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2017 Legislative Wrap Up

Thanks to legislators & citizen advocates for your great work

6/5/2017 3:12:36 PM

ASL version

If you are DeafBlind or prefer to watch the video in a darker, slower format, watch the DeafBlind friendly ASL version instead.

English version

The legislative special session is finally over and the Governor has taken action on the bills, so we can now tell you what was accomplished at the Legislature this year.

The Commission succeeded in getting many of our bills passed. Thanks to all who advocated for the bills. The Commission’s legislative agenda comes from the community and is set by commission members. Your participation made a difference!

Thanks to the legislators and citizen advocates who fought long and hard on our behalf to help us get our bills passed. Here’s what we accomplished together:

Education: Increased funding for Deaf Mentor Family Program: PASSED

The Deaf Mentor Family Program will receive an increase in grant funding from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD). DHHSD will decide how large the increase is.

Age-Related Hearing Loss: Require good acoustics and hearing loops in state-funded construction: PASSED

From now on, whenever the state helps pay for construction or remodeling of a public gathering space in which it’s important to be able to hear, contractors will be required to consider including good acoustics and hearing loops. They can waive the requirements if it is too expensive. This new law is the first in the nation and sets a new national standard for accessibility.

Age-Related Hearing Loss: Training for staff at assisted living facilities: PASSED

This new law clarifies that many staff who work with senior citizens can take training about age-related hearing loss and have it count towards their training requirements. The Commission will bring together a group of stakeholders to develop the training. The group will include Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division, audiologists, and the University of Minnesota. The student group at the College of Audiology at the U has agreed to develop an online version of the training and the U has agreed to host the online training. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD): Modernize the services and increase funding: PASSED

The new law will modernize the way services are provided statewide for deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing adults and children across the state and increase the funding for DHHSD. We will provide more details about this new law in the next few weeks.

Strengthening Commission: Increase funding to expand Commission’s impact for advocating with deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing Minnesotans: PASSED

Funding for the Commission will be increased by $370,000 per year. This will allow us to put more information into American Sign Language (ASL), continue our work on age-related hearing loss, and spend more time ensuring that laws are implemented the way they should be.

Education: Funding for Adult Basic Education at ThinkSelf: NOT PASSED

The Legislature did not increase the funding for the Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs in Minnesota. This year the Deaf ABE program partnered with other programs in the state to ask for an increase for all of them. Unfortunately, they were not successful.

Education: Funding and infrastructure for the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and Blind: PASSED

The State Academies will receive almost everything they asked the Legislature for. The Education Budget bill includes an increase of almost $2.8 million for the State Academies over the next two years, which will allow them to add staff and update resources. They will also receive over $2 million to maintain and update buildings on the campuses and to increase safety for students on campus. They had also asked for money to build a track on campus, but this did not pass.

Part of the funding increase for the State Academies will continue in future years, but not all of it. They will need to go back to the Legislature and ask again for an increase in funding in 2019.

Education: Assistive Technology in Education: PASSED

The Minnesota Department of Education is required to do an analysis of how assistive technology is used by students with disabilities. They must give the legislature a report of their findings in February 2018.

Employment: Eliminate waiting lists for Vocational Rehabilitation Services: PASSED

Vocational Rehabilitation Services will receive an additional $3.5 million per year will help ensure that people with disabilities do not have to wait if they need assistance in finding a job or in getting the support they need once they have a job. Thank you to the people who responded to our Action Alert and contacted legislators to support this. You were a big help!

Employment: Keep Accommodation Fund for State Employees: GOOD & BAD PARTS PASSED

The Accommodation Fund for state employees will continue to receive $200,000 per year. However, the new law also requires agencies to pay half of the cost for accommodations. This is a new policy that we tried to convince legislators to change, but we were not successful.

Communication Access: Limitations on requirements to make websites available: NOT PASSED, which is good news

Early in the session, we were worried that the Legislature would introduce a bill or an amendment that would say that businesses do not have to make their websites accessible. Luckily, none of the legislators offered this bill or amendment this year.

Elections: Changes to accessible voting equipment: NOT PASSED, which is fine

There was a bill that would have changed the law to allow for a new type of accessible voting equipment to be used on Election Day in Minnesota. If it passed, we wanted to be sure the bill included a policy to protect the secrecy of who each person voted for. However, the bill did not pass so the special policy to protect voters’ secrecy is not needed.

Over the next few weeks, we will provide more detailed information about several of the bills that passed this year. Stay tuned!

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