Despite resistance, lawmakers create foster care task force; Brownback signs four more bills as session nears end

The Kansas Senate sent two significant pieces of legislation to Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk on Friday while Brownback signed four bills into law.

Among the bills the Senate passed was one establishing a child welfare task force that would spend the next two years studying the Department for Children and Families’ management of the state’s child welfare system, and the foster care system in particular, and to make recommendations for improvement.

The bill was prompted by a number of children who were either killed or mistreated while in the custody of the child welfare system. But DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore has resisted efforts to impose more oversight, and conservative lawmakers allied with Brownback pushed back against the idea.

The push to establish a new task force comes on the heels of a series of Legislative Post Audit reports that were highly critical of DCF’s management of the programs.

The task force would be made up of legislators, court officers, children’s advocates, law enforcement officials, social workers and others involved in the child welfare system. That group would break up into a number of working groups to study different aspects of the system, including foster care, family preservation, protective services, reintegration and DCF’s general administration of child welfare.

The group would be expected to file a progress report to the Legislature in January 2018, but its final report would not come until January 2019, after the Brownback-Colyer administration has left office.

The bill passed the House Friday morning, 109-10. It passed the Senate a few hours later, 33-6.

The Senate also passed and sent to Brownback’s desk a bill dealing with mandatory inspections of amusement park rides. That bill, which the House passed Thursday, delays some enforcement provisions of a new law just enacted earlier in the session making it a class B misdemeanor to operate an amusement park ride that has not been inspected and received a permit by the Kansas Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, Brownback signed four pieces of legislation into law Friday:

• Senate Bill 42, updating and revising portions of the juvenile justice code that underwent a massive overhaul last year.

Senate Bill 201, amending the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, adding members of the military to the definition of “protected consumers.”

House Bill 2092, making various changes to Kansas criminal procedure.

And House Bill 2132, authorizes port authorities to conduct certain sales.

Brownback has now signed 91 bills into law this session and has vetoed three. His veto of an income tax overhaul bill was subsequently overridden this week.