Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks 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.
Reminder: Aviation Manufacturers Protection Program Deadline Tomorrow
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) deadline for the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program (AMJP) a program is tomorrow, July 13 at 5:00 p.m. ET.
The program was created by legislation I introduced with Congressman Ron Estes to offer temporary assistance to aviation manufacturers as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month we hosted an information session on the program’s application process with the U.S. Department of Transportation, accessible here.
I urge any eligible business interested in applying to visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s webpage for more information here. Additionally, anyone is free to submit questions, particularly about the application process, to [email protected]. An overview of the AMJP application process is available here.
Watch the recap video by clicking here or below.
Congress Must Act on Student Athlete Name, Image and Likeness
Intercollegiate athletics are a staple in American culture and higher education. No other country in the world has a college sports model that compares to ours and provides thousands of young adults the opportunity to leverage their athletic ability into a quality education.
However, the floodgates opened on July 1st as 12 state laws and executive orders went into effect regarding student athletes profiting off of their name, image and likeness. While the NCAA has issued a temporary suspension of its rules related to student athlete compensation, it’s not a long term solution.
Congress must still work to find a compromise to both empower amateur athletes through compensation, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of our one-of-a-kind collegiate model that has provided millions of young athletes the opportunity to receive a quality education. We can accomplish both of these goals and provide college athletics with the certainty it needs to continue flourishing.
In February, I introduced the Amateur Athletes Protection and Compensation Act — my proposal to accomplish this necessary balance. My legislation would create a single set of guidelines that would enable amateur athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.
It’s time to modernize the NCAA. My legislation, crafted with athletes, schools and conferences, offers not only the quickest, but best path towards enacting meaningful federal legislation.
Read my full editorial here in the Sunday edition of the Kansas City Star.
USDA Implements My Legislation to Help Small Meatpackers
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be reducing inspection overtime fees for small and very small meatpackers by implementing my legislation with Senator Bennet, the Small Packer Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief for COVID-19 Act. Our legislation supports small meatpacking plants that were operating longer hours during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to process a high number of livestock to meet increased consumer demand for locally-grown meat products.
Small meatpackers in Kansas and across the country have been working long hours to keep our meat supply in stock during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service charges meatpacking plants a fee for overtime hours for food inspectors, discouraging smaller packing plants from extending operating hours. I am pleased the USDA is implementing our legislation to remove cost-prohibitive barriers so our small packers can keep working, ranchers can harvest their livestock and Americans can have access to quality food.
‘For the People Act’ Undermines Kansas Elections
This week, I authored an editorial in the Topeka Capital-Journal with Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab to explain how a federal overhaul of our election systems is not in the best interest of Kansans. Voting in the United States should be fair, accessible and secure. Though these beliefs are widely accepted among Americans, how we improve the fairness, accessibility and security of elections matters greatly.
The Democrat’s proposed rewrite of long-held election procedures, inconspicuously titled the “For the People Act,” or S.1 as it’s commonly referred to, would strip power from Kansas voters and their duly elected state legislature for the sake of federal uniformity, including mandating the restoration of voting rights for felons and undermining popular state identification laws. S.1 would nearly eliminate state government involvement in elections while sowing immense doubt about the integrity and administration of our elections. We should celebrate more localized, representative government and strive to protect it—not submit to the artifice that is the For the People Act and its rigid, federalized vision for American elections.
Read the full editorial here in the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Good News for the Air Capital of the World
Announcing $2.1 Million EDA Investment in NIAR
On Thursday, I was pleased to join Sen. Marshall and Congressman Estes in announcing a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to Wichita State University. This investment will be used to purchase and install equipment for use in the new Flight Test Research Center and a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Facility to be located at the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR).
The productive partnerships between Wichita State and many local aviation manufacturers are key to the innovative solutions and technologies developed in the Air Capital of the World. I am pleased this investment will further advance the mission of NIAR, expand its testing capabilities and create 475 new jobs in the region over the next 10 years.
WSU, Textron Partner to Establish Flight School
Congratulations to WSU Tech on their new partnership with Textron Aviation to bring the first college-based flight school to the Air Capital of the World. These valuable partnerships between WSU and local industry – like the Top Hawk program – will continue to attract talent to Wichita. Read more about this announcement here in the Wichita Business Journal.
NIAR WERX talent helps usher in new era of space travel
On Sunday, Virgin Galactic launched their VSS Unity spaceship into suborbital space with crewmembers aboard. After 17 years of work, this successful trip marks the new era of space travel. It took an incredible team to achieve this monumental task, including the talent of Wichita State University’s NIAR WERX team who helped design the horizontal stabilizer and elevon of the VSS Unity spaceship. Kansas is poised to be at the forefront of the space industry and I look forward to witnessing what our country can achieve.
Veterans Mental Health Bill Signed Into Law
The Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act, legislation I led in the Senate, was recently signed into law by the President. This bill will establish three new VA Rural Access Network for Growth Enhancement (RANGE) program centers which will provide enhanced community-based care and services for rural veterans diagnosed with serious mental health issues. The RANGE program has been successful to help make certain our veterans living in rural and highly rural areas have the same access to high-quality mental health care and services as their urban counterparts. This legislation will also spur additional research on the mental health care needs and treatment options for rural veterans. I look forward to continuing to hold the VA accountable and working to ensure the best high-quality care for all veterans.
Second Veteran Treatment Court Opened in Kansas
Last week, Wyandotte County held an opening ceremony for their newly-established Veteran Treatment Court (VTC), marking the second justice program of its kind in Kansas. VTCs provide a highly structured program that recognizes the needs and experiences of veterans in the justice system may be different than a civilian’s and they support veterans affected by mental health conditions or substance use disorders.
As the lead Republican of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction for VTCs, I have been supportive of increased resources for these veteran-centric programs, and I hope to see more established in Kansas soon.
Flag Pole Dedicated at Wichita VAMC
Earlier this month, a 100-foot-tall flag pole was dedicated at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. I want to recognize my friend Herb Duncan, the Kansas Honor Flight Volunteer Coordinator, for his many years of work advocating for the establishment of a flag pole outside the VA facility for veterans.
Thank you to the McConnell Air Force Base for supplying an Honor Guard to raise the flag; Healthy Harmony, an informal group of VA employees, for their beautiful rendition of the National Anthem; and Chaplain Paul Castillo for a moving invocation at the ceremony.
Now the flag will fly high in front of the VAMC and be visible from the road, reminding us of the many sacrifices veterans have made for our freedoms.
Remembering Roger Cornish
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Roger Cornish, a longtime news anchor at KWCH. His face and voice became familiar to many in the Wichita area as he faithfully delivered the news to the community for more than 25 years. I remember being interviewed by Roger over the years and appreciated his work and talent. Robba and I are praying for his family and friends as they mourn his passing.
Read more about his life here in KWCH.
Announcing USDA Funding for Kansas Communities
I was pleased to announce two USDA Rural Development investments for the City of Alden and City of Caldwell this week. These resources will assit with necessary improvements to their water infrastructure, helping make certain they have reliable access to safe water.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over USDA, I will continue to advocate for programs that improve the quality of life in our rural communities.
Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant Accepting Applications
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications to help small and midsized meat processors increase market opportunities through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program. This program was created by my legislation, the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processers for Upgrading Plants (RAMP-UP) Act, and provides $55.2 million in grants for small and midsized meatpacking plants to make the necessary investments to become federally inspected. Currently, meatpacking facilities can only make sales across state lines if they are federally inspected.
MPIRG applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, August 2, 2021. For more information about grant eligibility and program requirements, visit the MPIRG webpage, or contact [email protected].
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.