Senate Bill No. 480

(By Senators Bowman and Bailey)


[Introduced February 14, 2000; referred to the Committee on Government Organization; and then to the Committee on Finance.]


A BILL to amend and reenact sections three and five, article fourteen, chapter five of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, all relating to the commission for the deaf and hard-of-hearing; increasing the membership of the committee to seventeen; altering the membership to place the deaf and hard-of-hearing in the majority; and granting the secretary rule-making capability and the commissioner the authority to test interpreters for certification and to collect and expend funds for that purpose.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That sections three and five, article fourteen, chapter five of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:

§5-14-3. Continuation of commission; membership.
The West Virginia commission for the deaf and hard-of-hearing is hereby continued within the department of health and human resources consisting of fifteen seventeen persons, eight of whom shall serve ex officio. The remaining members are appointed by the governor by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The commission shall meet no less than four times annually. All meetings and activities held by the commission shall be attended by at least two qualified interpreters who shall be hired at the commission's expense or provided free of charge by agencies, organizations or individuals willing to volunteer qualified interpreters. The members are:
(1) The secretary, or his or her designee, of the department of health and human resources; the commissioner, or his or her designee, of the division of labor; the director, or his or her designee, of the division of health; the state superintendent of schools, or his or her designee, of the state board of education; the director, or his or her designee, of the division of rehabilitation; the director, or his or her designee, of the division of handicapped children's services in the division of human services; the chairman, or his or her designee, of the advisory council for the education of exceptional children; and the superintendent, or his or her designee, of the West Virginia school for the deaf and blind, all of whom serve ex officio; and
(2) Seven Nine persons appointed by the governor, at least three five of whom are deaf or hard-of-hearing, one of whom is the parent of a deaf child, one of whom is a certified teacher of the hearing-impaired, one audiologist and one otolaryngologist. Of the three five deaf people, at least two three shall be selected from a list of four five people recommended by the board of the West Virginia association of the deaf.
§5-14-5. Powers and duties of the commission; register of hearing-impaired; duty to report to the commission; census; information clearinghouse; coordination of interpreters; outreach programs; seminars and training sessions.

The commission shall maintain a complete register of persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing in the state. For each hearing-impaired person, the register shall describe the condition and cause of the hearing problem, the person's capacity for education and industrial training and any other facts the commission considers valuable. Identifying information contained in the register is confidential: Provided, That information collected and maintained in the register will be available upon request to other government agencies in order to facilitate services to their hearing-impaired clients. Every health, educational and social agency and physician or other medical professional serving hearing-impaired individuals shall report to the commission, in writing, the name, age and residence of persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
In addition to the register, the commission is responsible for conducting and maintaining a census of both the deaf and hard-of-hearing populations in West Virginia. Such census shall contain state, county and city figures.
The commission shall maintain a clearinghouse of information, the purpose of which is to aid hearing-impaired persons and others in obtaining appropriate services or information about such services, including, but not limited to, education, communication (including interpreters), group home facilities, independent living skills, recreational facilities, employment, vocational training, health and mental health services, substance abuse and other services necessary to assure their ability to function in society. The commission shall consult existing public and private agencies and organizations in compiling and maintaining the clearinghouse.
The commission shall establish, maintain and coordinate a statewide service to provide courts, state and local legislative bodies and others with a list of qualified and certified interpreters for the deaf and a list of qualified and certified teachers of American sign language. To establish and maintain these lists the commission may accept the certification of the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and/or the state established quality assurance evaluation.
The secretary of the department of health and human resources shall promulgate rules pursuant to article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code for the state quality assurance evaluation, including the establishment of required qualifications and ethical standards for interpreters, the approval of interpreters, the monitoring and investigation of interpreters and the suspension and revocation of approvals. The commission may conduct national association of the deaf interpreter evaluations and collect and expend funds with regard thereto.
The commission shall develop an outreach program to familiarize the public with the rights and needs of hearing-impaired people and of available services.
The commission shall investigate the condition of the hearing-impaired in this state with particular attention to those who are aged, homeless, needy, victims of rubella and victims of abuse or neglect. It shall determine the means the state possesses for establishing group homes for its hearing-impaired citizens and the need for additional facilities. The commission shall also determine the advisability and necessity of providing services to the multihandicapped hearing-impaired.