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2019 Legislative Wrap Up

Led 7 bills (5 bills passed, 2 bills did not)

9/3/2019 10:19:59 AM

ASL version 

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

English version

That’s a wrap! MNCDHH and advocates have had a great year at the Capitol. Thank you for your advocacy. Together, we introduced seven bills.

  • Five bills passed.
  • Two bills did not pass.

MNCDHH’s Request for Increased Funding – Passed!

[ASL version: 1:23] [DeafBlind version: 2:33]

MNCDHH will receive an increase of $450,000 per year from the Telecommunications Access Minnesota (TAM) fund. We will use the increase for several important things:

  1. To bring together groups to work on policy change in education, health care, employment, technology, access to public service that benefit the whole state, and encourage civic engagement.
  2. To cover the costs of a new policy analyst and a government relations director.
  3. With more staff and more work, our need for accommodations such as interpreters and CART has increased. This will help us cover the costs.

This brings MNCDHH’s annual budget from $1.2 million to $1.7 million (not $1.6 million).

Health & Human Services: Renew the Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Committee – Passed!

[ASL version: 3:16] [DeafBlind version: 6:02]

The Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Group was scheduled to sunset, which means it was scheduled to end. Thanks to supporters, this committee will continue. The Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Group evaluates Minnesota’s Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) program outcomes. They make sure that the program is effective, culturally appropriate, and that children and families are getting the services they need.

Committee members have influence on Minnesota’s programs and services, including language acquisition. There is already a seat for a culturally Deaf person, typically someone from the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC) and a seat for a hard of hearing person who primarily uses spoken language. This year, the law added seats for someone from the Deaf Mentor Family Program and someone from the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf.

Education: Add a definition of interveners for deafblind children so it is clear they are an option to parents and to districts – Passed!

[ASL version: 5:58] [DeafBlind version: 11:24]

A definition of the work of intervenors for deafblind children is now in statute. The state has provided funding for interveners for deafblind children for almost 30 years but never defined the specific tasks and duties that they perform.

National advocates asked MNCDHH to lead this effort because it will support advocacy efforts to get the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act passed, a bill that will strengthen IDEA and require more customized services for children who are blind, deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing.

Minnesota is the first state to define intervenor services and duties, which we hope will lead to recognition of this service as a best practices and a requirement in all 50 states.

Employment: State employees with disabilities provisions modified, working group created, and report required – Passed!

[ASL version: 8:14] [DeafBlind version: 15:53]

Thanks to this new law, the commissioner from each state agency is required to have a plan for implementing the state’s IT accessibility standards. All agencies are required to report the use of the state’s accommodations reimbursement fund and include the number of accommodations required, approved, and denied.

Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) is required to consult with Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the State Services for the Blind (SSB) to improve the state’s hiring and retention rates if they identify problems in the Affirmative Action report.

In 2018, the state’s Affirmative Action report reported that 56% of state employees with disabilities leave state work within a year. We need to find out why.

An advisory group will be established. This group will make recommendations to the legislature and MMB on how to improve the recruitment and retention of state employees with disabilities.

MMB will need to continue to track and report the percentage of state employees with disabilities.

The law also removed an old line that allowed the state to not pay employees with disabilities for trial work programs.

Accessible IT at the Capitol – Passed!

[ASL version: 11:58] [DeafBlind version: 23:18]

The Legislative Coordinating Commission (LCC) will establish a work group to decide on the Legislative IT Accessibility Standards for the Capitol, including the House and the Senate. This work group will also develop an implementation plan so that legislative staff, legislators, and citizens with disabilities can participate in the legislative process and not experience barriers with digital technology. MNCDHH is excited and looking forward to the work group’s results.

Education: Change state law to allow charter schools to provide special education to deaf and hard of hearing students at early ages – Did not pass

[ASL version: 13:30] [DeafBlind version: 26:21]

We wanted to change state law so Metro Deaf School, a special education Charter School, can be reimbursed for providing preschool services to deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing children aged birth to three. They are able to get reimbursed for children four and older, but the way the current statute is written, they are unable to get reimbursed for younger children. Babies and toddlers need access to preschools with language-rich environments. Sadly this did not go through. We’ll try again.

Education: Funding for teacher preparation program for teachers of the blind and low vision – Did not pass

[ASL version: 14:52] [DeafBlind version: 29:04]

We were surprised that this did not pass since it received a lot of support from legislators and community advocates. We will work closely with the National Federation for the Blind and see what next steps they would like to pursue. This bill would have supported additional funding to explore, develop, and establish a teacher preparation program leading to licensure for teachers of the blind and low vision.

Bills that MNCDHH supported and were led by others

[ASL version: 15:58] [DeafBlind version: 31:11]

MNCDHH supported bills that were led by others. Here are brief summaries of their bills:

  1. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD) – This was led by DHHSD through the Governor and passed. The changes will modernize the Telecommunications Equipment Distribution (TED) program. The new changes will let the TED program staff help applicants apply for reduced cost phone service and provide more equipment options. The 2019 legislature also increased the grant funding used to make more interpreters available for community interpreting in Greater Minnesota by $422K ($211K a year). 
  2. Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System (SLEDS) – The funding was scheduled to end this year but we supported it continuing. SLEDS is important to use as this is where we get the data to measure outcomes for children. 
  3. Minnesota State Academies – We supported and advocated for their funding increase. MSA got their base and they also received some of their funding increase but not all of it. They received a $515,000 increase. MSA shared their updates in their Superintendent updates. 
  4. The expansion on the health insurance mandate for hearing aid coverage. Right now, the mandate only covers children from ages 0-18. This year, MNCDHH supported efforts to get adults covered. Sadly it did not pass but we are working on getting a cost-benefit analysis done to help us plan for the future.


The Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing thanks:

James Paul Beldon III for ASL talent.

Mark Zangara for voiceover.

Keystone Interpreting Solutions for film production.

accessible technology


language acquisition

hearing aids



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