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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly will try again to combine social services departments

laura kelly
Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 19:37:52-05

TOPEKA, Kan. — Democratic Gov. 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.

Her 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 but Republicans have been skeptical. They can prevent a reorganization by voting it down in one chamber. The House blocked Kelly's plan last year.

Kansas legislators opened their annual session Monday with new leaders in the Senate, new lawmakers in a quarter of the seats and a top Republican acknowledging that he’s asked for extra security.

The 90-day session began amid the COVID-19 pandemic and under the shadow of last week’s mob violence in Washington.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican, said he has asked for extra security from the Kansas Highway Patrol. A spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said her office is taking all potential threats seriously.

The Senate's top leaders were all new to their jobs, and 42 lawmakers were new to their seats.