Responding to Devastating Fires Across Kansas

Senator Jerry Moran
2017-03-13 19:39:13
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Kansas Common Sense
March 13, 2017


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.

Responding to Devastating Fires Across Kansas

I spoke on the Senate floor this week to shed light on the wildfires impacting families in Kansas. This week, wildfires have burned nearly 700,000 acres and hundreds, if not thousands, of livestock have been killed. Kansans have been forced to evacuate and far too many have lost their homes, fences and barns along with their cattle. While I am saddened by the losses from these wildfires, I’m thankful for the willingness of so many living nearby – and across the country – who have volunteered to help us rebuild fences, bring in much-needed hay, and offer any assistance needed. I am working with officials to make sure that the eligible federal resources are in place to assist these producers and landowners, including through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and other services.

I traveled to southwest Kansas on Sunday to attend a worship service at United Methodist Church and visit the Bouziden and Giles ranches near Ashland where it’s estimated 85 percent of their acreage has burned. I was joined by Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer and many other state and local officials to hear from Kansas Division of Emergency Management experts and other people in the affected communities. I am proud to serve Kansans in the United States Senate for many reasons, but especially because of the way we take care of each other, as a family, as many have done for those dealing with loss and destruction. For instance, I saw numerous donated trucks of hay headed toward Ashland that came from different places, but were donated to aid those in need. My continued prayers are with these families and the many others whose livelihoods have been threatened. Please watch the video below to see what I saw during my visit.

The House Takes Up Healthcare Reform

Across the Capitol, my colleagues in the House are currently considering the American Health Care Act, which would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it simultaneously with a new framework for our healthcare system. Congress must make certain that Americans have better options and more affordable care. Obamacare took the freedom to make healthcare decisions away from Kansans and Americans and gave too much authority to the federal government. I’m eager to review the legislation passed by the House and will be working to ensure it provides real, substantive improvements to our healthcare system. 

Extending and Improving the Veterans Choice Program

I joined my Senate colleagues this week to introduce the Veterans Choice Improvement Act (S. 544) to improve the Choice Program and extend access to timely care for more veterans in their local communities. This legislation would remove the August 7, 2017, sunset date for the Choice Program and allow the remainder of the funds authorized for the program to be used. It also cuts unnecessary red tape between the VA and community providers who are nobly serving our veterans. Many Kansas veterans and veterans across the country rely on the Choice Program to receive timely, quality care, and this important legislation will offer peace of mind that they can continue to seek care in their community. I hope to see this legislation pass the Senate soon. To read more, click here.Joining the 

Calling for the Restoration of Trade with Cuba

I recently reintroduced legislation (S. 472) to lift the trade embargo against Cuba and grant the private sector the freedom to export U.S. goods and services to Cuba while protecting U.S. taxpayers from any risk or exposure associated with such trade. Cuba is only 90 miles from our border, making it a natural market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers. At a time when we need more markets, lifting the embargo and opening up Cuba for American agricultural commodities would help increase exports, create new jobs, and boost the U.S. economy. Keep in mind that when we don’t sell agricultural commodities to Cuba, somebody else does.

While our unilateral trade barriers block our own farmers and ranchers from filling the market, willing sellers such as Canada and France, China and others benefit at the American farmers’ expense. This legislation would amend our own country’s laws so that American farmers can operate on a level playing field with the rest of the world. After more than 50 year, it is time for American farmers and ranchers to truly have market access to Cuba’s 11 million consumers. To read the High Plains Journal's piece on this bill, click here.

Importance of Cancer Research at KU Med

During Wednesday morning’s Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee hearing that focused on medical research, I expressed how important I believe it is that Congress passes all 12 appropriations bills this year to make certain our priorities become law. I also asked one of the panelists what the University of Kansas Medical Center Cancer Center’s application to receive comprehensive status from the National Cancer Institute could mean for the care received by Kansas patients based on his previous experiences of working at an NCI facility. 

The National Cancer Institute is a component of NIH, and it is our nation’s principal agency for cancer research and training. Obtaining NCI comprehensive designation would enhance the KU Cancer Center’s already impressive ability to discover, develop, and deliver innovative treatments to patients in our state, improving their quality of life.

Medical research has changed the lives of millions of Americans and has the potential to impact millions more because the possibilities are endless. But in order to plan for the future, scientists and researchers need certainty. Our consistent, sustained support of medical research is essential to saving and improving lives, growing our economy, and maintaining America’s role as a global leader in medical innovation. This commitment will benefit our children and our country for generations to come. Most important, it provides hope to the millions of Americans who suffer from diseases that lack treatments and cures.

Questioning Interior Secretary Zinke on Tribal Issues

As a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I had the opportunity to question Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about priorities for Indian tribes in Kansas and across the country. Secretary Zinke committed to working with me to implement the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, legislation I introduced, should it be passed by Congress and signed into law. This bill would promote the sovereignty of tribes by enabling them to make their own labor decisions and therefore provide economic stability. Also, I invited Secretary Zinke to visit Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence to discuss the need for improving facilities there and enhancing opportunities for students. Haskell is one of two four-year universities operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, and it serves tribes across the country. The school’s success is integral to the long term success of Indian country. The list of issues to address for Indian Country is long, and I will continue working to find solutions.

Underscoring the Value of NATO

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations held a hearing Tuesday on the Russian threat to our allies and partners in Eastern Europe. Russia’s military has illegally entered Georgia and Ukraine to support separatists, and it has amassed troops on the borders of NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Russia is also funding anti-Western propaganda in these countries. The committee heard testimony from the ambassadors of Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, as well as the Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine, to hear their perspectives on the urgency of defending against Russian behavior. I asked about the importance of maintaining U.S. sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, and all on the panel stated European unity relies on continued American leadership. They also affirmed to me the importance of American energy supplies shipped to Europe to ease their dependence on Russian natural gas. The hearing underscored the value of the NATO alliance and that American assistance to these countries remains a crucial factor in maintaining peace in Europe. 

Visiting Fort Belvoir

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, I had the opportunity to visit Army Cyber Command on Fort Belvoir on Friday. Their critical operations and cyber missions are serving soldiers overseas, as well as Army systems and programs that protect our nation from adversaries seeking to disrupt our way of life. There is a growing need in our U.S. Armed Forces for “cyber warriors,” and I appreciated learning more about the critical missions carried out by these specialized soldiers, as well as the challenges facing the services for training, recruiting and retaining those in these positions. I found the visit at ARCYBER incredibly valuable and enjoyed the insight in to all the hard work of the young, motivated soldiers I met including two Kansans. I even got to visit with Fort Leavenworth CG Michael Lundy while I was there. A special thanks to Commander of Army Cyber Command Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone for hosting me.

Discussing Energy Solutions at Tradewind Energy in Lenexa

On my way to Washington early Monday morning, I visited Tradewind Energy, a Lenexa-based company specializing in wind and solar energy development. They are one of the nation's largest wind and solar developers with projects throughout the country. I appreciated learning more about their presence in Kansas. We discussed federal energy policy and how to improve veterans’ opportunities to find meaningful employment. While no single form of energy can provide the solution to our country’s energy needs, developing renewable sources like wind and solar helps to allow an ample energy supply that is affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible. Thanks to Rob Freeman and Geoff Coventry for hosting my visit.

Congratulating Students from Shawnee & Holton

I met with Jack Campbell of Shawnee and Tel Wittmer of Holton this week while they were in Washington as the Kansas delegates to the 55th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Jack and Tel are accomplished students at Mill Valley High School and Holton High School, respectively. During their time in Washington, they attended meetings and briefings with members of Congress, cabinet members and more. They even had the opportunity to hear from a justice of the Supreme Court and the President of the United States. Their selection represents a real honor. It’s students like them across our state who have an interest in making a difference in the lives of others who continue to give me confidence that good things are going to happen in this country, and especially in Kansas.

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. 

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