As readers of this Blind Coloradan blog are aware, prior to the adjournment of the recent session of the Colorado General Assembly, State Representative Pete Lee, with the support of Senator Michael Merrifield, requested that an interim committee to study services for the blind of Colorado be appointed. The committee appointment is subject to Joint Rule 24A, which governs interim committee requirements, voting requirements, and electronic requirements. Representative Lee’s request was approved. General Assembly leadership must appoint members to the committee by July 1, 2015. Public hearings will be scheduled around the state through the summer and fall. A report of the committee must be submitted to the Legislative Council by November 15. This committee will permit the voice of the blind of Colorado to be heard. Below, please find the text contained in Representative Lee’s request. --K.W.
I hereby request that an interim study committee be formed to study vocational rehabilitative services for the blind through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) during the interim between the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions. The interim study committee would be named the "Interim Committee to Study Vocational Rehabilitative Services for the Blind.”
The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) is sponsoring Senate Bill 15-239, which concerns the transfer of vocational rehabilitation programs, including the business enterprise program, from the Department of Human Services (DHS) to the Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), effective July 1, 2016. I commend the commitment, evidenced by this move, on placing people with disabilities into competitive employment. However, in view of concerns about DVR’s operations and delivery of vocational rehabilitative services for the blind, I believe an interim study committee is necessary as described below. The interim study committee would augment the quarterly reports from CDLE to the JBC, as required by Senate Bill 15-239. The work of the interim study committee would be in addition to the other stakeholder outreach being done by the CDLE concerning the transfer of the DVR to the CDLE.
Scope of the policy issues to be studied. In order to build a strong foundation for DVR in CDLE and improve accountability and the delivery of vocational rehabilitative services for the blind, I believe that an interim committee to study the vocational rehabilitative services for the blind is appropriate. The interim study committee would determine the most effective structure and delivery model for vocational rehabilitative services and supports for the blind from the DVR within CDLE. Specifically, the interim study committee should be mandated to make recommendations based on the following:
- the findings and recommendations of the November 2013 Legislative Audit, as those findings and recommendations concern the blind, including identification of “…pervasive problems in the Program that raise questions about the Division’s oversight, system of internal controls, and culture of accountability”;
- evaluation of the delays in delivery of vocational rehabilitative services to the blind;
- assessment of the efficacy of the application, receipt, and use of federal 1973 Rehabilitation Act “110” funding for the blind;
- consideration of any and all issues identified in the National Federation of the Blind Colorado Resolution 2014-11-2, Resolution 2014-01 (Attachment A); and
- consideration of any other issues related to the effective delivery of vocational rehabilitative services to the blind to assist them in obtaining job skills and long-term high paying jobs.
Committee meeting requirements and structure. The interim study committee should meet as determined by the interim study committee, but should hold at least six meetings during July through November and report to Legislative Council by November 15, 2015. The interim study committee should hold a meeting on the Western Slope, possibly Grand Junction, or arrange for remote testimony. The interim study committee can refer up to three bills to Legislative Council.
I suggest the interim study committee should consist of eleven members: four members of the Senate, with two appointed by the President of the Senate and two appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate; four members of the House of Representatives, with two appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and two appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives; and three nonlegislative members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives from statewide organizations representing the blind, independent living, and the State Rehabilitation Council. When appointing the legislative members, consideration should be given to the membership of the committees of reference responsible for business, employment, and human services. The appointments must be made by July 1, 2015. The chair shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and I suggest Representative Jessie Danielson be appointed as the chair of the interim study committee. The interim study committee shall elect a vice-chair from its members.
It is critical for stakeholders and activists in the blind community participate with the interim study committee, as outlined above.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.