Friday, March 11, 2011

Statehouse Update: Movement on Two Major Fronts

Provider Assessment

InterHab was well represented Friday at the Senate Ways and Means Committee as lead proponents of SB 210, the empowering legislation for a Kansas provider assessment program for DD community services. Alice Lackey and Colin McKenney did a great job, articulating the community message, Matt Fletcher gave a compelling litany of evidence of the lagging reimbursement rate situation, and Tom Laing discussed the proposed program, and the basis for the potential CMS approval.

With only one exception the commentary from the committee was supportive and positive. It appears, absent something unforeseen, that this legislation has a high likelihood of being recommended for full Senate consideration.  Thanks are owed to Senator McGinn for scheduling the hearing in the middle of a very tough week for her, as budget battles continue to rage between the House and Senate.  Thanks are also owed to Senator Huntington for her introductory testimony on our behalf, and to Senator Kelly for making the strongest statement of the committee that our Provider Assessment must be exclusively used to assist providers with higher rates.

SRS testimony was brief and not as supportive. While supporting the principle, they expressed a preference that the income from the provider assessment be used in part for the waiting list, and in part to go the state general fund to help address the state’s cash shortfall. (However, not more than two hours after the hearing, SRS officials were unofficially distancing themselves from that position and sending signals that some potential compromise could be possible. At this point, the members of InterHab have been quite clear that the provider assessment must be protected from political poaching. Nevertheless, every effort needs to be considered to encourage and nurture cooperation with the new administration.)


Today the Governor’s staff shared Brownback’s decision to earmark all KNI savings for community DD services.  “All” is a word that could mean various things, and when pushed by reporters, Rep. David Crum (who helped advocate with the Governor for this decision) indicated that there might be some funds that would not be available immediately .. for example, some funds might be needed to maintain properties at KNI awaiting further disposition.  Crum chairs the House Social Service Budget Committee and is owed thanks for his work with both parties in the House to make this happen.

All of this is highly speculative, however, since the Senate continues to be perceived as strongly anti-closure. Senators Kelly and Schmidt of Topeka have been particularly outspoken. Both are on the Ways and Means committee and pushed hard and successfully for an anti-closure vote in their committee.  As for the Governor’s pronouncements, pro-closure voices welcomed this news.

Budget rescission and supplemental spending bill

The House/Senate compromise which was announced at a 4:30 pm conference committee meeting yesterday didn’t make it until 5 pm, and in fact never made it out of the room, the House conferees expressed their views in  such a lukewarm and unenthusiastic  manner that the compromise broke down and ended with nothing.

Today the Governor’s response came at 11 am, as he announced his plan to order budget allotments by the close of business today.

The House then scheduled a conference committee meeting at noon, which the Senate conferees chose not to attend.

Everyone now is awaiting what cuts the Governor may be preparing to order.  And, behind the scenes, the two chambers may be looking for a way to get back together. Who knows? It’s a procedural mess at this point, and not yet sorted out.

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