Legislative Update Week of 2/28-3/4

Last Friday was what is called “Turnaround Day”.  This is the halfway point on the legislative calendar and the day in which all legislation must be passed out of its house of origin, either the House or the Senate. Needless to say, it was a very busy week under the dome!
1-      Last year, HB 2336 (known as the Employment First Initiative) was introduced into the House. This bill passed out of committee and was resoundingly approved by the full House.  It was assigned to a Senate committee, but got stuck.  This year, the bill was resurrected and amended and is now known as SB 205.   What this bill does is ensures that Kansans support employment as the first “day service” option for individuals  with developmental disabilities. We all know that unemployment among folks with disabilities is extraordinarily high, yet employment is typically considered to be the default service for folks served by DD agencies. Last Monday,  the House Commerce Committee held hearings on SB 205. A few job seekers and professionals from Johnson County and others around the state, testified in support of the bill.
2-      Senate Ways and Means just worked through their 2012 budget.  They penciled in  $2.8 million to fund the waiting list.   It shows they’re thinking of us…but we know this is just the first step of the trek.  Pessimists (or is that Realists?) believe that it may be used as a bargaining chip for something else the Senate wants down the road. We’ll keep our eye on it. 
3-      Tuesday, the House Committee on Aging and Long-term Care passed HB 2296 which among other things, designates that all “savings” from the closure of KNI, goes to fund the DD waiting list. Our own Representative Ron Worley, is vice chair of that committee and deserves our gratitude.
Originally, the Governor asked for closure of KNI, with all the savings going back into the state general fund.  With over 4,000 folks waiting for services, this committee wanted the savings to go to fund the waiting list. This bill is now in the hands of House leadership, and they must agree to introduce it to the larger body in order for it to make headway.  For those you knowing Rep. Arlen Siegfreid,  a call or email asking him to hear HB 2296 would be appreciated.
4-      Now, for the next round of the rescission dilemma!  The House finally agreed to  preserve  the K-12 special education funding which was demanded by the Senate. Currently, the committee disagrees on how to come up with that $25 million.  This past meeting lasted 5 minutes, so membership is obviously not a happy group. It appears that nothing will be decided before March.  
The committee has said that they will not have any more meetings, signifying that all negotiations will occur behind closed doors.   This type of a match can end in a tie.  What may happen is that nothing happens!  The State may agree to postpone a few payments on a few large ticket items until July (next year’s budget).  That will just leave a larger gap in 2012 that legislators will need to fill.
Write a letter to the Editor of the KC Star (YES, YOU!!!!!!!!!!).
It’s not that hard if you are passionate about something.  I’d love to see 10 letters in the Star over the next two weeks!

1-      Submit original letters of up to 200 words

 Write about what it’s like to have a child with a disability, help your child write about what it’s like to have a disability, what it’s like to wait for funding, the value of having citizens with disabilities in our community, hospital closure dollars must go into the community, employing persons with disabilities adds value for all, the immense value of direct support professionals, the legislature’s role in addressing the needs of vulnerable citizens, etc. 

 You are the expert in what to write!  Please take the time to share your thoughts!

 2-      The Star prefers that letters be submitted online at http://www.kansascity.com/letters  or I’ve attached the link

 3-      Letters also may be submitted by mail to The Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO. 64108. In addition to the letter you will need to provide your name, email, subject, address and  daytime phone number.  They will call and make sure that you submitted the letter.  They only print your letter, city and name.

Lurena Mead�
JCDS Community Relations Manager
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