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HB 258: "An Act establishing the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing."

00                             HOUSE BILL NO. 258                                                                          
01 "An Act establishing the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing."                                                  
02 BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA:                                                                
03    * Section 1. The uncodified law of the State of Alaska is amended by adding a new section                          
04 to read:                                                                                                              
05 LEGISLATIVE INTENT.  It is the intent of the legislature that the Commission for                                        
06 the Deaf and Hard of Hearing obtain, within five years after the commission is established,                             
07 funding from sources other than the general fund to support the operation of the commission                             
08 so as not to reduce the level of state funds presently available for services for persons who are                       
09 deaf or hard of hearing.                                                                                                
10    * Sec. 2. AS 36.30.850(b) is amended by adding a new paragraph to read:                                            
11                 (49)  contracts for equipment and services entered into by the                                          
12       Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing under AS 44.21.510 - 44.21.550.                                       
13    * Sec. 3. AS 44.21 is amended by adding new sections to read:                                                      
14             Article 7. Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.                                                   
15            Sec. 44.21.510. Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. (a) The                                       
01       Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is established in the Department of                                   
02       Administration to coordinate and improve access to services and provide advocacy                                  
03       and outreach for persons in the state who are deaf or hard of hearing.                                            
04            (b)  The commission consists of seven members appointed by the governor as                                   
05       follows:                                                                                                          
06                 (1)  four members who are deaf or hard of hearing;                                                      
07                 (2)  one member who is a parent of a person who is deaf or hard of                                      
08       hearing;                                                                                                          
09                 (3)  one member who is an officer or employee of a private or                                           
10 municipal organization that provides services to persons who are deaf or hard of                                        
11       hearing; and                                                                                                      
12 (4)  one member who is an employee of a state agency that provides                                                      
13       services to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.                                                              
14 (c)  The commission shall, by majority vote of the membership, elect a chair                                            
15 and other officers the commission considers necessary from among its membership to                                      
16       serve on a yearly basis.                                                                                          
17 (d)  The commissioner of administration shall, upon request of the executive                                            
18 director of the commission, provide for the assignment of additional temporary or                                       
19 permanent personnel to the commission that are necessary for the commission to                                          
20       exercise its powers under AS 44.21.510 - 44.21.550.                                                               
21 Sec. 44.21.520. Term of office and compensation. (a) The term of office of                                            
22 each member of the commission is three years. If a vacancy occurs on the                                                
23 commission, the governor shall appoint a successor to serve the unexpired portion of                                    
24       the term.                                                                                                         
25 (b)  Members of the commission serve without compensation, but are entitled                                             
26 to per diem and travel expenses authorized for boards and commissions under                                             
27       AS 39.20.180.                                                                                                     
28            Sec. 44.21.530. Duties of the commission. The commission shall                                             
29 (1)  serve as a clearinghouse of public information for consumers,                                                      
30 public and private entities, and the general public on issues related to the deaf and hard                              
31       of hearing community;                                                                                             
01                 (2)  expand and improve the availability of telecommunications                                          
02       equipment and accessories for persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind;                               
03                 (3)  provide outreach services to promote compliance with federal,                                      
04       state, and local accessibility laws and regulations by collaborating with consumers,                              
05       public and private entities, and other stakeholders to develop policy;                                            
06                 (4)  develop strategies for systematic change and programs in                                           
07       government and community agencies and organizations to improve communication                                      
08       access for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing;                                                               
09                 (5)  provide an educational and informational program through printed                                   
10 materials, workshops and training sessions, presentations, and public awareness events                                  
11 about hearing loss for people in the state; the program must include information about                                  
12 referral services, lending libraries, services and resources, interpreters, accessibility                               
13 and accommodation issues, assistive technology, empowerment issues, obligations of                                      
14 service providers for and employers of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing,                                         
15 educational options, and current federal and state laws and policies regarding hearing                                  
16       loss;                                                                                                             
17 (6)  cooperate with public, private, and government agencies to                                                         
18       coordinate programs for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing;                                                  
19 (7)  provide technical assistance, consultation, and training to                                                        
20 individuals or organizations who intend to start or enhance programs and services for                                   
21       persons who are deaf or hard of hearing;                                                                          
22 (8)  evaluate and monitor state programs that deliver services to persons                                               
23 who are deaf or hard of hearing to determine their effectiveness; identify and promote                                  
24 new programs and services when necessary; make recommendations to public officials                                      
25 about changes necessary to improve the quality and delivery of services, programs,                                      
26       and activities;                                                                                                   
27 (9)  make funding recommendations to the legislature regarding new or                                                   
28       existing programs for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing;                                                    
29 (10)  review, evaluate, and make recommendations to state agencies,                                                     
30 the legislature, and the governor regarding laws and regulations that affect persons                                    
31       who are deaf or hard of hearing;                                                                                  
01                 (11)  promote cooperation among state and local agencies that provide                                   
02       educational programs for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing;                                                 
03                 (12)  establish standards, by regulation, relating to the evaluation,                                   
04       certification, licensure, and training of interpreters for persons who are deaf or hard of                        
05       hearing;                                                                                                          
06 (13)  complete an annual report describing the activities of the                                                        
07 commission and submit the report, on or before January 1, to the governor, the senate                                   
08 secretary, and the chief clerk of the house of representatives and notify the legislature                               
09       that the report is available.                                                                                     
10            Sec. 44.21.540. Powers of the commission. The commission may                                               
11 (1)  adopt regulations necessary to carry out the purposes of                                                           
12       AS 44.21.510 - 44.21.550;                                                                                         
13 (2)  work with the Department of Education and Early Development,                                                       
14 the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, school districts, and other public                                    
15 and private entities to ensure the continuation of interpreter education programs                                       
16 designed to increase the number of qualified and competent interpreters for persons                                     
17       who are deaf or hard of hearing in the state;                                                                     
18                 (3)  employ an executive director;                                                                      
19 (4)  obtain equipment, including teletypewriter machines and                                                            
20 videophones, and services, including interpreter services, necessary for the                                            
21       commission to exercise its powers under AS 44.21.510 - 44.21.550;                                                 
22 (5)  apply for and accept grants or donations to assist the commission in                                               
23       carrying out the purposes of AS 44.21.510 - 44.21.550.                                                            
24            Sec. 44.21.550. Definitions. In AS 44.21.510 - 44.21.550,                                                  
25 (1)  "commission" means the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of                                                         
26       Hearing;                                                                                                          
27 (2)  "deaf" means unable to hear and understand speech such that a                                                      
28 person's primary mode of communication is through American Sign Language or                                             
29       another sign language, lip reading, gestures, or writing;                                                         
30 (3)  "hard of hearing" means partial loss of hearing in one or both ears,                                               
31       resulting in difficulty hearing and understanding speech in the affected ear.