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During Week 5 of the session, legislators were busy working bills on many health-related topics, including patient visitation rights, rural emergency hospital licensure, revisions to the Kansas Indoor Clean Air Act, codifying the Mental Health Intervention Team program, child welfare, and public assistance eligibility. This edition of Health at the Capitol looks at health-related policy issues announced or discussed during the fifth week of the session, from Feb. 5-9.

Health at the Capitol is a weekly summary providing highlights of the Kansas legislative session, with a specific focus on health policy related issues. Sign up here to receive these summaries and more, and also follow KHI on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Previous editions of Health at the Capitol can be found on our ARCHIVE PAGE.

Week 5 included several deadlines for bill introductions. Monday, Feb. 5, was the last day for non-exempt committees to request bill drafts from the revisor’s office and was also the last day for non-exempt committees’ agendas to include requests for bill introductions. Wednesday was the last day for individuals to introduce bills in the originating chamber. Friday, Feb. 9 was the last day for non-exempt committees to introduce bills in the originating chamber. Senate exempt committees are Federal and State Affairs, Ways and Means, and Assessment and Taxation. House exempt committees are Federal and State Affairs, Appropriations, Taxation, and Calendar and Printing.

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, Gov. Laura Kelly announced that her bill to consolidate Kansas’ early childhood care and education services into a single agency – the Office of Early Childhood – had been introduced in the House Child Welfare and Foster Care Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bills consolidate existing state programs designed to support children and families, including child care licensing, child care subsidy, and the Head Start program into the Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund and renames the agency. The Office would be led by a new executive director who would serve as the state’s lead administrator for these services.

On Tuesday, the Governor also announced an amendment to her proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget to add more than $23 million, including $8.9 million State General Funds (SGF), for the Intellectual/ Developmental Disability (I/DD) and Physical Disability (PD) waivers, creating 250 new enrollment slots for each. The budget amendment also includes $1.4 million, including $1.2 million SGF, for a new “Family Finding System” at the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) to help the agency track data to identify, contact and engage relatives and kin of youth in foster care for connection and potential placements. With this funding, DCF will be issuing a Request for Proposal to identify an information technology system that must also complement or integrate with the agency’s new Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System project and with all child welfare partner systems.

On Tuesday, the Kansas Supreme Court announced it was ending its jurisdiction over the Gannon v. Kansas school funding lawsuit. In October, Attorney General Kris Kobach requested the court release its jurisdiction because the Legislature had completed its phase-in increases with the 2022-23 school year. However, the Kansas Association of School Boards wanted the Court to retain its jurisdiction to ensure that inflationary adjustments in the Gannon school finance decision would continue.

Also on Tuesday, Gov. Kelly and the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund announced the creation of 458 new child care slots with the investment of nearly $28 million in Capital Projects Fund Accelerator awards to seven communities, including Great Bend, Clay Center, Manhattan, Overland Park, Atchison, Wichita and Humboldt. These funds will build or renovate multi-purpose community facilities that create new licensed child care slots; provide access to high-speed internet; and house programs that facilitate work, education and health care monitoring. The grants were made available through funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which awarded $40 million to Kansas for this program in early September. An earlier round of grants provided $10.3 million to projects in Lawrence, Hays and Emporia.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Governor signed the first bill of the session, Senate Bill (SB) 15, which makes several changes to a tax credit available for certain purchases from qualifying vendors employing individuals with disabilities. The new law renames the existing credit the “Disability Employment Act,” disqualifies vendors that pay individuals with disabilities a subminimum wage, and creates a matching grant program to help employers begin to pay workers with disabilities minimum wage. Current federal law allows companies to pay workers with disabilities a subminimum wage. The law also expands the definition of “individuals with disabilities.”

House Health and Human Services Committee
(Rep. Brenda Landwehr, Chair)

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the Committee held a hearing on House Bill (HB) 2548, which would establish the No Patient Left Alone Act regarding end-of-life care. The act would establish who may visit a patient in a patient care facility and would require patient care facilities to provide for in-person visitation. The bill would also provide parameters for patient care facilities as to what restrictions may be placed on visitors. The bill would provide patient care facilities immunity from civil liability for damages for acts taken in compliance with the bill unless the act constituted gross negligence or willful, wanton, or reckless conduct and provide for patient care facilities to remain in compliance with federal law, rules, regulations and guidance. Proponent testimony was provided by a private resident and Kansas Medical Society and LeadingAge Kansas representatives. Written-only neutral testimony was submitted by representatives of Meadowlark Hospice, the Kansas Hospital Association, and Mountain Region CommonSpirit Health. No opponent testimony was provided, and the Committee asked no questions of the conferees.

The Committee then worked the bill and asked questions to clarify visitation rights for patients suspected of having highly contagious diseases (facilities can adopt stricter visitation policies based on patient condition), whether hospitals are currently allowed to deny visitation (yes, in certain circumstances under individual hospitals’ policies), and whether individuals who are not vaccinated are allowed to visit (yes). The Committee adopted two amendments to clarify the bill’s focus on patients receiving end-of-life care and passed the bill, as amended, favorably out of committee.

The Committee then held a hearing on HB 2637, which would expand the eligibility of facilities regarding the licensure of rural emergency hospitals (REHs). The bill would expand eligibility to include facilities that were at any point during the period between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 26, 2020, one of the following types of facilities:

  • Licensed critical access hospital;
  • General hospital with no more than 50 licensed beds located in a county in a rural area as defined in Section 1886(d)(2)(D) of the federal Social Security Act;
  • General hospital with no more than 50 licensed beds that is deemed as being located in a rural area pursuant to Section 1886(d)(8)(E) of the federal Social Security Act; or
  • A department of a provider or a provider-based entity.

The bill would define “provider-based entity” as a provider of health care services or a rural health clinic that is either created by, or acquired by, a main provider for the purpose of furnishing health services of a different type from those of the main provider under the ownership and administrative and financial control of the main provider (42 CFR § 413.65).  Current law provides for a licensed general hospital or critical access hospital that applies for and receives licensure as an REH and elects to operate as an REH to retain its original license as a general hospital or critical access hospital. The bill would expand this provision to cover provider-based entities or provider departments.

Proponent testimony was provided by Tara Mays, Kansas Hospital Association, who explained that this bill would amend 2021 HB 2261, which established the REH program. That bill did not include facilities that had previously closed, but this bill would allow hospitals that have closed since 2015 to reopen as an REH. Mays stated that the federal government is also exploring an expansion of the REH program, and a bill introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran mirrors the language of HB 2637. Passage of this bill will ensure that Kansas will be ready to implement the expanded REH model upon enactment of the federal bill. Written-only proponent testimony was also provided by representatives of Ascension Via Christi Pittsburg, Kansas Medical Society and the Association of Kansas Municipalities. Committee members discussed the possibility of competition among some closed hospitals in close proximity to each other that might hinder the feasibility of reopening. The Committee then worked the bill and passed it favorably out of committee.

The Committee then worked HB 2547, which would allow certain school personnel to administer albuterol or epinephrine to students who are displaying respiratory distress anaphylaxis. The bill also would allow pharmacists to distribute a stock supply of these medicines to a school upon a prescription from a physician or mid-level practitioner and would provide a level of immunity from liability for a pharmacist, physician or a mid-level practitioner who would prescribe the medicines for the school, as well as the school personnel who would administer the drugs under specific circumstances. The bill was passed favorably out of committee. The Committee then worked HB 2453, which would enact the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact to facilitate the interstate practice of dentistry and dental hygiene and improve public access to services by providing dentists and dental hygienists licensed in a participating state the ability to practice in other participating states in which they are not licensed. The bill passed favorably out of committee.

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, the Committee held a hearing on HB 2622, which would amend the Kansas Indoor Clean Air Act to remove the smoking restriction exemption for the gaming floor of lottery gaming facilities or racetrack gaming facilities currently in place. Proponent testimony was provided by representatives of the American Heart Association, Americans for Nonsmoker Rights and the American Lung Association. One  private resident also testified,  emphasizing the need for smoke-free environments in casinos and citing health hazards associated with secondhand smoke. Written-only proponent testimony was provided by representatives of the American Cancer Society Action Network, Tobacco Free Kansas, Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and a private resident.

Opponent testimony was provided by representatives of Kansas Entertainment LLC, Boot Hill Casino and Resort and Kansas Crossing Casino. Those who testified emphasized the potential negative impact on revenue and competitiveness with Native American-owned casinos that would not be subject to the provisions of the bill and casinos located in other states in close proximity to the Kansas casinos. Written-only testimony was provided by a representative of Boyd Gaming Corporation. Committee members asked questions regarding Kansas casinos competing with Native American-owned casinos that allow smoking, whether the casinos would consider a compromise of providing a designated smoking area in the casinos, the effectiveness of ventilation systems in the casinos, and health insurance coverage for full- and part-time employees.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Committee held a hearing on HB 2669, which would create the Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT) Program Act by making changes to the program that has operated with budget provisos from year to year since 2018. The program would be moved from the Kansas State Department of Education to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and would require KDADS to hire a Program Manager and necessary supplement staff to oversee, coordinate and fund the program. The bill would also increase the amount of the Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) pass-through grant from 33 percent to 50 percent. The bill would require reports to be submitted semi-annually and annually to the Legislature regarding the program data and outcomes. The bill would also create the MHIT Program Fund.

Proponent testimony was provided by Andy Brown, Deputy Secretary, KDADS; representatives of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas (ACMHCK); Wyandotte Behavioral Health Network; COMCARE of Wichita; Family Service and Guidance Center; Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center; Kansas Catholic Conference; Catholic Diocese of Wichita; Holy Savior Catholic Academy; and St. Patrick Catholic School. Written-only proponent testimony was submitted by representatives of the Kansas National Education Association, four catholic schools, the Catholic Diocese of Salina, Archdiocese of Kansas City, and two private residents.

Opponent testimony was provided by a representative of the Community Care Network of Kansas, who expressed concerns that school districts that partner with community mental health centers (CMHCs) could be favored over schools partnering with other types of providers, including federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), that requiring KDADS to consult with ACMHCK prior to awarding any MHIT grant creates an opportunity to steer grants away from non-CMHCs, and that the term “community mental health center” in the bill creates the impression that CMHCs have a privileged position in the MHIT program. Written-only neutral testimony was provided by representatives of the Kansas Association of School Boards and Kansas Action for Children.

Committee members asked questions regarding whether school districts are allowed to partner with providers other than CMHCs (yes, school districts are not prohibited from working with other community providers), whether certified community behavioral health centers are included (yes), whether providers are required to be present in the schools (services can be made available through telehealth), the educational requirements for school liaisons, whether referrals can come from other school staff other than the school liaisons (yes), the bill’s potential impact on the growth of the program (the increase in the number of schools participating is subject to the availability of funding), and whether FQHCs are able to provide the 24/7 services that are required under the program (yes). Chair Landwehr indicated that she planned to work the bill during the week of Feb. 12 and encouraged representatives and stakeholders to submit potential amendments.

Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee
(Sen. Beverly Gossage, Chair)

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, the Committee held a hearing on SB 352, which would create the John D. Springer’s Patient’s Bill of Rights. The bill would make definitions and establish requirements for in-person visitation in certain circumstances at medical care facilities. Facilities would be required to establish or revise visitation policies and procedures that comply with the provisions of the bill prior to Sept. 1, 2024. KDHE would be required to provide information on the agency’s website that explains the requirements of the bill with a link to report complaints against medical care facilities alleging violations. The bill would also list specific rights for patients being cared for in medical care facilities. Medical care facilities would receive immunity in certain situations, and damages for actions brought for violations of bill provisions would be specified as actual damages or $25,000, whichever is greater, and the cost of the suit. Proponent testimony was provided by Sen. Mark Steffen and eight private residents. Written-only proponent testimony was submitted by 13 private residents.

Opponent testimony was provided by representatives of the Kansas Hospital Association (KHA) and Kansas Medical Society, who expressed support for patients having family connections, but stated that hospitals need flexibility to also comply with nationally recognized infection prevention and control guidelines issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and also expressed concerns about the provisions in the bill that would create a new cause of action that could be brought against hospitals or other medical facilities for violations of the patient rights in the bill. Written-only opponent testimony was submitted by a representative of CommonSpirit Health. Neutral testimony was provided by a representative of Kansans for Health Freedom. Committee members discussed potential amendments to the bill related to provisions allowing facilities to require patients agreeing in writing to a facility’s policies and removal of the provisions that create a cause of action against hospitals, and whether changes could be made to the bill that would eliminate concerns expressed by the opponents. Tara Mays, KHA, inquired as to whether the Committee would consider a similar bill, HB 2548, that was passed by the House Health and Human Services Committee.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Committee held a hearing on SB 404, which would authorize health care workers to provide expedited partner therapy (EPT) to patients who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. The bill also would specify that a child who is 16 years of age or older may consent to receive EPT when no parent or legal guardian is immediately available. The bill would allow health care providers to prescribe, administer or dispense antimicrobial drugs to the sexual partners of diagnosed patients without the need for the partners’ examination. Health care providers and pharmacists would not be liable for civil damages or subject to disciplinary actions by the State Board of Healing Arts, the Board of Nursing or the State Board of Pharmacy resulting from any act or omission in good faith compliance with the provisions of the bill. KDHE would be responsible for developing and providing written materials containing information on EPT and related health matters, and also would be responsible for adopting the necessary rules and regulations for administering the bill. Forty-six states have already enacted legislation to support EPT. Proponent testimony was provided by Dereck Totten, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, KDHE; representatives of Ascension Via Christi; Unified Government Public Health Department; Overland Park Regional Medical Center; Dillons; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; and Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health; and four private residents. Written-only proponent testimony was submitted by representatives of the Shawnee County Health Department, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, McPherson County Health Department, Kansas Association of Local Health Departments, Kansas Medical Society, Olathe Medical Center, Kansas Pharmacists Association, Augusta Family Practice, Kansas Action for Children, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kansas Affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and five private residents. There was no opponent or neutral testimony. Committee members asked questions about the current legality for prescribing for family members not at the exam, consultations conducted with the partner, current practices in neighboring states, and any potential negatives. Committee members asked questions regarding the states that have not enacted EPT legislation, whether the bill mandates the use of EPT (no), and the availability of evidence that EPT therapy is effective in reducing the rate of sexually transmitted disease (there is evidence that it reduces rates of reinfection).

House Child Welfare and Foster Care Committee
(Rep. Susan Concannon, Chair)

On Monday, Feb. 5, the Committee worked HB 2536, which would establish Support, Opportunity, Unity, Legal (SOUL) family legal permanency as an option for children in need of care who are 16 years of age or older, allow courts to establish SOUL family legal permanency, and define SOUL family legal permanency. The goal of the SOUL option is to build permanent, long-term relationships with adults who can provide support for children in need of care as they transition to adulthood. Committee members discussed the concept of loco parentis, which refers to the legal responsibility of a person to assume responsibilities of a parent for a child, how long a youth is expected to remain under the SOUL permanency option, and the $2.5 million fiscal note attached to the bill for the estimated 135 young people expected to opt for this option by 2026. Chair Concannon indicated the fiscal note might decrease over time once the state submits a Medicaid state plan amendment for medical services provided for youth enrolled in Medicaid. Committee members also discussed the need for staff support, acknowledging the voluntary nature of some of the assistance being offered by “SOUL families” but emphasizing that there would still be costs incurred. Dep. Secretary Tanya Keys, DCF, explained that certain benefits, such as post-secondary education benefits and health care costs, are already available to youth exiting the system, typically in the form of a tuition waiver and Medicaid coverage. However, with the introduction of the new permanency option, additional funds may be needed to ensure these benefits are maintained for those opting for the “SOUL family” option. She also confirmed the need to amend the state’s Medicaid plan to include this new option and clarified that the bill does not introduce new benefits but rather ensures continuity of existing benefits for youth in the “SOUL-family” option. Dep. Secretary Keys also addressed questions about the young adult subsidy, explaining its role as an independent living subsidy for those age 16 and older and confirmed that the bill adds a new case plan goal for SOUL for eligible youth, in addition to the existing, more traditional goals of reintegration and adoption.

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, the Committee received an update from Kerri Weeks, M.D., regarding the Child Abuse Review and Evaluation (CARE) Network established by the Kansas Legislature in 2023. The primary goal of the network is to ensure access to comprehensive medical evaluations in every region of the state for cases of child abuse. Between June 1, 2023, and Jan. 31, 2024, DCF transmitted 2,056 referrals to the Medical Resource Center (MRC, a team of child abuse experts), including 267 for a general medical examination, 228 for a CARE examination, and 14 for evaluation by a child abuse pediatrician. The average response time between the submission of a referral to the MRC and DCF’s receipt of the recommendation was 13 hours and 21 minutes. The five counties receiving the most referrals were Sedgwick, Shawnee, Wyandotte, Johnson and Reno.

Committee members discussed the increase in the number of cases identified through the Care Network, attributing it to improved identification rather than an actual rise in abuse cases. They also asked questions regarding the operational aspects of the network, such as handling rejected referrals and addressing communication gaps. Dr. Weeks explained the learning curve involved in managing rejected referrals and the approach taken to ensure timely communication with DCF for additional information to ensure a case should be rejected.

The Committee then held a hearing on HB 2552, which would prohibit DCF from using federal monthly Social Security (SSA), Supplemental Security (SSI) or other federally issued benefits received by a child in foster care to reimburse the state for the costs of care while in state custody, including food, clothing, shelter, education and daily supervision. The bill would also require the Secretary to create accounts for children receiving federal benefits and directing the use of the benefits for the best interests of the child. Proponent testimony was provided by representatives of Kansas Appleseed, Children’s Advocacy Institute, and Center for Rights of Abused Children. Written-only proponent testimony was submitted by Dep. Sec Tanya Keys. Written-only neutral testimony was submitted by a representative of the Children’s Alliance of Kansas.

The Committee then held a hearing on HB 2554, which would amend the Kansas Code for Care of Children to require DCF to search for, identify and notify adult relatives of children who are the subject of a temporary custody order. The bill also would require DCF to file reports within 30 days of a court order being issued and at each subsequent hearing for the Child in Need of Care proceeding after that order has been entered that would document DCF’s efforts to comply with the search and notice efforts to locate adult relatives of the child or persons with whom the child has close emotional ties. Unless safety concerns exist that are known to DCF, adult relatives of the child and persons with whom the child has close emotional ties would be required to receive notice of court proceedings by certified mail. An adult relative or a person who fails to respond within 30 days of the date of the notice and subsequently wishes to become the child’s placement would be required to show by clear and convincing evidence that a change in placement is in the best interest of the child. The court could order DCF to continue to search for adult relatives of the child or a person with whom the child has close emotional ties for up to six months from the date of the temporary custody order entered or from the date of change in the child’s placement. During a permanency hearing, DCF would report to the court all unsuccessful, intensive, ongoing efforts that have been made to return the child home or secure a permanent placement with a fit and willing relative, legal guardian or an adoptive parent.

Proponent testimony was provided by a representative of the Center for the Rights of Abused Children, who explained that DCF was already conducting diligent searches, but the bill was needed to set timelines and expectations for searches for individuals identified by the child. Written-only proponent testimony was submitted by Dep. Sec. Tanya Keys, DCF. Committee members asked questions regarding the potential costs shown in the fiscal note, the definition of “close emotional ties” (phrase is not explicitly defined), and which other states have passed similar legislation (Missouri, Arizona and Tennessee). The fiscal note indicates that DCF has estimated the fiscal effect on expenditures on the agency would be $233,140, beginning in FY 2025, from all funding sources, including $206,212 SGF, for the cost of new licenses that may be needed to access various information and postage for contacting relatives or other persons with whom a child has close emotional ties identified through the search.

House Welfare Reform Committee
(Rep. Francis Awerkamp, Chair)

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the Committee heard a presentation from a representative of United Community Services of Johnson County regarding continuums of care on homelessness. A continuum of care is a community collaboration that seeks to improve the community’s response to poverty and homelessness. The Committee also heard from a representative of Lawrence/Douglas County regarding the strategic plan to address homelessness and serve homelessness, who stated that Lawrence recently created a division, called the Homeless Solutions division, dedicated to creating solutions to end homelessness. The City of Lawrence also recently approved $2.7 million in a funding agreement with the Lawrence Community Shelter and is currently partnering with the shelter to develop additional low-barrier pallet homes that will be near the shelter campus. The homes are intended to provide emergency questions regarding the Point-in-Time Count and the increase in individuals experiencing homelessness in Lawrence.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Committee worked HB 2627, which would reorganize subsections within the public assistance statute (KSA 2023 Supp. 39-709) pertaining to eligibility requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the child care subsidy program; general requirements related to drug screenings and convictions, assignment of support rights to the Secretary of DCF and limited power of attorney; and provisions related to fraud investigations. Although several amendments were offered to eliminate certain bans on eligibility, remove the requirement for cooperation with child support enforcement, and strike the requirement for an act of the Legislature to expand Medicaid, they all failed. Committee members also discussed the pros and cons of making additional changes to the content.

The Committee also heard a presentation from Amanda Stanley, City Attorney for Topeka, who provided an overview of the City’s legal and programmatic efforts to address homelessness and the various initiatives it has undertaken, including housing, services, policing and business perspectives, while also assessing what has and has not worked.

Chair Awerkamp announced that a roundtable discussion on homelessness involving Kansas cities (e.g., Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City) will take place after turnaround.

House Social Services Budget Committee
(Rep. Les Mason, Chair)

On Monday, Feb. 5, Secretary Laura Howard, DCF, presented an overview of the agency’s budget and programs. By program, the largest components of the budget are prevention and protection services ($434.0 million), economic and employment support ($213.5 million) and regional service delivery ($122.1 million). Sec. Howard noted that the agency has received $597.8 million in federal pandemic funds since 2020 and the largest awards have been to the Child Care Development Block Grant ($253.7 million), which provides child care assistance to low-income families with children under age 13, and the Child Care Stabilization Fund ($213.9 million), which provides sustainability grants to cover the costs of operation and potential revenue losses of child care providers. She stated that as the pandemic-related funds decrease, the budget will return to more typical levels. The FY 25 budget of $941.0 million is a $121.3 million decrease from FY 24, largely due to the FY 25 budget only including $1 million in federal pandemic funding. Committee members asked questions about the child care sustainability workforce grants, SNAP benefits, TANF caseloads, and the summer EBT program, which provides food assistance to children eligible for free or reduced lunch during the summer.

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Committee heard public testimony on the DCF budget from Rep. Tim Johnson, on behalf of home-based child care, and representatives of the Boys & Girls Club; DCCCA; Kansas Association for the Centers for Independent Living; Three Rivers Independent Living; Children’s Alliance of Kansas; and Thrive Kansas, Zero to Thrive.

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the Committee voted to pass out the DCF FY 24 budget and FY 25 budget with the following amendments:

  • Add $350,000, all SGF, to support Core Community efforts to expand programs that address the cycle of poverty to additional communities;
  • Add $400,000, all funds, to the existing $350,000 for the Children’s Alliance of Kansas’ workforce retention program, KanCoach;
  • Add $1 million, all SGF, to the existing $3.2 million to DCCCA for the Family Preservation program;
  • Delete $15 million, all SGF, from the child care sustainability workforce grants; and
  • Add a proviso to reallocate $500,000 in funds initially designated for childcare sustainability grants to the recruitment and retention of home-based child care providers.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Committee heard presentations regarding the KDHE- Health proposed budget from the Kansas Legislative Research Department and KDHE officials. The presentation included highlighting the accomplishments of Healthcare Finance, which included the Medicaid unwinding process, improvements in organizational efficiency, the KanCare managed care Request for Proposals, transitioning away from the Section 1115 demonstration, and the implementation of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services-required Electronic Visit Verification for home health and personal care services. Committee members asked questions regarding the courier services for the laboratory removed from the Governor’s budget, staffing and completion of the new laboratory, the increase in the Medicaid consensus caseload, and Medicaid expansion.

House Committee on Insurance
(Rep. William Sutton, Chair)

On Monday, Feb. 5, the Committee worked HB 2478, which would add “maternity center” to the definition of “healthcare provider” in statutes regarding professional liability insurance requirements for health care providers. The bill would allow maternity centers that are not organized as professional corporations to have access to coverage through the Heath Care Stabilization Fund, provided they meet certain requirements provided for in the Heath Care Provider Insurance Availability Act. The Committee then passed the bill favorably out of committee.

House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee
(Rep. Stephen Owens, Chair) 

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Committee returned to work on HB 2487, which was previously passed out of committee, as amended, on Jan. 30. The bill would provide immunity from prosecution for possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia if the person seeks or provides medical assistance to a person under the influence of a controlled substance or who is under the influence of a controlled substance and needs medical assistance. The bill also would provide civil immunity for law enforcement agencies and officers who comply or fail to comply with the provisions of the bill and would extend civil liability immunity to officers who arrest persons later determined to be immune from prosecution unless such officer’s conduct was reckless or constituted intentional misconduct. The bill was brought back to the Committee due to concerns from law enforcement officials related to amendments made on the bill that would extend the immunity to those on parole, probation or participating in a community service program. The Committee considered two amendments and amended the bill to (1) modify certain citations within the bill aimed at limiting the type of paraphernalia subject to the bill and (2) remove previous amendments regarding immunity for individuals under probation, parole and similar programs. The bill, as amended, was then passed favorably out of committee.

House Federal and State Affairs Committee
(Rep. Will Carpenter, Chair)

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the Committee worked HB 2358, which would modify the Uniform Vital Statistics Act provisions concerning who may certify a cause of death. The bill would specify that a cause of death certifier could certify the cause of death of a deceased person. Under the bill, “cause of death certifier” would mean:

  • A person licensed to practice medicine and surgery by the State Board of Healing Arts (Board);
  • A physician assistant licensed by the Board;
  • An advanced practice registered nurse licensed by the State Board of Nursing;
  • District coroner;
  • Deputy coroner; or
  • Special deputy coroner.

Immunity would be granted under the bill for a cause of death certifier who makes a certification in good faith. The Committee amended the bill to make a technical change to the text and the bill, as amended. It was passed favorably out of committee.

House Judiciary Committee
(Rep. Susan Humphries, Chair)

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Committee held a hearing on HB 2676, which would expand the definition of assisting suicide to include intentionally advising, encouraging, or coercing another person to commit or attempt suicide. Current law defines assisting suicide as “a physical act in which the offender causes by force, provides the means for, or participates in a victim’s suicide attempt.” The bill would make it a severity level 9, person felony to provide knowledge about the physical means by which another person attempts or commits suicide; a severity level 5, person felony to take advantage of a person’s fears, affections, or sympathies to cause them to attempt or commit suicide; a severity level 4, person felony to knowingly exert undue influence over another person with the intent to cause the person to attempt or commit suicide; and a severity level 4, person felony to intentionally coerce or encourage another person to attempt or commit suicide. Proponent testimony was provided by six private residents. Written-only proponent testimony was submitted by representatives of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Kansas Catholic Conference, Kansas Sheriffs Association, Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Kansas Peace Officers Association, Kansas Mental Health Coalition, and one private resident. Neutral testimony was provided by a private resident. Opponent testimony was provided by a representative of the Kansas State Board of Indigents’ Defense Services (BIDS), who argued that prohibitions against advising and encouraging another to commit suicide violate the First Amendment. However, the BIDS conferee also offered some alternative language that the Committee could consider accomplishing the goals of the bill and making it more likely to withstand a legal challenge.

Senate Judiciary Committee
(Sen. Kellie Warren, Chair)

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the Committee held a hearing on SB 419, which would amend law in the Kansas Criminal Code pertaining to the crime of aggravated endangering a child, by amending elements of the crime to reflect conduct involving fentanyl-related controlled substances; increasing the penalty for the crime when bodily harm is inflicted upon the child; and adding “fentanyl-related controlled substance” and “methamphetamine” to the list of terms defined in the crime. Proponent testimony was provided by Attorney General Kris Kobach and representatives of the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Kansas Sheriffs Association, Kansas Peace Officers Association, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and Kansas County & District Attorneys Association, who all expressed concern about the growing presence of fentanyl in the state and the high fatality rate upon exposure, especially in cases of exposure to children. Written-only proponent testimony was submitted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Written-only opponent testimony was submitted by a representative of the Board of Indigents’ Defense Services who argued that the bill would be sending a message that the Legislature thinks fentanyl is more dangerous than other substances and that legislators should be focused on helping individuals who suffer from fentanyl addiction rather than punishing them more severely. There was no neutral testimony submitted.

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The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.

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