The Kansas House on Wednesday passed a bill narrowing the scope of abuse claims the Attorney General’s Office investigates, with some revisions by a committee.
Senate Bill 408 would move responsibility for investigating some cases involving children away from the Attorney General’s Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Unit.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt testified during a February hearing in favor of the bill, which he said would allow the unit to focus on abuse cases involving seniors and adults with disabilities.
The bill passed 103-19 in the House. The Senate approved a slightly different version of the bill 40-0 in February. It now is in a judiciary conference committee.
The bill originally directed the Department of Corrections to investigate complaints about abuse and neglect in the juvenile justice system. The House Judiciary Committee added that the Attorney General’s Office also could investigate in those cases.
The committee left in place a provision moving responsibility for investigating abuse or neglect of children in facilities owned by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to local law enforcement.
Rep. Blaine Finch, an Ottawa Republican, said the changes would allow the Attorney General’s Office discretion to take part in investigations or leave them up to the Department of Corrections and local law enforcement.
Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, said during debate Tuesday that he thought the bill weakened protections for children.
“I can’t imagine there’s a right way to vote on this bill,” he said. “A vote ‘yes,’ I believe, endangers children. A vote ‘no’ endangers the disabled.”
Finch said the change would allow the Attorney General’s Office to use limited resources effectively, because other agencies can investigate alleged abuse. In addition, most allegations by youths in state custody in recent years were unfounded, he said.
“Often they’re complaints about food quality or personality conflicts,” he said.
“I can’t imagine there’s a right way to vote on this bill. A vote ‘yes,’ I believe, endangers children. A vote ‘no’ endangers the disabled.”- Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat
Clint Blaes, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said Wednesday after the House vote that the office still supports the bill but declined to comment on specific provisions.
The committee also added licensed behavioral analysts and licensed assistant behavioral analysts to the list of professional required to report if they suspect a child is being abused.
Other bills that passed the House include:
- Senate Bill 449, which would standardize the state’s licensing of behavioral health professions and prohibit outsourcing of building or operations at the state’s psychiatric hospitals, on a 97-26 vote. It is on a list of bills in a health conference committee.
- Senate Bill 407, which would reinstate some language related to the state’s program to civilly commit sexually violent predators after a 2015 law accidentally struck it, on a 123-0 vote.