Jan 12, 2021 5:00 PM

Kan. governor to try again to reorganize social services

Posted Jan 12, 2021 5:00 PM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Laura Kelly plans to try a second time to reorganize Kansas’ social services after the Republican-controlled Legislature blocked the move last year.

Kelly announced Monday that she will issue an order next week creating a single Department of Human Services to administer programs for children, families, the disabled and older Kansas residents. It also would run the state’s hospitals for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

The governor’s plan would combine the Department for Children and Families with the Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Kelly said a single department would provide “easier access” to services,” and Laura Howard, who is the head of both department, said it would reduce bureaucracy and allow the state to modernize its programs.

But Republicans have been skeptical that such a merger would have benefits, and under the state constitution, lawmakers can block the reorganization by voting it down in one chamber. The House did that last year, largely along party lines.

House health committee Chair Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican, said the groups served by the two agencies are too different for the departments to be merged.

The new, merged department would have a $3.1 billion budget and nearly 5,200 employees.