Senate passes disability bill, adds privatization provision

Source: Associated Press, March 18, 2016

The Kansas Senate has passed a bill intended to define and streamline the process for a shared living program for adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities. The Wichita Eagle reports that the bill passed by a vote of 31-5 after hours of debate Thursday. Before the bill was passed, a provision was added that would require the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to seek legislative approval before privatizing facilities. The agency says the bill would enable it to re-establish a shared living program that allows adults with developmental disabilities or other disorders to be placed with a care provider. The agency temporarily suspended the program in October.

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Kansas Senate disability bill sparks privatization fears
Source: Bryan Lowry, Wichita Eagle, March 17, 2016

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services says that a piece of legislation will enable the agency to re-establish a program for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities. However, some lawmakers say the bill would enable the agency to privatize facilities and avoid legislative oversight. SB 422 eventually passed by a vote of 31-5 Thursday after hours of debate, but only after it was amended to include a provision that would require the agency to seek legislative approval before privatizing facilities. … Several lawmakers alleged that the bill was actually meant to enable the agency to privatize facilities. Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, scrutinized a clause in the bill that she argued would give the agency broad powers to privatize. Angela De Rocha, the agency’s spokeswoman, said that lawmakers were misreading the bill. She said the bill was meant to enable the agency to license subcontractors for the shared living program. She said the fact that the subcontractors weren’t licensed by the agency caused the moratorium to go into effect in the first place. Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, brought an amendment to restrict KDADS from privatizing without legislative approval, easing the minds of lawmakers who had concerns about the bill and allowing it to pass.