A leading state children's advocate says that a bill that would have saved children's lives and cost nothing died because of "politics."
"Politics got in the way, and Kansas kids will die needlessly as a result," said Shannon Cotsoradis, president and chief executive officer of Kansas Action for Children. Key state officials denied Cotsoradis' allegation.
One of those, Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, said the bill got caught up in legislative deadlines.
The dispute is over Senate Bill 259, which would have allowed health researchers to extract information from the State Child Death Review Board for the purpose of public health research. The bill would have prohibited disclosure of information that could be used to identify a child.
Supporters of the bill say it will help the state identify trends and risk factors that may contribute to the death of a child.
Cotsoradis said identifying those public health trends is crucial because the Kansas child death rate exceeds the national rate.
A bill similar to SB 259 passed the House without opposition.
SB 259 was approved in March by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it failed to advance and died at the end of the session.
When pressed what she meant by "politics" getting in the way, Cotsoradis said that Kansas Action for Children has a long-running legal dispute with Attorney General Derek Schmidt in which the child advocacy group seeks the release of information about tobacco settlement revenues that fund children's programs.
"We don't have the best relationship with the attorney general's office. That may have factored into the equation," Cotsoradis said. Schmidt's office denied that Schmidt had anything to do with the bill's demise. Schmidt's spokesman, Clint Blaes, noted that the Child Death Review Board, which is part of the attorney general's office, testified in support of the bill.
King, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, "There is nothing nefarious going on." King added that he supported the bill and will try to pass it next year. As far as the charge that children will die as a result of the measure not being passed, King said, "I have not seen one iota of evidence" to support that.
Cotsoradis said a bill that passed the House without opposition, and drew no opponents who testified, should have passed the Legislature.
Topeka — A gay rights advocate said Thursday a compromise has been reached on a bill that could result in the quarantine of people with AIDS or HIV.
House Bill 2183 would remove a current provision that exempts those with HIV or AIDS from possible quarantine.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials said they wanted to remove the exemption because HIV and AIDS are infectious.
During a hearing on the bill, Paul Marx, an associate chief counsel with KDHE, said there would be no medical reason to isolate or quarantine a person infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS. But Marx added, "I can't say that would never happen, if the virus were to mutate." He added, however, "That is hugely speculative."
Tom Witt, executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition, said he wanted the HIV/AIDS quarantine exemption restored.
During a House-Senate conference committee meeting, it was agreed to include the phrase "medically necessary and reasonable" when dealing with a quarantine issue.
"Since even KDHE publicly concedes there is never a `medically necessary' reason to quarantine someone with HIV, local health officials will not be able to get away with using the new law to justify harassment of people living with HIV/AIDS," Witt said.
Witt added of the compromise, "This is not perfect — no compromise ever is. We would rather see the specific HIV exemption preserved in law. However, given the extremely conservative tilt of our current state government, this is the closest we are going to get to ensuring people are treated fairly."
HB 2183 clarifies procedures on testing a patient for communicable diseases when a health care worker has been exposed to that patient's blood or bodily fluids.