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2018 Legislative Wrap Up

Of the 3500 bills, only 100 became law, including ours!

8/29/2018 9:00:50 AM

ASL version

If you are DeafBlind or prefer to watch the video in a slow-paced, high contrast format, watch the DeafBlind friendlier ASL version instead.

English version

The Legislative Session ended on May 21, 2018. The MNCDHH introduced one bill, tried to amend other bills so they included deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing people, and worked to increase technology accessibility at the Capitol. We also supported bills introduced by Minnesota State Academies and the State Council on Disability, and supported Thompson Hall. The legislature combined many agency bills together into one large bill and the Governor vetoed it. The Governor also vetoed the tax bill. All but a few standalone bills and the bonding bill passed. Of the 3500 bills that were introduced in FY18, only 100 became law, including MNCDHH’s bill!  Here are the results!

Changes to the language in MNCDHH’s Statute (MS 256C.28). (HF3290 / SF2777) - PASSED 

The law solved several problems. Over the years if the governor’s office got busy and old members terms had expired, new members wouldn’t be selected to replace them.  At times we were down to five members.  Next, the board wanted to hold brief meetings in between full board meetings to discuss issues like contract approvals and the Executive Director’s performance review.  Last, they wanted to change our name to one that was easier to remember.   Our new statute solves these problems by: 

  • Allowing members to serve up to three 4 year terms, or continuing to serve until a new member is appointed.  It also builds in a transition period so there is a balance of experienced and new members.  
  • Adding an Executive Committee that can take care of business in between full board meetings and 
  • Changing the name from the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Minnesotans to the Minnesota Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing. (Minnesota goes to the front of the name instead of at the end of our name. 

Starting on August 1, 2018, call us the “Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing.” You can call us “MNCDHH” or “The Commission” for short.

Support the Minnesota State Academies bills for campus improvements and security corridor.

This was partially successful. $2 million was awarded to preserve and repair their campus. They had requests in for over 6 million dollars, which included the funds to build a safety corridor.  They were included in the Governor’s budget and both parties were supportive of their requests.   In the end, there were over $3 billion in bonding requests and many groups didn’t get funding.  MSA did a great job and got $2 million for maintenance.  

Education legislation and rulemaking 

We met with legislators during the session to discuss our concerns about the new tiered licensure law that passed in 2017 that created the Professional Educators Licensure and Standards Board.  The new teacher licensing law is one size fits all- it doesn’t require a specialized license and training to teach deaf and hard of hearing students for Tier 1 and Tier 2.  We are very worried about this.  We also testified at PELSB hearings to express our concerns and to say we believe that all teachers who work with kids who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing need a specialized license.  Later this summer we are meeting with a group from the board of educators, parents and advocates to set policy goals and proposed legislation together that we hope will overcome barriers and challenges in deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing education.  

Thompson Hall

The Minnesota Historical Society selected Thompson Hall to be one of two grantees out of 2200 to present about the success of the Legacy Fund.  The Commission provided support and helped organize the hearing.  Herman Fuechtmann, president of the Thompson Hall Board of Trustees, presented to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee on March 7, 2018. John Fechter, president of the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC) and Deaf Equity board member, presented to the House Legacy Committee on March 26, 2018. 

Accessible IT at the Capitol

Senator Torrey Westrom asked the Commission, the State Council on Disabilities and the Office of Accessible Technology to meet in March to discuss potential legislation to make the House, Senate and the Legislative Coordinating Commission websites more accessible.  The Commission played a key role in a compromise that would create a study group that will make recommendations on how to increase access at the capitol, including policy changes and funding.  Senator Westrom decided not to introduce legislation but has asked the leadership of the House, the Senate and the Legislative Coordinating Commission to create the group that will make recommendations for the FY19 session.  The Commission will be part of the study.  

Elder Abuse

We tried to get seniors with age-related hearing loss and seniors who are Deaf included in elder abuse legislation.   The House and the Senates supported us being part of it but disagreed on how to approach the problem.  The entire Human Services bill was vetoed by the Governor.  

Support the Minnesota Council on Disabilities bill for ADA accommodations in state parks and rest stops (HF3549 / SF2963) 

This was partially successful. $500K was awarded for accessibility improvements in state parks in the state bonding bill.   The Department of Natural Resources will use the money to make William O’Brian State Park more accessible. 

Of Interest - Service Animals

Beginning August 1, 2018, it will be illegal to misrepresent an animal as a service dog. The first violation of this law will be a petty misdemeanor and subsequent violations a misdemeanor. Businesses may post the sign, “Notice: Service Animals Welcome. It is illegal for a person to misrepresent an animal in that person’s possession as a service animal.”  The Commission was not part of the advocacy efforts because there were enough advocates actively supporting it, but know many in the community were supportive of this legislation. 

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