Current and Past Legislation

The Commission of Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans is an advocacy organization that ensures individuals who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing have equal access to services, programs, and opportunities that are available to others. Here you will find listed the various legislative measures which the Commission has been successful in proposing and passing, year by year. We are grateful for all the support we have garnered in this process. Thank you!

2015 Legislative Agenda Team Key Talking Points

1. Funding for Communication Access Training in the Workplace
HF 1023 (Hamilton) / SF 486 (Schmit)

  • The state is facing a worker shortage and needs to encourage employment
  • Without training and support, deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing workers are not hired or face a revolving door
  • Supportive employment programs for deaf adults and transition-aged youth have proven results
    • For every $1 spent on adults, $3 is returned in wages
    • 90% of youth in programs like VECTOR are employed or enrolled in post-secondary education at the time of graduation
  • Other disability groups are guaranteed $28 million per biennium in employment supports and extended employment; deaf workers are guaranteed $0
  • Without funding, the organizations that offer these critical services have to lay off staff and cut back—not expand the way we need them to
  • The bill will expand services from just the metro area to Greater Minnesota
  • The proposal is for $1.2 million per year for both transition-aged youth and adults and would provide grants in the metro area and Greater Minnesota

2. Establish a Central Accommodation Fund for State Agencies
HF 1078 (Urdahl) / SF 989 (Metzen)

  • With the worker shortages in Minnesota, the State needs to do more to encourage people to join the labor force and attract and retain the best workers as state employees
  • A best practice for hiring more workers with disabilities is to have a Central Accommodation Fund that all state agencies can tap into to pay for special software, equipment, sign language interpreters or other technology
  • Then hiring managers won’t have to worry about the cost of accommodations in their budgets, especially at small agencies
  • It will show that the state is committed to hiring workers with disabilities
  • Private companies, like IBM, SunTrust and Microsoft, use Central Accommodation Funds
  • The federal government and the University of Minnesota also use Central Funds
  • The proposal is for $500,000 per year, which should be enough for accommodations and to cover the Department of Administration’s cost of overseeing the fund

3. Require Closed Captioning be Activated on TVs in Public Places
HF 253 (Newton) / SF 987 (Johnson)

  • Activating closed captioning makes TVs in public places (restaurants, bars, gyms, hospitals, etc.) accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing
  • It is helpful to hearing people in noisy environments and people learning English
  • The ADA requires that content be captioned and that TVs are able to display captions. This requires that the captioning be activated
  • When there is an emergency, it ensures everyone can access important safety information

4. Additional funding for DHS’s Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services Division, for Mental Health Services, and for Support Services for DeafBlind Children and Adults
HF 1341 (Pierson) / SF 1272 (Hawj)

  • The Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services Division (part of DHS, different than the Commission) provides critical services to the community in six offices around the state
  • An additional $1 million a year would:
    • Help eliminate the waiting list for deafblind children and adults
    • Provide deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing children mental health services in ASL
    • Provide funds needed for Regional Advisory Boards to meet and for staff to have funds to travel to provide training and meet with consumers
    • Do an analysis of how to best provide services statewide. Offices in Bemidji and Rochester have closed, meaning that those in Greater Minnesota may have to travel up to 4 hours one way to get services
    • Do an analysis of whether there is a simpler way to administer deafblind services

5. Funding for the Minnesota State Academies (for the Deaf and for the Blind) for Technology
HF 1224 (Daniels) / SF 920 (Jensen)

  • The Academies need $2.1 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 and FY 2017 for computers, portable devices and software, access to electronic books, Wi-Fi connectivity, internet access to participate in current approaches to teaching and learning
  • The bill includes funding for technology in future budgets too

6. Preschool at Metro Deaf School (MDS)
HF 1591 (Erickson) / SF XXXX (Wiger)

  • MDS is a special education charter school that offers bilingual English / ASL education. Students have two ways to enroll:
    1. through district placement (resident district), or
    2. through Parent Choice—where parents can choose to enroll their child at any school they wish. Parent Choice currently only applies to grades K – 12. This bill adds preschool students to Parent Choice.
  • Having the choice of MDS is especially important for parents of deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing children, who may otherwise struggle to learn. Waiting until kindergarten is too late.

7. Require State-Funded Construction to Include Loops and Good Acoustics
HF 2057 (Theis) / SF 1784 (Rest)

  • When state government pays for the construction or major renovation of a public meeting space, it should be required to include good acoustics and include hearing loops, to ensure that everyone can hear what is said
  • Loops pick up just what is said into a microphone, not all of the sound in the room and transmits clear sound to t-coils in hearing aids, cochlear implants, and portable receivers

8. Text-to-911 Capability
HF 849 (Cornish) / SF 878 (Latz)

  • Until now, Minnesotans could only contact 911 in case of an emergency by telephone or TTY
  • The Governor proposed funds to allow Minnesotans to send a text message to 911
  • This is important for many deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing Minnesotans to contact emergency personnel

For further information, contact Beth Fraser at beth.fraser(at)state.mn.us or 651-431-5974.

Past Legislation

Legislation 2014

Legislation 2013

Legislation 2012

Legislation 2011

Legislation 2010

Legislation 2009

Legislation 2008

Legislation 2007