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How We Make Decisions

The Commission explains how we make decisions about policy on this page.

Why the Commission will work for or against a bill

There are 3 reasons the Commission will work for or against a bill:

  1. It is part of the strategic plan
  2. A close ally asks us to work on it
  3. There is a threat or opportunity that we need to react to

1. It is part of the strategic plan

Even if the bill is related to one of the issues in the strategic plan, it is still not automatic that the Commission will work on it.  First, we ask ourselves:

  1. Was this policy proposal specifically listed in the strategic plan?
  2. Was it suggested by one of the workgroups?
  3. Support and opposition:  Who else will support it?  Is there data showing that this policy is beneficial?  Have we already done the research and brought people together around it?  Is there agreement about this proposal within the Deaf, DeafBlind and hard of hearing communities and our close allies?  Or will part of our community or any of our close allies oppose it?  Will there be other opposition?
  4. Impact:  Will the proposal have a high, sustainable impact?  Will it best advance us towards the goals in the strategic plan?
  5. How much work will this take?  Do the staff have time to work on this bill and the others we’ve already agreed to?

2. A close ally asks us to work on it

If it was suggested by a close ally, we still ask ourselves:

  1. How much help are they asking for?  Are they asking us to take the lead or to simply support their efforts?
  2. Same questions about support & opposition.
  3. Same questions about workload.  

3. There is a threat or an opportunity that we need to react to

During the legislative session, there are hearings on hundreds of bills. Some of these would or could have a very good or very bad effect on the Deaf, DeafBlind and hard of hearing communities.  When this is the case, we ask ourselves:

  1. How good or bad an impact would it have or could it have if we were able to get it changed?
  2. How likely is this bill to pass?

How the strategic plan applies

We keep mentioning the Commission’s strategic plan.  How does an issue get into the strategic plan? The plan comes from the community! Every five years, the Commission asks the community:

  • what should we focus on and
  • what are the most important issues for Deaf, DeafBlind & people who are hard of hearing?

For the current strategic plan, a total of 600 people across the state gave input:

  • 22 key leaders were interviewed one to one
  • Held 20 focus groups around the state
  • Distributed surveys

Then the board sorted through all of the info at a retreat and developed the strategic plan.  A 5-year plan with goals, strategies and some key policy proposals. The plan was announced in ASL & English on the website, by email, and on Facebook. Then we set up work groups or task forces for each of the areas in the plan to research the issues and make further decisions about what we should focus on within that area.

The last strategic plan was developed in 2014 and started in 2015.  The next strategic plan will be developed in 2018 and start in 2019. Each year, the board approves the Commission’s legislative agenda at their meetings in November and January. The board approves the goals for the bills – generally what we are trying to accomplish. The staff figures out the how – the exact language for the bills, any negotiating that needs to happen, and the legislative strategy. If anything changes from the goals, then the staff check in with either the board chair or vice chair to consult about how to proceed.

Board consultation about changes during legislative session

Why doesn’t the staff consult with the whole board about changes? 

Legally they can’t – the Open Meeting law requires that any discussion between Commission Board members be at a meeting that the public is invited to at least 3 days ahead of time.  So the staff cannot legally do a conference call to ask for our input without posting a notice that they plan to do so at least 3 days in advance.  When the Legislature is in session, there isn’t time to do this.  Staff cannot legally ask for our input by email because there’s no way to include everyone in the public on the email.

An example of how this works in practice:  

Modernizing Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD)

  1. During the strategic planning process in 2014, the community raised concerns about DHHSD – that services weren’t keeping up with the times; services were decreasing, especially in Greater Minnesota; that there were waiting lists for services.
  2. At the retreat to create the strategic plan in 2014, the board decided this was a priority and included it as one of the 6 areas of focus for the next 5 years.
  3. Staff did research and found out which services had waiting lists and what they most needed money for.
  4. The staff put together a bill to increase funding for DHHSD and required studies of how to modernize their services.  This bill passed in 2015.
  5. A steering committee was put together to oversee the studies.  The steering committee included DHHSD staff and Commission board members.  The majority of the people were Deaf or hard of hearing.  They chose the vendors to do the studies.
  6. The studies asked the community what is needed.  1,700 people answered surveys.  There were 5 town halls held.  The vendors wrote up reports.  32 groups came together to give recommendations about how to proceed.
  7. Commission staff took the recommendations and wrote a bill based on the reports and the community input.
  8. The Commission board discussed the goals of the bill at the meeting in January 2017 and approved the staff working on the bill.  
  9. The staff negotiated with DHHSD and made other necessary revisions. 
  10. The bill that reflects the Commission board’s goals passed in both the House and the Senate. 
  11. The DHHSD bill was included in the Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill (SF 800), which was passed by the Legislature and then signed into law by the Governor.
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