NBAF Steering Committee Meets at Statehouse
The protection of our Nation's citizens and food supply is a critical mission of the Congress and the Federal Government. The Department of Homeland Security, spanning both the Bush and Obama Administration, as well as the House Appropriations Committee, under both Democrat and Republican leadership, have made it clear that to complete this mission, our Country needs the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) and the best place for the NBAF is Manhattan, Kansas.
This week, I participated in a meeting of Governor Brownback's NBAF Steering Committee which also included Senator Roberts, various State and local officials, along with all of the project's important stakeholders at the State Capitol. During the meeting we were given the latest updates on the NBAF project in Manhattan. I was pleased to hear a report which detailed the positive economic impact the NBAF site would have on the regional economy which suggested that the five-year construction project will bring $422 million in direct revenues to Kansas businesses. This was particularly good news given the recent developments coming out of Congress, where last week the House Appropriations Committee included $75 million for the construction of the new NBAF facility with the directive to the Department of Homeland Security to complete a full funding plan for NBAF.
The construction of NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas remains a top priority not just for the State, but for the entire country's national security. I am particularly pleased with the progress that was made with the first NBAF Steering Committee meeting at the State Capitol. As a federal representative, the positive economic information that was outlined in the meeting certainly has me looking forward to working with House Leadership as well as the full House as Congress brings the Appropriations Committee's bill to the floor in the coming weeks.
Medication Act Passing Out of Committee
Yesterday, H.R. 5842, the Restoring Access to Medication Act, which I authored and introduced, crossed another hurdle toward becoming law as it passed out of a full Ways and Means Committee mark up with bi-partisan support.
The President's health care law is full of pitfalls that make health care more expensive for average Americans. While we await the Supreme Court's ruling on constitutionality of the entire health care overhaul, there is bi-partisan, bi-cameral agreement for my legislation. Requiring folks to have a doctor's prescription to buy medicine as simple as Advil or cough syrup with their health savings account or flexible savings account is simply wrong.
I introduced the Restoring Access to Medication Act, H.R. 5842, to repeal this unnecessary and punitive provision of Obamacare. I am pleased my legislation received bi-partisan support today as it passed out of committee, and look forward to it receiving a vote in the full House in short order.
This legislation would repeal section 9003 of the President's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), restoring the ability of those participating in a medical savings account, such as a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), Health Savings Account (HSA), or other similar types of medical savings account, to use these funds to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
Under current law (PPACA), plan participants may no longer use funds from these accounts to purchase over-the-count medications, unless they have a prescription for the medication. In Kansas and throughout the U.S. a broad coalition of groups support H.R. 5842, which seeks to make healthcare more affordable. These groups include the U.S. Chamber, drug store organizations, pharmacist groups and consumer groups.
Nearly 50 million Americans participate in Flexible Savings Accounts and other health savings accounts. The accounts allow individuals to set aside their own money each year on a pre-tax basis to pay for health care expenses, such as co-payments, and other health care expenses not covered by insurance, prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. Simply put, H.R. 5842 is a commonsense solution to another bureaucratic problem created by the Affordable Care Act.
529 College Savings Plan Bill
In February 2011, Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) and I introduced H.R. 529, legislation that will help encourage low- and moderate-income families to take advantage of 529 College Saving Plans. This bi-partisan bill establishes a modest new employer-matching program, allowing 529 funds to pay for computers, an essential tool for today's college students, and provides greater flexibility to manage 529 investments.
This past Tuesday was 5/29. As thousands of recent college graduates prepare to enter the workforce with massive amounts of student loan debt, I wanted to take this opportunity to renew our push for this important legislation. It is my hope that Congress will reflect on the preventative measures we can take to help families avoid some of this debt and quickly act to pass H.R. 529.
The first priority of this Congress must be getting Americans back to work, and in the 21st Century job market this will often require a college degree. H.R. 529 is a bi-partisan, commonsense step in making higher education a real choice for all Americans. Saving for our children's college education is one of the most important, and at times, most difficult aspects of being a parent. Our legislation will make the college savings process easier for everyone.
District Open Office Hours Return Next Week
June is upon us, and I am pleased to announce that my Congress to Kansas tour will be continuing with June's Open Office Hours in Topeka. This coming Monday, June 4th at 9:00am I will be hosting meetings with constituents interested in discussing issues of their choice.
Remember "Open Office Hours" are one-on-one meetings with me. They are open to any resident of the 2nd district on a first come first served basis. The meetings will last between 5-10 minutes depending on demand. Members of my staff will be on hand before and after the private meetings to handle any additional casework requests. To make a reservation please contact my Topeka office at 785-234-5966. Walk-ups will be allowed only if the meeting slots are not filled.