Capitol Update: Rep. Donohoe says work on funding for disability services has been priority

Rep. Owen Donohoe, seen here in a file photo from 2019, said one of his priorities this session has been securing funding for individuals waiting to receive intellectual or developmental disability home and community-based services.

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Sen. Kellie Warren, Rep. Jarrod Ousley and Rep. Owen Donohoe are scheduled to send updates this week.

Below is the submission from Republican Rep. Owen Donohoe, who represents District 39, which covers much of western Shawnee.

The Kansas legislature is in our first adjournment now, preparing for the May “veto” session. Some of the highlights of this session include:

  • Gov. Kelly vetoed SB 50, a bill which would allow Kansans to take advantage of federal tax cuts on their state returns. With her veto, the Governor favors increasing the tax burden on Kansas taxpayers and employers, which will harm job creation and our economy.We have taken action on unemployment reform in HB 2196, which would modernize the Dept. of Labor infrastructure. Gov. Kelly has not fixed this broken system, which has left thousands of unemployed Kansans without their benefits and suffering unnecessarily.
  • We have passed two key workforce improvement bills: HB 2064 which creates scholarships to Kansas trade schools and community colleges, and HB 2066, which cuts red tape on professional licensing for military members and other professionals to get to work quickly in Kansas.
  • We have expanded access to healthcare with HB 2208, especially for vulnerable Kansans.

I sit on the Social Services Budget, Education and Financial Institutions and Rural Development Committees. Here I’ll address the priority issues of healthcare and social services that affect millions of Kansans.

Expanding Access to Healthcare

Early in the session I helped lead the effort in the Social Services Budget committee to fund services for individuals waiting to receive intellectual or developmental disability home and community-based services. The committee approved an $80 million increase in funding, which was combined with $50 million in federal funding.

This funding became part of HB 2208, a healthcare bundle that improves access to services for millions of Kansans. I’m delighted that it gained bipartisan support and passed overwhelmingly, and is headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. If she cuts funding in this bill (like she did last year), she’ll be denying healthcare access to the most vulnerable Kansans.

HB 2208 also greatly expands mental health services in Kansas, provides telehealth options and streamlines access to licensed professionals. The bill also eliminates red tape for Community Behavioral Health Clinics and Community Mental Health Centers, so they can deliver more services swiftly. Additionally, the bill implements the new Rural Emergency Hospital designation in Kansas, which enables smaller rural hospitals to access federal funding.

As many of you know, I’m a tireless champion for those with disabilities and/or mental health concerns. I will continue to advocate in support this long-overdue funding.

Looking Ahead

In the weeks ahead, we hope to secure the governor’s signature on the general budget bill and education, which has seen an influx of federal CARES Act funding this year. Much work remains to move Kansas forward from more than 50,000 lost jobs during the pandemic.

I was re-elected to continue bringing reasoned, values-based leadership to Kansas government. Although we face steep funding challenges and key decisions to help Kansans in need and restore our economy, I’m confident that our bills create a path to recovery that strengthens our state. I welcome your requests and comments at owen.donohoe@house.ks.gov.