Opinion: A new journey
Kansas is a great place. In Kansas, we know our neighbors and look after them. We teach our children to be moral, responsible citizens. And we work hard to provide for our families and build a better future. The pioneering spirit of those Kansans years ago who settled our state and tamed the West lives on in us today. We are independent people who want to make a difference. I appreciate you allowing me the opportunity to make a difference during my years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives.
On Jan. 3, I began a new journey and now have the honor of representing all Kansans in the U.S. Senate. We lead a special way of life in Kansas, one that is worth fighting to preserve for the next generation. That fight has been and will continue to be my focus.
As a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, I worked on legislation that will help Kansas farms and ranches remain viable, so they can be passed on to the next generation. This included fighting for estate tax reform, working to open markets overseas, writing farm bills and preserving the viability of crop insurance. These things are important regardless of your job or where you live in Kansas because agriculture matters. It is a mainstay of our economy and when agriculture is successful, Kansas is successful.
Improving the quality of life for the nearly 250,000 veterans living in our state has also been a top priority. As a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, I was a staunch advocate for veterans who had trouble getting the health care they needed because the VA hospital or health clinic was too far away. During my tenure, I oversaw the development of five new VA outpatient clinics in western and central Kansas that have brought care closer to home. I have also been a part of ongoing efforts to allow rural veterans to obtain health care from their local physician or hospital.
Kansas ranks fourth in the nation in total highway miles with over 134,500 miles of public roads and highways. Our state's aviation industry accounts for about 20 percent of our manufacturing employment and employs tens of thousands of Kansans. During my time on the House Transportation Committee, I authored legislation to improve highways and railways in Kansas, while also protecting and promoting the growth of the aviation industry in our state.
In rural Kansas communities, access to quality health care is essential to the prosperity and survival of the towns we call home. As Co-Chairman of the House Rural Health Care Coalition, I led the fight to save rural hospitals, sponsored legislation to bring more physicians to underserved areas and worked to restore Medicare funding for small hospitals. As co-founder of the Congressional Community Pharmacy Coalition, I worked to make sure that Kansans have access to a pharmacist within their own communities.
Since first coming to Congress in 1997, I have made it a priority to stay connected to the Kansans I represent, so I have returned home each weekend, and have held annual town hall meetings in each of the 69 counties I represented in Congress. In the years ahead, I will continue to return home and travel throughout all 105 counties in our state to hear from Kansans directly. Most importantly, I will not forget where I came from and the Kansans who helped me along the way.
My generation has a responsibility to the next generation of Americans, to be good stewards of what we have been given. As I begin this new journey, I remain committed to do what is necessary today, so our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that we have in Kansas and in this great country.