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Senate passes bill merging welfare, Medicaid, rehab agencies

Mississippi’s departments of Human Services and Rehabilitation Services could be combined with its Medicaid agency under a legislative plan.

Senators voted 37-14 Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 2384 (http://bit.ly/1SfvrTp), which would merge the three agencies. It moves to the House for more work.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Buck Clarke, a Hollandale Republican, says the bill aims to save money by combining back-office functions. Clarke says he doesn’t know how much savings might be or how many employees might lose jobs.

The combined agency would be exempt from civil service protections for a year, allowing leaders to fire employees or restructure jobs freely.

Clarke says the idea is to preserve services, but opponents say they fear one unwieldy agency.

The merger wouldn’t affect a plan creating a separate foster care agency.

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