Misty Schomberg, a white woman wearing a black shirt standing in front of a grey screen, provides the ASL version of the following update:

Legislative Update: April 4, 2016

• Division of Healthy Aging Bill hearing last week
• Update on Criminal Justice Bill
• 3 hearings this week
• Insurance Coverage Bill stalls

Division of Healthy Aging bill hearing last week
On Wednesday there was a hearing on the bill to study a Division of Healthy Aging within the Department of Health, HF 3036, in the House Committee on Aging and Long Term Care Policy. Former Representative Dr. Tom Huntley testified for the bill. He was the co-chair of the Commission’s Task Force on Age-Related Hearing Loss and is hard of hearing himself. We also showed a video that the Commission produced to explain the impact of age-related hearing loss on a person’s physical, cognitive and mental health and why it is a public health issue that should be taken seriously by the state.
Several legislators said that the video was educational and that they had not been aware of the link between age-related hearing loss and dementia. They expressed a commitment to look for ways to reduce the high cost of hearing aids. They voted for the bill unanimously.
Unfortunately the bill will not pass the full legislature this year. In order to do so, it needed to have hearings in two more committees by last Friday. There was just not time for that to happen in this short legislative session.
Nevertheless, we still made progress. We got legislators’ attention for this important issue and began educating them about the health and societal impacts of age-related hearing loss. We laid the groundwork to accomplish even more next legislative session.

Update on Criminal Justice bill
Emory K. Dively and Beth Fraser met with Representative Tony Cornish last week to ask why he had not scheduled a hearing for HF 3084, the bill to improve communication within the criminal justice system. It appears that the bill has not had a hearing because of a miscommunication between Rep. Cornish and his staff person. Rep. Cornish’s son, who is in law enforcement, once had an experience with a deaf motorist in which someone almost got hurt because of a lack of communication access. Rep. Cornish promised to give the bill a hearing next year.
As we reported last week, it is already too late this year for the bill to receive all of the required committee hearings. The Commission will work with MADC during the summer and fall on these issues so that we are ready to pass a bill during the 2017 legislative session.

Hearings this week
The bill to allow parents to choose Pre-K at the Metro Deaf School has two hearings scheduled this week.
SF 2306 will be heard in the Senate Education Finance Division on Tuesday morning.
The proposal will be heard in the House Education Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon, as part of a hearing on all of the items for which Governor Dayton is asking for additional money. He included funding for Pre-K at the Metro Deaf School in his proposed supplemental budget.
The Closed Captioning bill, SF 2603, will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Insurance Coverage Bill stalls
The bill to require insurance coverage for audiological rehab counseling, HF 3181 / SF 2720 did not receive the required committee hearings in order to pass this year. We were not surprised by this, because bills to require more insurance coverage are very hard to pass. The insurance companies and the Chamber of Commerce, both of which have a lot of power at the Capitol, always oppose new insurance mandates.
We were successful at starting a conversation about the need for insurance to cover more audiological services and for audiologists to talk to patients about low- and no-cost ways to address hearing loss. The bill might still receive an informational hearing in a committee, which would allow us to educate legislators about the needs of those with age-related hearing loss.
For more information and to sign up for alerts, visit our website: http://mn.gov/deaf-commission/

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