Welcome to "Kansas Common Sense." Thank you 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. I have enjoyed my conversations with Kansans during this August state work period; however, I'm anxious to return to Washington, D.C., next week and continue to work on the numerous critical issues facing our state and nation.
Labor Day in Kansas
I enjoyed spending Labor Day in both Hoisington and Chapman and participating in their community parades. Several communities across the state celebrated American workers with parades and festivities this weekend. I have always been proud that Kansans know the value of a hard day's work and appreciate the prosperity our state gains from that work ethic.
Hoisington's Labor Day celebration has been a long-time tradition, attracting Kansans from across the state. Thanks to Bill Robbins of Farmers State Bank for driving Robba and me, to the students who walked with me, and to the Hoisington Chamber of Commerce for the invitation.
I also joined the residents of Chapman for their Labor Day parade and had the opportunity to ride with Fort Riley Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard. It was great to see old friends, some new faces and listen to what the residents had on their mind as I visited with the crowd. Thanks to Phil Weishaar for the invitation and for coordinating this event.
Before, during and after the parades, many conversations with Kansans involved opposition to military action in Syria, Obamacare and concerns about gun control.
Update on Syria
On Saturday, President Obama announced that he will seek Congressional authorization to use military action against Syria. In concert with this announcement, my Senate colleagues and I received a briefing from National Security Advisor Rice and Secretary of State Kerry. As I traveled throughout Kansas this Labor Day weekend, I also had numerous conversations with Kansans about this important issue.
I am pleased the President is allowing Congress to use its Constitutionally-vested power to debate and vote on whether to intervene in Syria. I believe America cannot afford another conflict that taxes our resources without achieving goals that advance American interests, and at this time I will not support authorizing military action against Syria.
An Update on the IRS and Veteran Service Organizations
Last week, I wrote Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel regarding recent news that the IRS is auditing veteran service organizations by requiring private military service forms for all members. If an organization is unable or unwilling to turn over this personal information, it could face a fine of $1,000 per day. I am concerned that the IRS is attempting to solve a problem that does not exist, and have asked for answers to a series of questions. It is important the veteran service organizations are given clarification for why this mandate was initiated and why this effort is a high priority for the IRS. An explanation as to why these organizations were never specifically notified of changes in requirements when the mandate was published in January of 2011 is also requested.
While the IRS has yet to respond to my questions, the agency issued a statement on Wednesday claiming that "no special enforcement is under way" for veteran service organizations. Unfortunately, we know this to be disingenuous at best, as at least one American Legion Post, in Round Rock, Texas, has already been fined $12,000 following a surprise IRS audit earlier this summer. I have requested that, at an absolute minimum, the IRS cease carrying out this mandate until further review. The military service of veterans is already verified upon application and admittance to any veteran service organization. Their status does not change; Once a veteran, always a veteran. In the coming weeks, I will continue my efforts to ensure the IRS is not overstepping its bounds of privacy and respect for our nation's heroes.
Touring KU Alzheimer's Disease Center
On Thursday I had the opportunity to visit the University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Center (KU ADC) to learn about the latest advancements in diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease happening in Kansas. Leading researchers at KU ADC are heavily focused on Mitochondrial Genomics, Metabolism, and neuroimaging research. As one of 29 National Institute on Aging (NIA) designated Alzheimer's Disease Centers in the United States, KU ADC is outstandingly positioned to contribute advancements in research leading to new and better ways to diagnose, treat, and perhaps prevent and cure Alzheimer's disease. In addition to advanced research, KU ADC is committed to providing caregivers, patients, and their loved ones informational and educational support services.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I am committed to working to support the NIA and the NIH -- the focal point of our nation's medical research to discover, develop, and deliver innovative treatments to combat Alzheimer's disease and other devastating conditions. The costs of this terrible disease are expected to rise from about $180 billion currently to roughly $1 trillion by 2050. However, medical research leading to treatments that delay the onset of Alzheimer's could save billions. These research advances would benefit our children and our country for generations to come and provide us what we all desire for our families and friends -- hope.
Thanks to Dr. Jeff Burns, Associate Director of KU ADC, for the informative and impressive tour. Thanks also to Dr. Russell Swerdlow, Director of the KU AD Center, Dr. Rick Barohn, Deputy Director and Director of Frontiers: Heartland Institute of Clinical and Translational Research, and Dr. Lauren Aaronson, Deputy Director of Frontiers.
Conducting 999th Town Hall Meeting
During August, I have been visiting with Kansans across the state to hear what is most important to them before returning to Washington, D.C., in September. On Monday, I traveled to Liberal and held my 999th Town Hall Meeting. Questions about the Affordable Care Act, the deficit and national debt, agriculture, burdensome regulations and the Internal Revenue Service dominated the discussion. Thanks to Jack Taylor, Amy Hinkle and all members of the Liberal Lions Club for allowing me to host a public town hall meeting in conjunction with their weekly gathering at Seward County Community College.
United Nations Arms Trade Treaty Update
When the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) opened for national signature on June 3, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the Administration "look[ed] forward to signing it as soon as the process of conforming the official translations is completed satisfactorily." As of Thursday, all formal translations have been completed and, by the standard Secretary Kerry has set, the U.S. could sign the ATT any day. Most likely, the Administration will sign in late September when the U.N. General Assembly convenes in New York.
Over the last two years, I have worked to highlight the many fallacies and flaws of the ATT, and am disappointed that is appears U.S. signature on the treaty is inevitable. This action, however, is unlikely to ease any concerns about the ATT with Congress, who has routinely denounced this treaty on a bipartisan and bicameral basis. Earlier this year, I introduced S. Con. Res. 7, legislation that makes clear any treaty that undermines the Constitutional freedoms of American gun owners is simply unacceptable. Alongside Congressman Mike Kelly, this resolution has gained the cosponsorship of 35 Senators and 148 Members of the House of Representatives. Our bipartisan coalition will continue to oppose U.S. signature of the ATT, and ensure that any attempts to ratify the treaty will fail in the U.S. Senate.
Lenexa Chamber of Commerce Coffee
Thursday morning, I enjoyed stopping by the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce Coffee/5th Annual Football Kickoff Tailgate hosted by The Fiser Group. It was good to visit with chamber members about issues affecting their companies and community. Mayor Mike Boehm was in attendance and I congratulated him on Lenexa recently being named the 2013 Google eCity for our state. Google worked with an independent market research company to determine which city in each state across the country is best embracing online technology and has the strongest online business community. Through the web, businesses in Lenexa are finding new customers, connecting with existing clients and fueling the local economy. Thanks to Mitch Fiser for your hospitality.
Meeting Entrepreneurs in the Kansas City Startup Village
On Thursday, I marked the inaugural Startup Day Across America by visiting with entrepreneurs and innovators in Kansas City's growing Startup Village along with Congressman Kevin Yoder. KCSV began mostly by chance when a group of entrepreneurs decided to start companies in Kansas City, Kansas, in the first neighborhood equipped with Google's high-speed Internet service. In just 10 months, the Startup Village has become home to more than two dozen startups.
I enjoyed meeting with the owners of the following startups located in the Startup Village: Leap2, Local Ruckus, FormZapper, Handprint, Eye Verify, Squareoffs, Lantern, Traveling Nuker, Rocket Fuel and RFP365. The success of startups like these lead to technological advancement, economic growth and job opportunities across America.
As Washington continues to debate the best path to create jobs for Americans, conversations with entrepreneurs on the ground help me better understanding the challenges emerging businesses face: an arcane tax code, a burdensome regulatory environment, limited access to capital, and a global battle for talent. A startup-considerate Congress is apt to produce the smarter policies our country needs and Washington has long been looking for.
In total, 44 Members of Congress are particpating in Startup Day Across America by attending roundtables and tours, as well as supporting the events through social media. Thanks especially to research foundation and policy coalition Engine and The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City for supporting Startup Day Across America . And thanks to Cameron Cushman of the Kauffman Foundation and Brittain Kovac of the Kansas City Startup Village for helping to organize the event.
Scenic Pointe Apartments Ribbon Cutting
On Friday, I joined Senator Roberts, Manhattan Mayor John Matta, Manhattan City Commissioner Richard Jankovich, Kansas Housing Resources Corporation and Midwest Housing for a ribbon cutting at the Scenic Point Housing Development in Manhattan. The Scenic Pointe project was funded through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, using a provision that excludes the military base housing allowance when computing the level of the tax credit. This helps soldiers in lower pay grades find affordable housing and allowed for the development of additional housing especially following the growth of personnel and their families at Ft. Riley. As a member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, I continue my commitment to strengthening the economy and support our military.
New West Stadium Center Dedication at K-State's Bill Snyder Family Stadium
Friday, I joined my wife and Kansas Regent Robba in dedicating the new West Stadium Center at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan. Last year, the athletic department imploded the old press box and replaced with a state-of-the-art facility. Coach Bill Snyder noted that his favorite part of the renovation is the new student-athlete training table located on the north end, which will help student athletes manage their time. Congratulations to Kansas State University, the K-State Athletic Department and all the generous donors who made this possible.
Remembering William "Bill" Hanson
On Friday in Manhattan, I attended a funeral to honor my friend Bill Hanson. I got to know Bill through his positions at the United States Department of Agriculture and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation where he worked on behalf of Riley County and the state of Kansas, but he was always a farmer at heart. Bill's proudest achievement was his career in agriculture, and cofounding and serving as chairman of the Crop Insurance Professionals Association. Bill was also a talented singer and enjoyed participating in a Barbershop choir in his free time. Bill's wife, Carol, and his family are in my thoughts and prayers.
Natoma's 125th Anniversary Celebration
On Sunday, I enjoyed stopping in Osborne County to celebrate Natoma's 125th Anniversary with a chili feed and gospel music festival. Events like these are a great way for me to get feedback from Kansas on the issues affecting their businesses and rural community.
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Larry Stewart of Maple Hill
Debbie Stewart of Maple Hill
Cody Stewart of Maple Hill
Andrew Leigh-Bullard of Manhattan
Roger Duncan of Ulysses
Alyssa Duncan of Ulysses
Jason Meek of Olathe
Alysia Meek of Olathe
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.
Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here.
Very truly yours,