Senate places foster care reform in jeopardy

Kansas senators want to package bills to strip the health secretary of powers, but are insisting those bills are tied to foster care reforms.

By

State News

March 31, 2022 - 4:01 PM

Sen. Richard Hilderbrand says he won’t move forward on legislation requiring performance-based contracts for foster care services without an agreement to free police officers from the responsibility of enforcing public health orders. Photo by (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas senators are threatening to derail foster care reforms in an attempt to leverage support for stripping the health secretary of the ability to fight infectious disease.

Leaders of the House Children and Seniors Committee have been meeting with leaders of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee to merge several bills based on recommendations from an interim foster care oversight committee. Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, a Baxter Springs Republican, led the oversight committee and also serves as chairman of the Senate health panel.

Negotiations fell apart Wednesday when Hilderbrand, a Baxter Springs Republican, demanded the foster care bills be packaged with Senate Bill 489, which takes away the authority of state and local health officials to order mask mandates or conduct contact tracing. Members of the House panel, led by Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican, rebuffed the proposal.

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