MNCDHH Legislative Update

A lot is happening and we have lots of news to share this week. The Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Minnesotans board met in January and added to the legislative agenda, the Governor released his budget proposal this week, and the legislature is already busy hearing and passing bills.
Additions to Legislative Agenda
First the additions to the legislative agenda:

The Commission voted to also support three measures related to education and one related to communication access.

The three related to education are:

Support funding and infrastructure requests for the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf
Support increased funding for Deaf ABE (Adult Basic Education) provided in ASL
Require that a student’s need for assistive technology be considered when developing an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Individual Family Support Plan (IFSP)
The proposal related to communication access is:

Oppose efforts to weaken laws that require business’s websites to be accessible
Now that the Governor has released his budget proposal, we know that we will support another initiative for vocational rehabilitation:

Eliminate waiting lists for Vocational Rehabilitation Services by requesting $3.5 million a year for a total of $7 million.
When we get bill numbers and additional information about these proposals, we will share them with you.

Governor’s Budget Proposal
Second, the Governor released his budget proposal, which includes good news for our communities. The Governor’s budget includes funding for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD) as well as funding for the Minnesota State Academies of the Deaf and Blind.

It is now up to the Legislature to decide whether to follow the Governor’s budget recommendations or to do something else entirely. We will be working with you to urge them to provide even more funding to DHHSD than the Governor recommended and to provide funding for the State Academies, for the Commission for Deaf ABE, and for the Deaf Mentor Family Program.

Legislature Taking Action
Third, the Legislature is already taking action.

You may have heard that the House and Senate took quick action and within days of the start of the session passed a health care bill. When the House passed the bill, it included language that would have gotten rid of the requirement for many insurance policies to provide coverage for a long list of items, including cancer treatment, mental health care, and especially concerning to us, coverage for children’s hearing aids. Many groups took action and MNCDHH did too. Luckily Senator Michelle Benson from Ham Lake and Governor Dayton both blocked this proposal. It was dropped before the bill was approved by both the House and Senate last week.

The bill to require Good Acoustics and Hearing Loops in State Funded Construction has been introduced in both the House and the Senate. In the Senate, it is Senate File (SF) 161 and is authored by Senators

Ann Rest from New Hope,
John Hoffman from Champlin,
Julie Rosen from Vernon Center,
Matt Klein from Mendota Heights
and Dave Senjem from Rochester.
In the House, it is House File (HF) 423 and is authored by Representatives

Tama Theis from Saint Cloud,
Jeff Howe from Rockville,
Tim O’Driscoll from Sartell, and
Paul Anderson from Starbuck.
We are working on getting the rest of our bills written and lining up legislative authors for them.

A lot will be happening this year and we need you to be a part of it. Sign up for Lobby Day on March 8th and stay tuned for alerts!

For More Information and Updates
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