (BTBC), a modern, state-of-the-art lab facility that offers access to University of Kansas resources and research expertise. The BTBC is owned by the Lawrence Douglas County Bioscience Authority, a not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to foster the development and growth of the life sciences industry in the local area. Speakers at the reception were Dr. Roy Jensen, Director of the University of Kansas Cancer Center; Dr. Scott Weir, Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics, Director, Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation, and Frank B. Tyler Cancer Research Professor in Therapeutic Discovery (University of Kansas Medical Center); and Dr. Valentino Stella, University Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry (University of Kansas School of Pharmacy). Thanks to KansasBio President Angela Kreps for inviting me to the event.
Speaking with Personnel at CPI in Great Bend
Kansas small businesses play a vital role in our communities and are the backbone of our economy. On Tuesday, I traveled to Great Bend to visit CPI Qualified Plan Consultants. CPI was founded in 1972, and employs more than 400 personnel, who provide third party administration services to qualified and non-qualified retirement plan sponsors across the United States. During my visit, I spoke with CPI personnel about a variety of subjects, including health care, immigration, Second Amendment rights, and education. Thanks to CPI staff for visiting with me about many important issues facing our country. Thanks also to Great Bend Mayor Mike Allison and City Manager Howard Partington for joining us. Click here to view a photo from the meeting.
Hays Area Chamber of Commerce's "Business After Hours"
On Tuesday evening, I attended the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce's "Business After Hours," hosted by Eagle Communications, Inc. This monthly event gives local businesses the opportunity to update community members on recent developments at their companies. During the event, Eagle Communications, Inc. CEO, Gary Shorman, talked about Eagle's newly formed communication partnership with the Kansas and Western Missouri Division of the Salvation Army, known as EagleCares. The EagleCares program gives qualifying individuals telephone, cable and internet payment assistance. Thank you to the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, CEO Gary Shorman and the Eagle Communications staff for coordinating and hosting this event. Click here to see a photo from the event.
Speaking to Members of Junction City Rotary Club
As a fellow Rotarian, I always enjoy meeting with Kansas Rotary Clubs to learn more about their efforts to improve their local community. On Tuesday, I was in Junction City to attend the Rotary Club meeting. During my visit, I updated the club on legislation before Congress affecting Ft. Riley and the local economy. I also spoke about efforts to alleviate overcrowding at Ft. Riley's schools so we can provide military children the quality education they deserve and help protect the taxpayers of Geary County USD 475. I appreciate the invitation from President Willie Thornberg and the warm welcome from the Rotarians. Click here to view a photo from my visit.
Joining Miltonvale Residents for Tootlefest Parade
On Saturday, I participated in the Tootlefest parade in Miltonvale. Each year, the local community comes together to celebrate Milton Tootle, founder of Miltonvale. The four-day celebration includes a parade, pedal pull, turtle races, games, kid's races, music and food. The festivities began on Thursday with a disc golf tournament and concluded on Sunday with a community church service, followed by a 2-man golf scramble. I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Miltonvale residents about a variety of issues. Thanks to the many volunteers who made this year's parade a great success.
Pancake Feed in Wakefield
Before the Tootlefest parade on Saturday, I joined Wakefield residents for their monthly all-you-can-eat pancake feed at the VFW. This monthly pancake feed takes place on the last Saturday of each month. It was a great opportunity to visit with local residents about issues important to them. Thanks to the Wakefield VFW for hosting the event.
In the Office
Kevin Packingham of Kansas City was in with Amerilink Telecom, to discuss plans to create more than 300 high-tech jobs in the Kansas City area.
Several Kansans came by my office in Washington, D.C. to receive a tour of the United States Capitol building including, Jeremiah Johnson of Elkhart, Dale and Connie Brockman of Great Bend, Stephen and Barbara Finley, and Mikayla and Austin Zaring, of Wichita; and Les, Debbie, Keith and Julie Cantrell of McPherson. Erin Rush of Liberal also stopped by the office for a visit and a tour of the office.
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,