Commission Chair Jason Valentine discusses the DHHSD bill

Hello, my name is Jason Valentine. I am the Chair of the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans. I want to explain how the Commission made its decision about the DHHSD legislation. Every five years the Commission asks the community what priorities they want us address. For the 2014-2019 strategic planning process more than 600 people participated. The board voted and set six goals. They are listed on our website in ASL and English. http://www.mncdhh.org/strategic-5-year-plan
Every January, the board approves a staff work plan that shows how they plan to achieve their goals. And every January, the board approves the legislative agenda.
One of the goals in the strategic plan is to increase communication access across the state by advocating for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division – their budget had been shrinking and they didn’t have a plan for the future. In 2015, the board included in its legislative agenda a bill for 2 years of additional funds for DHHSD and for a study to plan for the future. The bill passed and the studies that include surveying hundreds of community members were conducted in 2016. All of the meeting times and focus groups were posted and announced to the public. DHHSD was required to analyze the studies and write a report to the legislature by January 2017.
On January 20, 2017 at the Commission full board meeting, community organizations and staff presented recommendations for the 2017 legislative agenda that included a bill for the DHHSD.
Commission staff informed the board that the legislature had set early deadlines (almost a month earlier than usual) and that we needed to get a bill in as soon as possible. Staff used the community feedback given in the DHHSD studies and drafted legislation for the board to review. The board approved the bill, and authorized a policy committee to meet and make a few changes if needed. That included adding a study to see if there was benefit to billing for mental health services. The bill was sent to the legislature to get the bill into its proper form and ready for signatures. It took a week and on February 2, HF 774 was introduced. On February 6th, we informed the community through a vlog in ASL and in English and gave the bill number. Anyone who was interested could have looked up the bill and provided us with feedback. We provided weekly progress on the bill. One individual contacted us with questions about deafblind services, otherwise we were not contacted with any requests for changes.
We held our Lobby Day on March 8th and two hearings were held on the DHHSD bill. We were surprised when testimony was given that requested that the legislature make changes to the bill. None of the changes requested were raised by the community members who attended the focus groups and filled out surveys for the studies. Some of the changes would have required the bill to go to additional committees and added costs that would have reduced funds to services the community said they wanted increased, including funds for Deaf Mentors. March 8th was the last day that our bills were heard and the week before final decisions about the bills were being made.
We are committed to involving the community in decisions that affect them. If there are individuals or organizations who have ideas for legislation, including licensing for interpreters, please bring them to the board for us to consider. When we make decisions about what to take on, we determine if they will support our strategic plan and make measurable change and if we have the staff time and resources to hold meetings to plan for policy meetings. If you are interested in the work the Commission is doing, our detailed board approved work plan and meeting minutes are posted on our website. http://www.mncdhh.org/work-plan and http://www.mncdhh.org/meeting-minutes
If you are interested in attending board meetings, our schedule is posted. http://www.mncdhh.org/events
If you have concerns or more questions, please contact me or Executive Director Mary Hartnett. Thank you for your time and for watching this video.
Email Jason: jason.marshall.valentine@gmail.com
Email Mary: mary.hartnett@state.mn.us

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