Education and Advocacy Committee

Committee News

Education & Advocacy Report :: March 2017

By Chip Hailey, MCB Education & Advocacy Chair

Since the 99th General Assembly officially just got underway on January 4th my Education & Advocacy report for this edition of the Chronicle will be brief.

On January 9, thousands of Missourians from across the state traveled to Jefferson City to join in the festivities and to welcome five new state-wide officials who were elected this past November.

Eric Greitens was sworn in as the 56th Governor of our state.  Joining him were our five new office holders: Lt. Governor Mike Parson, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Attorney General Josh Hawley, and State Treasurer Eric Schmitt.  After his swearing in, Governor Eric Greitens delivered an address in which he talked about working together to move Missouri forward.

State of the State address:

On January 17th, anticipation was high to see Governor Greitens FY18 proposed state budget, but in his State of the State address he broke tradition by opting to give it the first week in February instead.

Before he can finalize his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, he needs to balance the one for the current fiscal year ending June 30th.  The state started the year with $200 million less than anticipated in the general fund, and earlier this year, Governor Nixon cut $150 million, and withheld an additional $59 million, after the legislature overrode his vetoes of several tax cuts in September.

To compound the shortfall problem, a tax cut passed 3-years ago is poised to start phasing in during the 2017 fiscal year.  When fully implemented the measure will cut state revenue by an additional $600 million (estimated) a year.

Governor Greitens then announced later that over $146 million will be restricted from the state’s FY17 budget due to revenue growing slower than expected. More than half of the restrictions were made to post-secondary education and K-12 transportation.

An itemized list of the budget restrictions is available at: https://oa.mo.gov/sites/default/files/Expenditure_Restrictions_January_16_2017.pdf

In his State of the State address, Greitens also focused on economic development and reiterated his priority to make Missouri the 28th right-to-work state.

Bills filed: The 99th General Assembly started off with over 450 House and 250 Senate bills filed.  During the second week of the new session, the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families, and Children heard testimony on a bill that would require the Department of Social Services to apply for a global waiver for Mo HealthNet (SB28 - Sater).

Before the 2017 legislative session had even begun, legislators had filed a bill intended to make Medicaid a “block grant” program in Missouri, if Congress changes the laws to allow it.  What does that mean? It means Missouri would see huge reductions in the Medicaid funding received from the Federal government. The state would inevitably run out of money, meaning the people who qualify for Medicaid – mostly children and people with disabilities - would be unable to get the health care they need.

Under this act, the Department of Social Services would be required to apply for a global waiver for the MO HealthNet program designed to give the state greater flexibility to implement a patient-centered, sustainable, and cost-effective market-based health care system that emphasizes competitive and value-based purchasing.

Such flexibility may include: (1) eligibility determinations that include work requirements for certain able-bodied adults; (2) initiatives to promote healthy outcomes personal responsibility, including co-payments, premiums, and health savings accounts; and (3) accountability and transparency measures.

Currently the federal government covers a percentage of states’ Medicaid costs. Under Medicaid block grants, the federal government would pay the state a specific lump sum (likely based on historical spending), rather than a percentage of the state’s costs.

Under per capita caps, the federal government would pay the state a fixed amount for each beneficiary instead. Both options drastically reduce federal funding for state Medicaid programs, with gaps increasing over time relative to current spending.

To counter the significant costs that are shifted to states, they are given ‘flexibility’ to make changes to their program.

Bottom line, a block grant would leave Missouri's federal funding cut by one-third, tie the hands of state officials in health emergencies, and ration health care to our neighbors who depend on Medicaid - primarily kids, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and older adults.

A number of organizations have testified on the bill, but the committee has not yet voted on the bill.

HB 684 - Neely:

Changes the laws regarding managed care under the MO HealthNet program

This act states the standards that must be met by contracts for prepaid capitated health services which are issued, renewed, or reauthorized after August 28, 2017.

Introduced and first read - 1/19/2017

HB 520 – Ellington, Issue 2 Requires election authorities to make available at least one electronic voting machine per polling location for blind or visually impaired voters at an election in order to comply with federal law.

Status:

1/10/17 Second Read (H)

1/9/17 Introduced and First Read (H)

SB 362 – Hummel requires a student to receive instruction in Braille reading and writing as part of his or her individualized education plan unless instruction in Braille is determined not appropriate for the child

This act requires that all students who are determined to need Braille reading and writing instruction based on an assessment deemed appropriate by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education receive the instruction as part of the individualized education plan.

1/25/17 Introduced and First Read (S)

House reduces number of committees:

House Speaker, Todd Richardson, reduced the number of committees from 42 to 32 by revamping the committee structure.  The committees will be divided into two groups with each group having its own rules committee that will act as a clearing house prior to bills moving to the House floor.

The newly retooled House Fiscal Review Committee will scrutinize fiscal notes on all bills to insure new legislation comports within budget projections.

Here is a link to the new House and Senate committees:

http://www.house.mo.gov/ActiveCommittees.aspx

http://www.senate.mo.gov/committee/

Increased security at the Capitol:

Starting January 10th, visitors, media and lobbyists entering the Capitol will be searched, required to walk through metal detectors and have personal belongings x-rayed.

Key cards will be issued to state employees and people with credentials who work at the Capitol on a regular basis.  Concealed carrying of weapons is not allowed in the Capitol and anyone with a firearm will be asked to return it to a secure location before entering the building, except for legislators.

Knives with a 4-inch blade or longer will not be permitted, nor will explosives, signs fixed on polls or standards, and balloons.

Sometimes it's not what you know, it's who you know.  Do you have a special relationship with the newly elected Missouri Administration, any members of the Missouri Legislature or any members of the US House or Senate?

History has shown that a special relationship can make a meaningful difference when seeking support or opposition from politicians on important issues.  For this reason, we would like to match leaders, legislators and congressional delegation with MCB members with whom they may have ties.

Please contact either myself or Chris Gray if you are one of those individuals who hold such a special relationship with your area legislator.

Our MCB Legislative Days was held March 14th - 15th but I will have more to say about it and our trip to Washington D.C. for the ACB Legislative Seminar in the next issue of the Chronicle.  If I can be of any service to you in any of these matters or other legislative priorities, please don't hesitate to contact me.  Have a wonderful Spring everyone.

Education and Advocacy Report :: December 2016

By Chip Hailey, Chair

Hello fellow MCB affiliate legislative reps and advocates.  I would like to first of all make several comments and observations about the past completed 2016 Veto Session and what lies ahead in state government.

For all practical purposes, the Veto Session brought an end to Missouri’s 98th General Assembly.  The legislature successfully overrode thirteen vetoed bills.

When lawmakers come back in January 2017 to begin the 99th General Assembly, many things will be different.  Because of term limits, the make-up of the legislature will certainly change.  House members can serve four 2-year terms, and Senators can serve two 4-year terms, for a total of sixteen years for any person serving in Missouri’s legislature.  Not only will the membership of the House and Senate change, but this fall Missourians would have elected new people to 5 of the 6 statewide offices.

The unique thing about this is that all individuals coming into these offices will be new to their jobs.  We will have a new State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, and a new Governor.  Only the State Auditor will remain in office.

Earlier this summer, the governor finished taking action on the numerous pieces of legislation sent to his desk by the Missouri General Assembly.  The governor had until July 14 to act on each of the measures. When the governor considers the bills sent to him by the legislature he has the option of signing a bill into law, vetoing it to prevent it from taking effect, or taking no action on a bill, which allows it to go into law without his approval.

During the 2016 legislative session House members filed more than 1,600 pieces of legislation, and members of the Senate filed more than 600.  Of those measures, 82 bills and joint resolutions from the House made it across the finish line.  The Senate saw 57 pieces of legislation receive final approval from the General Assembly.  The governor then took action by signing 115 bills into law; allowing three bills to take effect without his signature; vetoing 23 measures; and using his line-item vetoes on two budget bills.

Article 3, Section 32 of the Missouri Constitution requires the General Assembly to hold an annual Veto Session in order to give legislators a final opportunity to enact legislation that was passed during the regular session but was vetoed by the Governor.

On Wednesday, September 14, the Missouri House and Senate reconvened for the 2016 Veto Session.  Approximately 19 pieces of legislation were to be considered and just before the session would begin, members of the majority caucus were surveyed to see whether there would be the required number of votes to override the Governor's actions.

In the regular legislative session, bills pass through the House or the Senate by a simple majority; however, to override a governor’s veto, it takes a two-thirds majority of both chambers, or 109 votes in the House and 23 votes in the Senate.

When the House and Senate had returned for the General Assembly’s annual Veto Session in September, members of the two chambers had 23 vetoed bills and two line-item vetoes in the state operating budget to consider.

Below is a brief overview of some of the issues that were to take center stage during the Veto Session.

Voter ID (HB 1631)  While Missouri voters would have the opportunity in November to decide if citizens should be required to show a valid form of photo identification in order to vote, the governor vetoed the bill that would have put such a system in place if the constitutional change were to be approved.  If the constitutional change is approved by voters, Missouri would then implement a system of voter identification.  The bill would require voters to present a specified form of identification in order to vote in a public election.

Valid forms of identification would include photo IDs issued by the state, the federal government or the military.  The bill also would require the state to pay for individuals to obtain a valid ID if they do not have one, or to obtain documents necessary for an ID.

Additionally, the final version of the HB 1631 contains a provision that would allow a voter without a valid photo ID to vote with a regular ballot by showing another form of identification.

Supporters of the voter identification system say it is important to protect the integrity of the elections system.  They say requiring a photo ID will prevent voter fraud at the polling place by requiring each voter to prove that they are who they say they are.

They also note the provisions of the new law make it easy for anyone without an ID to obtain one.  Opponents of the measure say a system of voter identification will disenfranchise voters who do not have a photo ID, or the means to easily obtain one.  They also say there are no proven cases of voter fraud to warrant the creation of a voter ID system.

Senate Bill 607 will allow the state to more efficiently verify applicants and recipients of welfare programs. The bill will authorize the Missouri Department of Social Services to hire an outside service provider to conduct the verification process for applicants of the state’s various welfare programs.

In addition to screening applicants, the independent company will also re-verify current enrollees.  This provider will work to ensure that the recipients and the applicants are, in fact, eligible for programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Childcare Assistance Program (CAP), and Missouri HealthNet.

In cases where the service provider finds or suspects fraud, it will then notify the Department, which will begin an investigation.  SB 607 legislation is meant to help the Department of Social Services ensure the accuracy of the distribution of welfare benefits, a process in which the Department has readily admitted to falling behind in when performing their duties.  The new law has the potential of saving the State an estimated $20 million over the next three years by just eliminating waste and fraud from the system.

Missouri lawmakers say that other states have passed third-party vendor legislation to help in screening their welfare programs and are showing good success with it.  They state as a result of the programs, their taxpayers have saved millions of dollars.

Another one of the bills overridden was SB 608, which was sponsored by Senator Sater.  This bill includes a number of health-related provisions, but is notably known for imposing copayments on Medicaid beneficiaries who use the ER for non-emergency situations and for allowing Medicaid providers to implement missed appointment fees.

There are still questions as to whether these changes, specifically the missed appointment fees, would be approved by CMS.  The bill also contains health care price transparency provisions requiring hospitals to publish the charges for their 100 most common diagnoses.  The previously mentioned bills are just a sampling of the vetoed bills that the House and Senate had revisited as they had moved through the Veto Session.  In addition to the legislative overrides, Governor Nixon announced that he would be imposing additional budget withholds of $57.2 million.  These withholds come after the initial restrictions of $115 million in July.  In closing, I would like to announce that next year's Disability Rights Legislative Day (DRLD) will be Wednesday, March 15th, and we will once again be working in conjunction with other disability legislative groups.

 I also hope you will take the opportunity to join the Education & Advocacy list by sending a blank e-mail to ew--join@moblind.org.  If I can be of service to you or your affiliate regarding any of these matters or other legislative issues please don't hesitate to contact me.  Wishing all of you a wonderful Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Education and Advocacy Committee :: March 2016

By Chip Hailey, Chair

Hello fellow MCB Legislative Advocates,

The 98th General Assembly of our Missouri State Legislature opened on January 6th, 2016, with a promise to strengthen ethics reform, a renewed commitment to accountability and improving transparency.

Just a couple of weeks later, the week's session was shortened by the observance on Monday of Martin Luther King, Jr Day, a federal holiday that celebrates the life and achievements of perhaps America’s most influential Civil Rights leader. King is remembered for his efforts to promote racial equality in the United States.

On Wednesday of that same week Governor Nixon delivered his final State of the State Address to a joint session of Missouri’s General Assembly and highlighted some of his past accomplishments. In his last year as governor, Mr. Nixon called on the General Assembly to work with him to address the challenges facing our state, as well as asking them to work with him on his FY 2017 proposed budget.

In their limited time during that week, the Missouri House took action on and passed two bills before sending them to the Senate. Two measures - HJR 53 and HB 1631 were approved by the House before heading to the Senate. These two measures are designed to require a valid form of photo identification in order to vote in Missouri elections. HJR 53 will seek to change the Missouri Constitution to allow a system of voter ID. If approved by the Missouri Senate, it will then go to our state’s voters for their approval or rejection. The constitutional change by way of an amendment approved by voters is necessary because a voter ID requirement put into effect in 2006 was ultimately struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court as unconstitutional. By amending the constitution, lawmakers are hoping to avoid a similar challenge in the future by the state’s high court.

HB 1631 would implement a system of voter ID if the constitutional amendment is first approved by voters. The bill would then require voters to present a specified form of identification in order to vote in a public election. Valid forms of identification include a photo ID issued by the state, the federal government, or the military. In addition, this bill would require the state to pay for individuals to obtain the documents necessary for an ID or pay for individuals to obtain a valid ID if they do not presently have one. The bill also specifies that individuals without a valid photo ID may still vote by casting a provisional ballot. Both measures now move to the Senate for discussion.

Here's what we know so far about Managed Care. The State of Missouri will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) this spring to begin the process of moving Missouri’s Medicaid system to a statewide managed care system. Currently, the State of Missouri already operates a managed care system in 54 counties, with the remaining counties receiving Medicaid services through a state-run program. By the summer of 2017, Missouri’s managed care system will be operated statewide. For now, Missourians who are aged, blind or disabled, including those Missourians with developmental disabilities served through the Missouri Department of Mental Health, will not be included in the managed care system and will continue to receive services through the traditional MO HealthNet program.

Now on to our MCB Legislative Days. By the time you receive this issue of the Chronicle, we would have just completed our MCB Legislative Days at our State Capitol.

Once again, we had been working in conjunction with Disability Rights Legislative Day (DRLD), which was Thursday, March 10, 2016. It was the primary purpose of the Disability Rights Legislative Day planning committee to bring Missourians with disabilities, family members and those who care about them to the Capitol, to hear from legislators and to talk to legislators about issues impacting our lives each and every day. This year’s theme was “Freedom to Choose My Own Path”, and we projected we would once again be well represented by our members. Bills we had been tracking at the time of this writing were as follows:

HB1696 - Deaf-Blind Services: This bill requires the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to provide grants to organizations that provide various services for individuals who are deaf-blind including Support Service Providers. The bill is identical to last year’s HB469.

HB1379 - Voting Machines for the Blind: Requires election authorities to make available at least one electronic voting machine per polling location for blind or visually impaired voters at an election in order to comply with federal law.

Another bill we had been tracking but had not yet been refiled was the Braille Instruction for Blind Students bill. This bill would require a student to receive instruction in Braille reading and writing if an assessment demonstrated the need for the instruction. This act would require that all students who are determined to need Braille reading and writing instruction based on an assessment deemed appropriate by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would receive the instruction as part of the Individualized Education Plan. It also states that no student should be denied the opportunity to be assessed. This bill would again be sponsored by Representative Jacob Hummel and would be similar to last year's bill HB1003.

One other bill we have been tracking is HB1869. This bill specifies that any person who causes substantial physical injury or death to a service dog must be ordered to fully compensate for the injury, loss, or replacement of the service dog.

Next, we move on to the national level. The American Council of the Blind Legislative Seminar would be held February 29, 2016, and March 1, 2016. President Denny Huff, and our Executive Director, Chris Gray, along with myself, would be meeting with our Congressional leaders regarding our legislative issues. The issues for this year's seminar will be built upon our work during the first session of the 114th congress. They include:

1. Passage of the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices act (H.R. 729),
2. Passage of the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act (H.R. 3535);
3. Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.

These three issues continue to be vital pathways to opportunity and independence for people who are blind. Therefore, it is vital that our message continues to be heard loud and clear through the halls of Congress.

I will have more to say about these issues as well as the issues we have taken to our State Legislators next time. But for now, I would like to take a moment to thank our MCB office staff once again for all of the outstanding work they have done and continue to do in assisting me during this legislative session. It is truly remarkable the time and energy that they contribute to making my job so much easier and for making our legislative endeavors a huge success.

I also would like to give a great big shout out to all of our members and their guides who will be in attendance at this year's event in Jefferson City and the extraordinary job they will again be doing in taking our issues to our legislators. I am confident they all will do a truly awesome job and I must commend them on a job well done.

So please join together with me in saluting them for all of their hard work.

I would also like to thank president Huff for his continued support as well as the MCB membership for its confidence in me as MCB Education & Advocacy Chairman. Without your help, our legislative efforts would be minimized, but together, our efforts can be maximized to the highest level.

So thank you MCB on another great legislative year and for allowing me to represent you in this capacity.

Enjoy your Spring everyone!

MCB Education & Advocacy Chairman :: December 2015

By Chip Hailey

Greetings and Happy Holidays everyone! I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays with lots of friends and loved ones. December should always bring a lot of happy festivities with family and friends, but it is also a time for tracking bills that have been filed that will have an impact on the lives of blind Missourians. We will be keeping a very close watch on any bills prefilled that may affect the blind community. One of the ways we do this is with Trackbill, our online bill/hearing/legislator tracking tool.

Chris Gray will be using the tool to track any bills with key words such as blind, braille, service animals, voting machines, and managed care. The tool can also be used to track committees and legislators as well as bills being introduced, read, and later assigned. This is an effective way for MCB to continue to keep its finger on the pulse of what's happening at our State Capitol.

Since my last report, I have attended several House interim committee hearings. Back in August, I attended the Select Committee on Budget. The committee discussed the Department of Social Services eligibility determination system, as well as enrollment and Medicaid caseloads. As many of you are aware, DSS had some initial problems with their system related to timely determinations and eligibility issues.

On October 21th, I attended the appropriations hearing on Health, Mental Health, and Department of Social Services. Updates were given by each department and oversight concerns and questions from committee members of the Task Force for examining statewide medical delivery models were addressed.

On October 6th, I attended the Hands Around the Capitol event. The event celebrated the 25th anniversary of the ADA and highlighted the need for further progress in disability rights, especially related to employment and improved health care and long term care options. Great participation was received from organizations and citizens representing all parts of the state. The event also received lots of news coverage on the radio, TV, and in several newspapers around the Missouri.

At the time of this writing, I'm planning on attending the Cross Disability Policy Summit on November 13th in Jefferson City. Several topics will be discussed that may have a major impact on Independent Living services. I've also been asked by Chris and Denny to represent MCB on the Disability Rights Legislative Day (DRLD) planning committee. We will once again be working closely with DRLD in scheduling a date for our MCB Legislative Days. Once a date has been set, we will pass the information along to you.

I continue to participate in numerous legislative conference calls that could possibly be of great significance to all of us.

One of the key discussions has again been around managed care. House Speaker Todd Richardson announced that Representative Marsha Haefner will chair a task force with the intent of reviewing ways to place all Missouri Medicaid recipients into a managed care model. Rep. Haefner says that she intends to recommend legislation to switch all Medicaid services to managed care. To date, Missouri Medicaid (MO HealthNet) has served most persons with disabilities in a fee-for-service model because of significant questions as to how individuals will be served under risk-based capitation systems, adequacy of provider networks, beneficiary protections and other critical issues. We will continue to monitor any activity revolving around managed care and whether the aged, blind, and disabled populations will be exempt.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage you to join our Education & Advocacy listserv to keep abreast of any pieces of legislation we are tracking. You can go to our MCB homepage at http://www.moblind.org to get the details on how to subscribe. If I can ever be of any service to you or your affiliate regarding your advocacy or legislative efforts, please don't hesitate to call on me. I hope everyone continues to have a safe and warm holiday season.

Education and Advocacy Committee :: June 2015

by Chip Hailey, Chairman


Hello MCB family and friends. Hope everyone has had a wonderful spring. It’s been a very active 2015 legislative session and we have a lot to report. This year’s MCB Legislative Days took place on Tuesday March 31, 2015. It was a beautiful, bright, sunshiny day in Jefferson City as we gathered at the Capitol for Disability Rights Legislative Day (DRLD). This year’s theme was “Lives Without Limits” and MCB was pleased to be well represented, including many MCB members who were there for the very first time.

The day began with a rally in the rotunda of the Capitol, and our very own Executive Director, Chris Gray, was one of the speakers at the rally and did an absolutely marvelous job. He spoke on employment opportunities for the blind. The three initiatives that we presented to our legislators this year were HB 1003, which would require a student to receive instruction in Braille reading and writing if an assessment demonstrated the need for the instruction. At the time of this writing, the bill had passed out of the House and moved onto the Senate but had not yet been assigned to a committee.

The second initiative was HB 454, which would require election authorities to make available at least one electronic voting machine per polling location for blind or visually impaired voters at an election in order to comply with federal law. The last status we received was this bill had been referred to the Elections Committee on February 10 but had not yet received a reading.

The third initiative was HB 469, which would require the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to provide grants to organizations that provide services to deaf-blind persons. The last status we received on this bill was that it had been referred to the Children and Families Committee on February 24 but had not yet received a reading.

Representatives Jim Neely of District 8 and Joshua Peters of District 76 had officially signed on to become co-sponsors of the bill.

Representative Neely is a Republican and Vice Chair of the House Committee on Children and Families (the same committee that will hear and deliberate on the bill).

Other bills that we are tracking but did not take to our legislators were HB 1034, which specifies that no person who has trained a service dog shall be liable for the actions of the dog at such time that the dog has completed training and is no longer in possession of the trainer. This bill received a second read on March 16 but had not received any further reading. We have also been tracking HB 840, which specifies that any person who causes substantial physical injury or death to a service dog shall be ordered to fully compensate for the injury, loss, or replacement of the service dog. The last status we received on this bill was that it had been referred to the Select Committee on Judiciary on April 22. We have also been tracking managed care legislation and at this time, Missouri lawmakers are looking at expanding managed care statewide but would exclude aged, blind, and the disabled, which is good news for those in the blind community who receive home care services.

We have also been watching House Committee Substitute SB 322 Increase Asset Limits for MO HealthNet. On April the 27, a House Committee Substitute was voted out of the House Select Committee on Social Services. The substitute bill still increases the asset limit beginning in July 2016 until it reaches $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple by FY2020. Every year thereafter, the limits would increase with inflation. The new limits would be for MO HealthNet eligibility categories that are blind, aged, or permanently and totally disabled. One last piece of legislation on the state level before I move onto the national level, HB 14, the Fy15 supplemental funding bill, was passed out of the House and Senate and had received the Governor’s approval. This bill appropriates approximately $4 million for healthcare for the blind. This money will help to close out the remaining programs in the FY15 budget. We want to thank all of you who worked so tirelessly on our three legislative initiatives and who made our MCB Legislative Days a great success. We hope many more of you will be able to participate next year.

Now, on the national level, with the initiatives that were taken to our federal lawmakers. Due to the limited space I won’t go into great detail but just give you the highlights.

Unfortunately, due to the inclement weather in Washington D.C. at the time of the ACB Legislative Seminar, I was not able to make the trip but do have a few things to report. I had tuned in to the internet streaming of the seminar and it made me wish I could have been there, even though it sounded as though many attendees had arrived late due to the bad weather.

First, is the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act. The Act is designed to improve the delivery of appropriate special education and related services to all students who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, or deaf-blind, including students who may have additional disabilities. Once enacted, the legislation will ensure that properly designed and individually tailored services are in fact provided, meeting the unique learning needs of students who are blind or visually impaired, and that the educators who serve them are prepared and supported to do their jobs well, based on evidence-driven best practice.
The second imperative was the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. This treaty is known as the Marrakesh Treaty, because it was adopted at a diplomatic conference held in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2013. The Marrakesh Treaty is important to Americans who are visually impaired because it calls upon those nations who sign it to provide in their copyright law a limitation or exception that allows:

• Reproduction of works, by an authorized entity, for the purpose of converting them into accessible format copies exclusively for the use of beneficiary persons.

• Distribution of accessible format copies exclusively to beneficiary persons.

• Export of accessible format copies of works, in order to make them available to a beneficiary person in another country.

• Import of accessible format copies of works produced in another country, in order to make them available domestically.

• In practical terms, this means that libraries and other organizations that produce accessible format copies of works for distribution to people with print-reading disabilities will be able to share those works with each other. That will ultimately free up resources that are currently used to make multiple copies of the same work, so that more publications can be put into accessible formats. The treaty contains provisions that protect both the rights of copyright holders and those who want to gain access to their copyrighted works. It was signed by the United States on October 2, 2013. The Last imperative was the low vision device exclusion legislation. Here was ACB’s legislative proposal.

ACB urges the House of Representatives to promptly pass H.R. 729, the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015. This legislation would evaluate, through a five-year national demonstration project administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, the fiscal impact of a permanent change to the Social Security Act. This legislation would allow reimbursement for certain low-vision devices that are the most function-rich, most powerful, and most expensive. The devices would be considered durable medical equipment. Individuals will be eligible to participate in the demonstration project only after completing a clinical evaluation performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist who would then deem a low-vision device as medically necessary.

The national demonstration project is designed to provide a rich, well-structured and defined data set that can yield Medicare-program-wide evidence-based conclusions using appropriate statistical methods. The bill has received solid support and was last reported to have eight cosponsors. I need to express my deepest gratitude to Chris Gray, our Executive Director, for covering for me at the ACB Legislative Seminar and making all of the legislative visits. Chris you are a true leader! Thanks so much for your leadership. I realize my report is quite lengthy but I wanted to give you as much information on all aspects of the legislation we have been involved in as I possibly could, and while this report may be lengthy, it is still only a condensed version. If you have any questions regarding any of these legislative imperatives, or other pieces of legislation that I can assist you with, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I would like to end by saying how much I appreciate all of the support the MCB leadership has given me, and the confidence the rest of the organization has expressed. I also need to express my deepest gratitude to Virginia Drapkin and the MCB office for their invaluable assistance in assisting me with all of my legislative responsibilities on both the state and national levels. Thanks MCB and may God continue to smile on all of our legislative efforts.

Education and Welfare :: March 2014

By Denny Huff, Chair

As we begin to prepare for our visit to Jefferson City on April 2, 2014, there are several items we need to address.

First of all we will need as many of you as possible to commit to attending the Legislative Days this year. As we decided during our annual meeting last October, we will be participating in the Disability Days rally joining in with other disability groups. The rally will be from 10:00 to 12:00 Wednesday morning on April 2. The members of MCB attending will have an additional agenda we will be working with for the event. Before the group rally at 10:00, we will be meeting for an educational process at the Capital Plaza hotel at 8:00 AM. Then after the group rally at 10:00 we will begin to visit the legislators that you will be assigned.

Prior to the April 2 date, we will have a conference call on Monday, February 10 at 7:00 PM. We will be joined by a special guest to talk about preparing for our visit to the legislators. We will also talk about the positions we will be taking to our Representatives and Senators in April. The number to call is: (712) 432-6100 and use the pass code of: 129071#.

We will be staying overnight at the Capital Plaza hotel on Tuesday, April 1. We will pay for your room, meals and mileage. In order for you to qualify for compensation on the hotel, mileage and meals we are requiring the following.

You must commit to visit at least five (5) legislators on Wednesday afternoon, April 2.

You must attend the 8:00 AM meeting on Wednesday, April 2.

You must attend the group rally at 10:00 AM in the capital building.

You must send us the names of your state Senator and Representative.

It is not mandatory but very important that you participate in a conference call to be held on Monday, February 10 at 7:00 PM.

What we need from you now is the names of your state Senator and Representative. If you don’t know who they are please let us know and we can look it up for you. We will need to know your nine digit zip code in order to get the correct person for your district. Please send that information to our state office either via email or postal mail by March 1.

Missouri Council of the Blind, 5453 Chippewa, St. Louis, MO 63109 or email aa@moblind.org.

If possible, please try and car pool to Jeff City. This will cut down on the expenses for the mileage.

The legislators began their session on January 8 and at this time we don’t know the bill numbers we will be looking at this year. Hopefully, by the time of our conference call, we will have more information and will be able to vote on what positions we want to work with this year. One bill we possibly will want to take a position on is HB 1278. This bill requires election authorities to make available at least one electronic voting machine for blind or visually impaired voters at state and local elections.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call me at 636-262-1383 or or email me at Denny@GatewayForTheBlind.Com. Thanks and I am looking forward to working with you.

Education and Welfare :: June 2013

By Denny Huff, Chair

First of all let me say thanks to our president, Patti Schonlau for her confidence in me to chair this committee. It is an honor to be responsible to keep our members updated with legislative issues that affect the blind community of Missouri and I promise to do my best in those regards.

This year began with a lot of questions concerning the medical coverage for the recipients of the blind pension. Unlike last year when these recipients were targeted for elimination of medical coverage, this year that elimination was encompassed in bill HB700, that if passed, would have the same effect as was intended last year.

The uncertainty of the status of HB700 seems to be from the very beginning of its introduction. There were a lot of questions surrounding this bill in its journey through the various house committees and within the House and Senate as a whole.

Included in this bill was the elimination of section 208.151 of the Missouri statutes in which sub section 3 stated that medical coverage would be provided to the recipients of the blind pension. Had this bill passed as written it would have ended medical coverage for the blind pensioners as we currently know it.

The last word I have in regards to HB700 is that it is dead. This comes from the sponsor of the bill, Representative Barnes, but also expressed in the same article is hope of reviving some sort of expansion of Medicaid for Missouri. Since no new bills can be introduced I am not sure how the legislators intend on accomplishing this. However, the way it stands at the writing of this article is that recipients of the blind pension are safe for another year when it comes to their medical coverage. Perhaps this would be a good time to explain that the medical coverage for the blind pensioners technically is not Medicaid. It is actually MO Health Net. The difference is that the feds are not paying for this insurance coverage but rather, it is totally financed by the state of Missouri. As we learned last year, the cost to the state is approximately $28 million annually. Should the statute section 208.151 sub 3 be eliminated then the state would shift the cost of this medical coverage to the feds. Of course in this process, several hundred recipients of the blind pension would be without medical insurance since they would not fall under the federal guidelines for general Medicaid.

With this in mind, we are going to be vigilant in watching what the legislators do, not only for the remainder of this year, but also begin advocating for the blind pensioners for next year. Believe me, the Medicaid issue is not dead, but only put on hold until next year.

Chris Gray and I will be making numerous trips to the capital in the next few months scoping out supporters in both the House and Senate for our cause. A letter has been written to each legislator to express our concerns and to attempt to explain why the blind of Missouri need this medical coverage. We hope to establish relationships with many of the Representatives and Senators, culture those relationships and then work with them in securing our medical coverage no matter what direction Medicaid takes next year. We will be calling on the members of the Education and Welfare committee to assist us in this effort as well as members of MCB.

Although it is not a definite, it looks as though another bill we were supporting, HB484, which requires the Division of Purchasing to establish a goal of buying at least 3% of goods and services from a person with a significant mental or physical impairment or a business or agency employing or serving these persons has a good chance of passing. As of April 10, it was sent to the rules committee and from there it will go to the full house.

The third and final bill that the Education and Welfare committee voted to address was HB11. As written, this bill would have essentially shut down Rehab Services for the Blind by not appropriating the funds necessary from the state to qualify for funding from the feds. Although RSB did not get everything it wanted in an amendment, it looks as though this organization will be viable for at least another year. I am sure they will advocate for more funding next year.

In closing, let me say thanks to all of those that attended the Disability Rights Day’s Rally in Jefferson City. As you are probably aware, MCB did not have its legislative days as we normally do each year, but rather we joined together with other disability groups across the state to show our support to each other. We had 40 people who attended, representing most of our affiliates. I believe the best part of this rally was our joining hands together with all disability groups and letting them know that no man stands alone but we are all in this together and that we are not only concerned for blind related issues but all issues that affect each of us.

Education and Welfare Washington DC Report :: June 2011

By Chairman Jerry Annunzio

As usual we have had a busy winter and spring. Four of our MCB members went to Washington DC to talk with our two Missouri Senators and nine House Members on March first. Jerry and Edna Annunzio, DeAnna Noriega and Gretchen Maune all went to both Senator Blunt’s and Senator McCaskill’s offices together. After making our Senator visits we were escorted through the underground, which included a ride on the Senators train. That was the best and fastest way to the House office buildings. To cover all the representatives we formed two teams of two each. Among all the Senators and representatives there are six different buildings five of which we visited. This took a full day from eight in the morning to five in the evening to see all our house and senate members.

We had three issues to present. These included: access to prescription drug label information; Medicare coverage of low vision devices, and amendment of the Internal Revenue Code to promote charitable donations of qualified vehicles. Following is a summary of what was presented to our Senators and Representatives on these three issues.

At least 25 million Americans experience severe vision loss impacting their ability to independently read prescription labeling and related information. ACB calls on Congress to introduce and pass The Prescription Drug Accessibility Act. This legislation would grant the FDA clear authority to regulate this area and develop standards to ensure that prescription labeling is accessible to individuals with vision loss.

In November of 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) promulgated a regulation that has had a detrimental impact on the lives of countless individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

To the dismay of the blind community, the Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) Competitive Acquisition Rule contains a provision entitled "Low Vision Aid Exclusion" which states that all devices, "irrespective of their size, form, or technological features that use one or more lens to aid vision or provide magnification of images for impaired vision" are excluded from Medicare coverage based on the statutory "eyeglass" exclusion.

ACB called on the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate members to introduce and pass the Low Vision Devices Inclusion Act of 2011. This critical legislation would overturn the CMS regulation barring coverage for low vision devices and establish criteria for their provision. Such criteria would acknowledge other distinctive features employed by the most valuable low vision devices, other than their mere use of a lens, such as a device's integration of a light source, use of electrical power, or other distinctive features.

Since its original authorization in 1986, charitable vehicle donation has become a critical fundraising tool for over 5,000 large and small charities like ACB and its state affiliates. ACB has felt the consequences of this regulation and has witnessed revenues from vehicle donations shrink by 85%, and the number of vehicles that have been donated plummeted by 94%.

Based on these reports and testimonials from charities, legislation was introduced in the 111th Congress to restore certainty to prospective car donors about the resulting deduction. That bill garnered 211 congressional co-sponsors from across the political spectrum. At the beginning of the 112th Congress, Senator John Ensign (R-NV), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the text of that bill as S. 110, a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to promote charitable donations of qualified vehicles. The American Council of the Blind supports this legislation. At this time these bills are still in the process.

Education and Welfare Jefferson City Report :: June 2011

By Chairman Jerry Annunzio

It was a real pleasure to have nearly forty MCB members, drivers and guides at this year’s training and visit to talk with our Missouri Senators and Representatives in Jefferson City. Out of the one hundred and ninety-seven members that we had to visit this year, many were freshman. Therefore it was clear that our job was to educate them not only about the issues but also about who we are and what MCB does.

There were three bills in our packets that we talked with our house and senate members about:

1. Parental Rights Legislation SB 134, HB555

This bill modifies provisions relating to termination of parental rights as it relates to parents with disabilities. The act specifies that the disability of a parent shall not constitute a basis for a determination that a child is in need of care, for the removal of custody of a child from the parent, or for the termination of parental rights without a specific showing that there is a causal relation between the disability and harm to the child. In such cases involving termination of parental rights, the court shall consider the availability and use of accommodations for the disability of the parent, including assistive technology and support services.

2. Property Assessment Limit for the Elderly and Disabled HB 60

Beginning January 1, 2012, this bill limits the increase in assessed valuation of residential property to the percentage of increase in the federal Social Security benefits in the previous year for an individual who is 65 years of age or older or who is disabled, has a federal adjusted gross income of less than $72,380, and owns and lives in his or her principal residence.

3. Professional Therapy Dogs HB 203

This bill adds professional therapy dog to the definition of “Service dog” as it relates to crimes against these animals or crimes of impersonating a disabled individual. A “professional therapy dog” is defined as a dog which is selected, trained, and tested to provide specific physical therapeutic functions under the direction and control of a qualified handler who works with the dog as a team as a part of the handler’s occupation or profession but does not include dogs used by volunteers in visitation therapy.

The education and training sessions went very well. I heard several positive comments about the changes we made. There were some folks who could not attend because of illness. Even though they were missed we had a plan to cover that. To the best count I could make we were able to contact all the house and senate members or their staff. The result is that the bills we supported are currently either passed or in the process of being moved through the system. Although there are changes being made every week to these bills the prospects for passage are good as of this date.

Again I want to thank our office staff and all of you who were able to help with our campaign this year, for a good job well done.

Education and Welfare :: June 2010

By Chip Hailey - MCB Education and Welfare Chairperson

“Democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.”---Ronald Reagan.

Dear fellow colleagues,

As I prepare to write my final report on this year's legislative session, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all of you who participated in this year's MCB Legislative Days. Your constant and diligent efforts were highly appreciated and I trust will finally prove to be realized.

For a look at this year's MCB legislative issues, I would direct your attention to the March issue of the Chronicle.

Upon completion of our legislative days in Jefferson City, several of us traveled onto Washington D.C. for the 2010 Patricia M. Beattie American Council of the Blind Legislative Seminar. The seminar was in loving memory of a passionate and effective national advocate for people who are blind or visually impaired. I would like to thank Jerry and Edna Annunzio, as well as our MCB president, Denny Huff, for accompanying my wife and I to our nation's Capitol to address our congressional leaders with our legislative concerns.

The two legislative imperatives we had taken over to Capitol Hill this year were identical to those of last year. HR 3101, the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, and HR 734, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. HR 3101, sponsored by Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, introduced the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act on June 26, 2009. At the time of this writing, we have 42 cosponsors, including Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver from Missouri.

HR 3101 addresses the challenges that blind and visually impaired individuals are currently experiencing in an increasingly digital world and the necessity for legislation to rectify those problems. Membership in the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT). ACB had urged Congress to pass this legislation which would address our concerns: I trust you will sign the online petition to support passage of the bill by going to:

http://www.coataccess.org/node/add/petition

more than 6,000 people from all 50 states have signed it so far. For more information about ACB's position on this piece of legislation please visit:

http://www.acb.org/washington/index.html

As the calendar turned over to the month of April, Eric Bridges, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, stated he was very happy to report that there are now 230 cosponsors for H.R.734, The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. Given the continued momentum that this legislation is experiencing, he further stated that a targeted approach in contacting members of the Energy and commerce Committee is very much warranted. He also asked that we join together with him in thanking our congressional leaders for supporting H.R.734 and ask that they contact Chairman Waxman to request a hearing on the dangers hybrid and electric vehicles pose to people who are blind or visually impaired. He also urged everyone to please keep up their advocacy efforts with members of Congress.

Also, during the seminar, we received an update on ACB's Settlement with Arizona State and Amazon from Daniel F. Goldstein, Managing Partner, of Brown, Goldstein, and Levy.

In addition, we heard from James Love, Director of knowledge Ecology International, on an International Treaty Proposal to Provide a Means for sharing of books in accessible formats across Borders.

He was followed by Donald L. Kahl, Executive Director, Equal Rights Center, who talked to us about ACB's Collaboration with the Equal Rights Center of Washington, DC.

We heard from Jenifer Simpson, Senior Director of Government Relations, American Association of People with Disabilities on the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

We were also introduced to Lynnae Ruttledge, Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education.

This year's luncheon Speaker was Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.

We also heard from Emily Khoury, Legislative Assistant, Office of U.S. Representative Edolphus

Towns (D-NY) on the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act.

Towards the end of the day on Monday, we heard from Angela Hartley, Executive Vice President, National Industries for the Blind, and Catriona Macdonald, Blind Entrepreneurs Alliance.

Of course we heard from Melanie Brunson, ACB Executive Director, and Eric Bridges, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, on ACB's legal advocacy efforts and logistics for storming the Capitol.

You can listen to any of these presentations in their entirety by going to the ACB radio archive web page.

All in all, I thought it was a very successful seminar and believe we were able to get a great deal accomplished.

In conclusion, I would like to once again thank MCB and its members and leaders for their continued support. May God continue to bless us in all of our legislative and advocacy endeavors.

Education and Welfare Committee :: March 2010

By Chip Hailey, MCB Education and Welfare Chairman

"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression." --- Thomas Jefferson

I would like to begin my report by thanking all of you who called in and participated in our January MCB Connect, in which we talked about the legislative issues that we would be taking to our state representatives.  Your participation was greatly appreciated and showed a growing interest and support in our legislative efforts.  Special thanks, also, to Gary Wunder, NFB of Missouri president, and all of the other NFB members for their participation and cooperation as well. 

I thought the call was very productive and was very delighted and pleased that the two blind consumer organizations were able to set aside their philosophical differences and come together to discuss their upcoming legislative imperatives.  I think it was an exciting historical moment in our history and hope we can continue an open dialogue with NFB on other important issues effecting all blind Missourians.  I would also like to thank Marty Exline, Missouri Assistive Technology Director, for his invaluable assistance during the conference call as well as his assistance throughout the legislative session.  Marty has become a very good friend to MCB and there are just not enough words to do justice on just how much his kind assistance means to our organization.

The two issues that we had taken to our representatives this year were HB 1880, regarding Accessible Instructional Materials, sponsored by Representative Jeff Grisamore, and HB 1884, HealthNet Coverage of Hearing Aids, again sponsored by Representative Grisamore.  The Accessible Instructional Materials bill would align state law with the federal standards by requiring elementary and secondary schools to procure print instructional materials from vendors who make the materials available for purchase in accessible electronic text unless doing so would impose an undue burden.  The bill also would permit public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools to reproduce and distribute print materials in a specialized format when a student is entitled under IDEA or Section 504.  Lastly, the bill directs the Missouri Assistive Technology (MoAT) advisory council to identify and approve available accessible text formats and to share information about vendors who make available print instructional materials available in accessible electronic formats.  NFB also advocated for this important piece of legislation as well as requesting appropriations to maintain funding for 3 of the Blindness Skills Specialist positions and additional funding for the 3 positions that were cut last year.  MCB was also very much in support of funding for all of the Blindness Skills Specialist positions..

HB 1884 - HealthNet Coverage of Hearing Aids:  This bill would restore medically necessary hearing aids to the list of covered HealthNet services for adults and seniors under state statute.  This bill would not require the state to appropriate funds for hearing aid coverage.  It would merely restore hearing aids in state statute, subject to appropriation.

The next and final piece of information that we had taken to our legislators was a resolution regarding quiet cars.  Here is a brief excerpt from the resolution:

WHEREAS, the State of Missouri is considering the purchase of the more fuel efficient, "quiet cars"; and

AND WHEREAS, the safety of blind and visually impaired Missourians would be in jeopardy until manufacturers of such vehicles incorporate sound emitting devices for the safety of all Missourians; 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Missouri National Federation of the Blind and the Missouri Council of the Blind that these organizations jointly request that the State of Missouri refrain from the purchase of "quiet cars" until the manufacturers of such vehicles have satisfactorily equipped them with sound emitting devices for the safety of not just blind and visually impaired pedestrians, but all Missouri pedestrians.

The resolution was signed by both Gary Wunder and Denny Huff.

I would like to thank our MCB president for drafting this resolution and presenting it to the Statewide Rehabilitation Council and RSB for its consideration.

Should you wish a complete copy of the resolution please feel free to contact our MCB office with your request.

I would also like to thank our Madam Executive Director and the MCB office staff for putting together all of the legislative materials and getting it ready to be distributed to our legislators.  We could not have had a successful legislative meeting and day at the Capitol without their hard work.

I would also like to thank all of the affiliate legislative reps and their guides and all of you who attended our MCB Legislative Days for all of your excellent work.  I believe our legislative efforts will not go unrewarded.

I would now like to close with a brief report about our visit to Washington D.C. and the American Council of the Blind Legislative Seminar.  But I would like to first of all thank Jerry and Edna Annunzio and Denny Huff for joining my wife and I in representing MCB at this year's National Legislative Seminar.

ACB LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:

H.R. 3101, Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.  This is Comprehensive telecommunications legislation that would update the communications Act to provide grater access for people who are blind or visually impaired to wireless devices such as PDA's accessible user interfaces like menus on DVR's and TV menus, along with accessible emergency alerts on TV and requirements for video description on primetime programming.  At last report, there were 25 cosponsors to this bill, all democrats.

H.R.734 and S.841, Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act.  This is Legislation that would provide a minimum sound emission standard for hybrid or electric vehicles when traveling at low speeds.  This would reduce the increasing danger that these vehicles currently pose to the blind community due to the lack of sound emissions.  We currently have 4 cosponsors to this bill from Missouri, Representatives Blunt, Carnahan, Emerson, and Graves.

In conclusion I would like to once again thank MCB and its membership for its continued support of our legislative efforts on a state and national level.  We have had some real challenges the past several years but MCB has risen to meet those challenges and has overcome with flying colors.  Thank you all so very much for your support these past three years for me as your Education and Welfare Chairman.

May God continue to bless all of our organizational endeavors.

Respectfully submitted,

Chip Hailey

MCB Education and Welfare Chairman

Education and Welfare Committee :: December 2009

By Chip Hailey, MCB Education and Welfare Chairman

"A people free to choose will always choose peace."----- Ronald Reagan

I would first of all like to thank the Education and Welfare Committee for electing me to a second term as MCB Education and Welfare Chairman.  It means so much to me knowing that I have the support of the committee and the rest of the membership of MCB.

I am confident that together we will continue to make great strides in our legislative endeavors.

I would also like to thank Representative Jeff Grisamore for stopping by at our committee meeting on Friday morning of our state convention to present us with an inspiring message.  I think everyone in attendance was inspired by what he had to say.

I was also very pleased that the awards committee chose to give Representative Grisamore the Ellis Forshee Award.

I believe that MCB has a good friend in Representative Grisamore and we will be looking forward to working with him and the rest of the Missouri legislature on future legislative issues.

I would like to ask all of the affiliate legislative reps to please contact the MCB office as soon as possible to let us know that you will be your affiliate's rep.  Also, we will need to know whether you and your guide will be attending our MCB Legislative Days in Jefferson City and we ask that you make your reservations with the MCB office as soon as possible.  This information will also be helpful in providing name tags for everyone who will be in attendance.

The date for our MCB Legislative Days will be February 16-17, 2010 at the Hotel DeVille.  The legislative meeting will begin on Tuesday, February 16, 2010, at 2:00 p.m.  Here's the contact information to the Hotel De Ville should you need it:

Hotel De Ville - Jefferson City, Missouri

319 W. Miller Street

Jefferson City, MO 65101

Phone:  (573) 636-5231

Education and Welfare Committee :: September 2009

By Chip Hailey

"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost." -- John Quincy Adams  (July 11, 1767 - February 23, 1848)

Dear MCB family and friends,

Here's my 2009 Legislative Wrap-up:

On mandated coverage for pprosthetic devices and services: HB577 this language in this large insurance-related bill requires health care insurance policies to offer coverage for prosthetic devices and services. The bill does not require every policy to cover prosthetics. Rather, insurers must only offer coverage to be added on to an individual policy for an additional payment amount for the prosthetics to be covered. Since the definition of "prosthetic devices and services" is not included in the bill, Missouri Assistive Technology (MoAT) has recommended a definition to the Department of Insurance that includes a full spectrum of prosthetic devices and services: "an artificial limb, device, or appliance designed to replace in whole or in part arms, legs, eyes, ears or voice or which replace all or part of an internal body organ (including colostomy bags and supplies directly related to colostomy care), and related services including evaluation, casting, fitting, measuring, designing, customizing, adapting, applying, repairing, or replacing such devices, as well as the coordination and use of other therapies, interventions, or services required in the use of such devices".

HOME ACCESS TAX CREDIT: (SB 146 - Dempsey / HB 323 - Sutherland /HB 528 Grisamore) The main purpose of these bills were to allow more persons to benefit from this existing tax credit to help individuals recoup up to $2,500 in expenses to make their homes more accessible. Under current law, there is a statewide cap on the credit so only about 40-50 persons can get the credit. These bills would have made the credit available to many more Missourians. The language was amended on to several other bills but none of the bills passed.  The good news on this effort is that there were also several bills that could have eliminated this credit entirely. None of these efforts were successful, so this credit is still available even to persons who do not earn enough income to pay state income taxes.

HEALTHNET HEARING AID COVERAGE:

(HB 1038 – Grisamore) This bill would have restored hearing aids for adults as a covered service under Medicaid. This bill was introduced later in the session and did not get a committee hearing.

ACCESSIBLE INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS: (HB 1037 – Grisamore) This bill would have updated the current state law to improve the availability of accessible instructional materials needed by students with disabilities. It was introduced later in the session and did not get a hearing.

With Regard to the $100,000 appropriation for the Equipment Technology Consortium Program administered by Missouri Assistive Technology, the Governor failed to include it in this year's budget. Although since the school districts will be getting such a substantial amount of stimulus funds that can be used to purchase assistive technology devices, the Assistive Technology Reimbursement program will be suspended for the upcoming school year. Marty Exline, Missouri Assistive Technology Executive Director, has told me that he has negotiated with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide those funds that would have been used for the ATR program to be used to upgrade the ETC inventory this year instead.

I would like to once again publically thank Marty for his invaluable assistance and for providing us with these timely updates.

Rep. Markey Introduces 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act of 2009 to Make Broadband More Accessible: Before Congress adjourned on June 26, Rep. Ed Markey introduced the "21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009" (H.R. 3101).  This comprehensive measure would modernize disability accessibility mandates in the Communications Act, bringing existing requirements up to date as TV and phone services connect via the Internet and use new digital and broadband technologies. Mark Richert, of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) stated," We are fed up with playing catch up whenever new technologies are released. People with vision loss will finally have access to everything from text messaging, watching TV and receiving emergency infromation, if this bill is enacted." Adds Eric Bridges of the American Council of the Blind:  "Video description and accessible user interfaces on TV devices are essential for us. We've waited a long time for this." We need to thank Rep. Ed Markey today for introducing the bill. We also still need for you to contact your Representatives

today to ask him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 3101!

Regarding H.R.734 and its Senate companion S.841, The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, Currently there are 134 cosponsors of the House bill and 10 in the Senate. We have made tremendous progress in raising the level of dialogue in Congress on this critical legislation says Eric bridges of the American council of the Blind. It is very important that this conversation continue during the legislative recess in your district he says. If your member has already signed on in support of the legislation please thank him-her for their support. Also, this is a great opportunity for you to ask for their formal support of H.R.3101, The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

About the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, the bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to: 1. Conduct a study beginning within 90 days of passage of this legislation, and to complete it within two years of its commencement, at which time, the Department of Transportation shall report the study's findings to Congress. 2. Within 90 days after the conclusion of the study, the secretary is then directed to establish a standard that will take in to account the results of the study, and will set forth the minimum information that must be provided by motor vehicles required for blind and other pedestrians to travel safely and independently in urban, rural, and residential environments. 3. The bill provides that the standard shall apply to all "new motor vehicles."

Blind Pension Report: I will be giving a Blind Pension report at the State Convention, at which time, I hope to have a great deal to report on. Should you be unable to attend the Convention and would like a copy of my report, please feel free to contact me and I will try to get you a copy.

I would also like to remind everyone of our Education and Welfare Committee meeting which takes place on Friday morning during our State Convention in Independence beginning at 9:00 we hope to have Representative Jeff Grisamore as our guest speaker. I know you won't want to miss what he has to say.

Again, I would like to thank all of the affiliate legislative representatives for their wonderful support and their tireless efforts that they put forth this year.

I also hope that you will permit me to continue as MCB Education and Welfare Committee Chair. We will be having elections on Friday morning during our Education and Welfare Committee meeting.

We will be looking forward to seeing everyone then.

Respectfully submitted

Chip Hailey

MCB Education and Welfare Chair

Education and Welfare Committee :: June 2009

by Chip Hailey

On Saturday, February 21, 2009, 8 of us from MCB caught our flights to Washington D.C. for the American Council of the Blind Legislative Seminar.  I would like to thank Bev Kaskadden, Teresa Moore, Tom and Brandi Jones, Erika Wolf>and Josh Sisson, along with my wife for serving as our MCB delegates to the legislative seminar.  Our MCB president, Denny Huff, had arrived earlier on Thursday for the ACB Board of Directors meeting that was to be held on Friday followed by the affiliate presidents’ meeting to be held on Saturday.  I would like to extend a very special thank you to him for staying over for the seminar, and then later for our visit over to Capitol Hill.

I thought this year's group worked extremely well together and believe MCB would be very proud of our legislative efforts.  We again this year took up two legislative imperatives that we had taken to our Congressional leaders last year.  The first was the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.  Eric Bridges, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, reported that ACB had again strongly urged the House of Representatives to reintroduce and pass the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act which was originally introduced by Rep. Ed Markey as H.R. 6320 in the 110th Congress.  This bill would restore the modest requirements for production of video description, and would have such requirements extend to digital television.  It would also require non-visual access to on-screen emergency warnings and similar televised information such as boil water and amber alerts.  It would further require TV user interfaces to be disability accessible, including devices used to receive and display Internet-based video programming.  We also heard later from Mark Seifert, Council on Telecommunications and the Internet, House Committee on Energy and Commerce.  Mark spoke on the Hill Perspective on this bill.

The second imperative was the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (HR734) as introduced by Representatives Edolphus Towns and Cliff Stearns.  Melanie Brunson, ACB Executive Director, said this bill would direct the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study beginning within 90 days of passage of this legislation and to complete it within two years of its commencement, at which time, the Department of Transportation would report the study's findings to Congress.  She said secondly Within 90 days after the conclusion of the study, the secretary then would establish a standard that would take into account the results of the study, and will set forth the minimum information that must be provided by motor vehicles required for blind and other pedestrians to travel safely and independently in urban, rural and residential environments.  She said the bill would also provide that the standard would apply to all "new motor vehicles."  At the time of this writing, we have more than 100 cosponsors to the bill.  Cosponsors from Missouri include Representatives Russ Carnahan, Jo Ann Emerson and Roy Blunt.

Other highlights of the legislative seminar:  We heard from Eve Hill, Senior Vice President, from the Burton Blatt Institute, on the proposed ADA amendments.  I thought her time was well received and very informative.  She updated us on the upcoming changes in the ADA and how those changes will affect those of us with disabilities.

We also heard from Donna Smith, Training Manager, Easter Seals Project Action, on challenges with municipalities and the Paratransit Industry.  Donna did an outstanding job in describing some of the problems regarding Para transit across the country and what we can do to assist in resolving some of those problems.

We heard from Mark Richert, American foundation for the blind Director of Public Policy, on healthcare issues.  Mark talked about the rise of healthcare and the high cost of durable medical equipment, and what we can expect in the future.

We also heard from Christie Dawson, Director of Governmental Relations, National Industries for the Blind, as well as Catriona McDonald, of Blind Entrepreneurs' Alliance, on updates on the Randolph-Sheppard and Ability One Programs.

In addition, we heard from Sharon Lewis, Disability Policy Advisor, House committee on Education and Labor, on other issues pending on the Hill.

All in all, it was a wonderfully productive seminar.  I also felt as though the face-to-face contact with our Congressional leaders made a huge difference in promoting our agenda.  Moreover, I truly believe that our presence at the Capitol educates in a way that a phone call or email cannot possibly do.  So we can now sit back and watch the fruits of our labor flourish.

Regarding the class action law suit, we have been informed by attorney Deborah Greider that Judge Patricia Joyce of the Circuit Court of Cole County entered an Order on April 16, 2009, and has found as a matter of that no statute of limitations applies to the claims of the class members and that she ordered an accounting to determine damages going back to 1992.  Judge Joyce has ordered the attorneys for the State of Missouri and the attorneys for the class to convene a status conference on May 4 at 3:00 to discuss the appointment of a special master for the purpose of the accounting.  Other matters, such as the mechanics of obtaining records, lists of recipients going back to 1992, and other issues pertinent to an accounting will likely be discussed as well.  The Court may have other issues to discuss at that time, and the Court may have matters it wishes the attorneys to brief.  We believe this is a significant step forward for the blind of Missouri, and we will keep you advised.

Thank you again for allowing me to be your Education and Welfare Chairman.  It’s been an honor and wonderful experience.

Respectfully submitted,
Chip Hailey

Education and Welfare :: March 2009

By Chip Hailey - Chairman

Our MCB Legislative Days was again another huge success.

I would like to thank all of the affiliate legislative reps and their guides for attending, as well as several members at large and many others who came with great enthusiasm.
I can't begin to express what their participation and contribution meant to our success.

I would also like to thank our MCB president, Denny Huff, for attending as well.  His support to our legislative cause was more than greatly appreciated and his participation gave strength to our cause.

In addition, I would also like to thank our MCB Executive Director, Bev Armstrong, for also being in attendance.  It means so much to all of our legislative attendees to have her present and her knowledge and experience was invaluable.

I also want to publically thank Marty Exline for taking time out of his busy schedule to again assist with our legislative imperatives.  Marty's knowledge and expertise is without question a very valueable asset to our Legislative Days.

I must also say thank you to Bev Armstrong and Betsy and Elenor for all of their hard work they did to make this year's Legislative Days one of the best. Thanks, ladies!  Your hard work was greatly appreciated and all of your hard work really paid off.

Thanks, too,  to our Public Relations Chair, Leroy Welch, for providing our legislators with several MCB office items.  I'm sure they were appreciated by all who received them.

I would also like to thank Karl Hirsch, manager of the Capitol cafeteria, for making our visit to the Capitol less stressful by providing us with room to store our luggage as well as our coats and jackets.  Even though our legislative breakfast was again terrific, the one disappointment was that we didn't have as many legislative representatives and Senators attend our breakfast as we had hoped.  This may have been due partly to the fact that we were in competition with three other breakfasts that were going on at the same time.  One was in the Capitol rotunda and two over at the Capitol Plaza.  Hopefully, we will have better attendance from our legislators next year.

If you would like to know what our legislative imperatives were for this year, please feel free to contact me or our MCB office.

Thanks, again, to everyone who participated and contributed to this year's MCB Legislative Days.  Our legislative endeavors will reap a great harvest for years to come.

Education and Welfare Committee :: December 2008

During our Education and Welfare Committee meeting on Friday morning of our State Convention, we decided to make it a fun time for all of those who were in attendance.  We had given out a small gift as a token of our appreciation to all of the affiliate legislative reps and their guides for the wonderful work they did this past legislative year.

Rather than going over the legislative issues we had discussed with our legislators, we decided to play the skit that Marlaina Lieberg, ACB secretary from the great state of Washington, and Michael Byington, CEO and office manager of the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, had performed during the 2008 ACB Legislative Seminar.  The 30 minute skit was called, "How a Bill Becomes Law", and not only was it hilarious but many felt that it was very educational.

Next, we played a catchy little jingle from the blinddollars.org website called, "blinddollars.org", and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  You can still visit the blinddollars.org web site to send a message to your Representatives and Senators, using the links on the web page to urge government officials that it's NOW TIME for our currency to be identifiable by TOUCH.  We then played a 10 minute clip by Mary McVicker Scroggs, a woman who lost her sight because of being run over by a drunk driver at 11:20 on July 18th 1994 on the sidewalk in front of CAT world headquarters, and who is a spokesperson for making our currency accessible and identifiable by touch.

We concluded the meeting by presenting Deborah Greider, our attorney on the Blind Pension lawsuit, with a small gift of our appreciation for all of the hard work she has done.  To learn about the oral argument regarding the Blind Pension lawsuit that was held on October 3, 2008, in the Western Appellate Court in Kansas City, you can check the Convention minutes where Deb Greider gave a Blind Pension lawsuit update.

Social Security Announces 5.8 Percent Benefit Increase for 2009 Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 55 million Americans will increase 5.8 percent in 2009, the Social Security Administration announced on October 16, 2008.  The 5.8 percent increase is the largest since 1982.  Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.  The 5.8 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that over 50 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2009.  Increased payments to more than 7 million Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will begin on December 31.

The 2009 Substantial Gainful Activity Income Limit for individuals who are blind is $1640 per month.  People getting Social Security disability benefits can continue to receive their benefits when they work as long as their earnings are not more than an amount set by law.  If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits and you are legally blind, you can earn as much as $1,640 a month in 2009.  The earnings limits change each year.  Additionally, if you are blind and self-employed, the Social Security Administration does not evaluate the time you spend working in your business as it does for people who are not blind.  This means you can be doing a lot of work for your business, but still receive disability benefits, as long as your net profit averages $1,640 or less a month in 2009.


The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Amendments Act was passed in September 2008, and will be effective January 1, 2009.  This Act will expand the interpretation of the ADA's coverage, which has been "watered down" by a string of U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1999.  The ADA was enacted to protect qualified employees and applicants with disabilities from discrimination by employers.  It requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of his or her job.  In order for an individual to be protected under the ADA, the worker must demonstrate that they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities and they must establish that even with the disability, they can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations.  Changes to the ADA made by the ADA Amendments Act:  Provides a list of tasks that constitute "major life activities," including things such as walking, standing, lifting, learning, reading and thinking.  It Expands the definition of "substantially limits"
based on a list of requirements that are less demanding than the current standards; Expands the definition of a "major life activity";


Notes that an impairment that substantially limits one major life activity doesn't have to limit other major life activities to be considered a disability; clarifies that impairments that are episodic or in remission are considered a disability if they
would substantially limit activity when active; provides that an individual doesn't have to establish that his or her impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity to be "regarded as disabled."  If you have any questions regarding this or any legislation, please contact me at (417) 659-8086 or (417) 781-6728, or chiphailey@cableone.net.

Now for the 2009 MCB Legislative Days:  MCB Legislative Days will be February 17-18, 2009, again at the Hotel DeVille, in Jefferson City.  The legislative meeting will begin at 2:00 p.m. on February 17, 2009.  We would love to see as many of you as possible at this vital event.  Without your much needed participation, we will be unable to have the kind of necessary impact on our legislative representatives. So please make every effort to join us in Jefferson City on the dates mentioned and together let's make a difference for all blind Missourians.

Should you need to contact me, please feel free to do so either by phone or by    e-mail.  My home telephone number is (417) 781-6728, my work number is (417) 659-8086, and my cell number is (417) 540-9703. My e-mail address is chiphailey@cableone.net

Additional information regarding MCB Legislative Days is available either by contacting me or the MCB office.  Here is the contact information for the Hotel DeVille:  http://www.devillehotel.com 319 W Miller St, Jefferson City, MO 65101 (573) 636-5231.  The Hotel DeVille is a hotel of eclectic charm.  Conveniently located in the Downtown area, it is 2 blocks from the State Capitol Building and other nearby attractions such as the Truman and Broadway State Office Buildings, Supreme Court Building, Governor's Mansion, Missouri State Penitentiary, Lincoln University, and the Veterans Memorial.

I would now like to leave you with these words from the Gospel of Luke. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”--Luke 2:11-14 KJV

Merry Christmas everyone, and have a joyous and happy New Year.

Respectfully submitted,
Chip Hailey
MCB Education and Welfare Chairman

Education and Welfare Committee :: September 2008

Dear MCB family and friends,

On Sunday morning, July 6, 2008, I attended the American Council of the blind Legislative Seminar at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky just before the opening session that evening of the ACB National Convention.
Melanie Brunson, ACB Executive Director, reported that The U.S. Treasury Department has been discriminating because it has failed to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable by people who are blind.  She said that on May 20, 2008, a federal appeals court ruled By a 2-1 vote, to uphold the ruling by U.S. District Judge James Robertson in a lawsuit filed by the American Council of the Blind (ACB) against the U.S. Treasury Department.  ACB accused the department and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson of violating the Rehabilitation Act, which was meant to ensure that people with disabilities can live independently and fully participate in society.  She said the appeals court rejected the Treasury Department's arguments that making currency accessible would impose an undue burden on the government, and sent the case back to Robertson to address the group's request for relief.  She said this was a tremendous victory for ACB.

We had also heard from Jeffrey A. Lovitky, Attorney At Law, on Tuesday morning during the general session regarding this matter as well. It was also reported that in late June, 2008, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch increased the funding for the Talking Book program operated by the Library of Congress.  The House Appropriations Subcommittee allocated $34.5 million for the Talking Book program.  This amount will allow the Library of Congress to complete the conversion of the collection of Talking Books to a digital format within three years and provide for the manufacture of special machines to play the new books.  The funding provided, if approved by the Senate, will ensure that new machines are distributed to the program's patrons well before the antiquated cassette machines they are currently using can wear out, as well as giving patrons access to thousands of titles in the new digital format.

Tom Latham, the ranking member of the subcommittee, said: "The Talking Book program is a critical service of the Library of Congress that provides blind Americans with the reading materials they need for education, professional development, and leisure.  The subcommittee was pleased that it was able to allocate sufficient funds to advance the conversion of Talking Books to newer, more advanced technology that will serve the needs of the program's patrons for years to come."  We also heard from Frank Kurt Cylke, Director, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; and Dr. Edmund O'Reilly, Collection Development Section Head, Materials Development division, Library of congress, Washington, DC on Wednesday morning of the general session on this matter as well.

Eric Bridges, ACB's Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, reported that H.R.6320 was introduced June 19, 2008 by Reps. Edward J. Markey and Heather Wilson to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to emerging Internet Protocol-based communication and video programming technologies in the 21st Century.  He urged ACB members to please call at least five Democrats and five Republicans and explain that we want accessible and usable phone and television services for people with disabilities!  He also asked that we thank Representative Markey and Representative Wilson for sponsoring this bill.

REGARDING THE DIGITAL TELEVISION (DTV) TRANSITION:  It was reported that after February 17, 2009, all full-power broadcast television stations will broadcast in digital format only.
The DTV transition will provide broadcasters with a greater number of audio channels with which they may provide voluntary video description.
Digital-to-analog converter boxes are not required to process all associated audio services broadcast by a DTV station, so consumers should check with manufacturers and retailers to learn more about whether specific digital-to-analog converter boxes are able to provide video descriptions.

If purchasing a digital television or digital-to-analog converter box, consumers should ask the manufacturer or retailer how audio streams are accessed, and whether the remote control and on-screen menus are accessible to individuals with vision disabilities.  We had also heard from Kathie Klass, Ombudsman, Television Converter Coupon Program, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, US Department of Commerce, Washington, DC, on Wednesday morning of the general session on this issue as well.  Melanie Brunson had also reported that Eric Bridges would be serving as the American Council of the Blind representative on the FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC). As ACB's representative, Eric will help the Committee to ensure that all Americans will have access to modern communications services.

We were also given an update on H.R. 5734, The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2008.
It was reported that we currently have more than thirty Members of the House of Representatives listed as cosponsors, and Congressmen Towns and Stearns have sent a letter to Congressman John Dingell, Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, asking for hearings on this bill.  We were told that we must increase our cosponsor support on this legislation to show Chairman Dingell that this issue is important to members of the House.  We were urged to call our members of Congress and ask him or her to join as a cosponsor of HR 5734. 

On SUNDAY, JULY 6, Monday, July 7, and Tuesday, July 8, ACB convention attendees were able to experience a quiet car demonstration.

Blind Pension update:  Here's an e-mail that I received from Debbie Greider on July 1, 2008.

“Hi Chip:  I wanted to give you an update on the appeal.  We were asked by the staff attorney at the Missouri Court of Appeals to furnish some additional materials, which we did.  The Attorney General then asked the Missouri Court of Appeals for an extension of time to file its brief, informing the Court that the attorney in charge of the appeal had left the Attorney General's Office, and he (Mark Long) would be taking over.  The attorney (Mark Long) said that in view of the fact that he was taking over for someone else and the brief was over 100 pages long, he needed some extra
time.  The Court gave him until July 31st to file the State's brief.  Then, we will have to prepare and file a reply brief.  The Court has still not indicated whether it will want oral argument or not, but I cannot imagine that it will not want to hear oral argument.  So, right now it is hurry up and wait.  When we get the brief from the Attorney General, I will be sure that you receive a copy.
All the best,
Debbie Greider”

I would like to thank Debbie and the staff of the Thomas E. Kennedy Law Office for all of their tireless work on behalf of MCB and all of the individuals on the Blind Pension roll.  I would also like to thank MCB for all of its support this past legislative year.  We will be looking forward to seeing many of you at our state convention in October in St. Peters.  May God continue to bless MCB in all of its endeavors.

Respectfully, Chip HaileyMCB Education and Welfare Chairman

Education and Welfare Committee :: June 2008

By Chip Hailey

Dear MCB family and friends,

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.  The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”--
Franklin D. Roosevelt

I would like to begin my report by thanking all of those of you who assisted and participated in this year's legislative session.  Without a doubt, the huge success we enjoyed can only be attributed to your participation.  Words can not express my deepest gratitude to you for your involvement.
So I thank all of you who joined together with us on a legislative level to help make a significant difference in the lives of all blind Missourians.

On February 9th, 10 of us boarded a plane in Kansas City to fly to Washington D.C. for the American Council of the Blind Legislative Seminar.
I would like to thank the following individuals for taking time out of their busy schedules to be a part of this important event:  Linda Gerken, MCB first vice president, and Linda's daughter, Terrica Sanders, and Terrica's daughter, Courtlin, and James Hollins, MCB second vice president, as well as Marie Thompson, Mary Pendleton, and
Mary's grandson, Alec Kinder, and Linda Burris, as well as my lovely wife, Linda.  I thought our group worked extremely well together in addressing our U.S. Senators and Congressional leaders regarding the legislative imperatives outlined by ACB.

On February 12th, the 10 of us arose early only to be greeted by a bitterly cold day.  After touring the White House early that morning, we made our way to Capitol Hill to begin the legislative work at hand.

The three issues we addressed with our legislators were the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act discussion draft, accessibility To commercial web sites, and pedestrian safety issues regarding hybrid and other quiet vehicles. 

Essentially, the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act deals with television programming that often relies on visual information to communicate with consumers, i.e.  products that are created to utilize on-screen menus, and significant emergency weather advisories that are scrolled across screens, and telephone numbers that are displayed on television screens unaccompanied by verbalization. People who are blind, or have visual impairments, are thereby denied access to a significant portion of the vast array of communications services available today.  ACB had strongly urged the House of Representatives to formally introduce the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act discussion draft that had been created by the House Energy and Commerce committee in close consultation with the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) to require television programmers to transmit and deliver video description. (Video description is the provision of verbal descriptions of the on-screen visual elements of a show provided during natural
pauses in dialogue.)  For instance, this could mean (a) audio output where on-screen text menus are used to control video programming functions.  This particular imperative has been long in coming but hopefully we will see some positive results.

The WEB SITE ACCESSIBILITY Issue deals with business and commercial web sites making its internet goods and services accessible to people with disabilities.  Title III of the ADA bars discrimination on the basis of disability by "places of public accommodation" and "commercial facilities" "engaged in commerce," yet experts report that currently as many as 98 percent of all commercial web sites are inaccessible to the disabled.  ACB had strongly urged the House of Representatives and Senate to formally introduce language as stand-alone legislation. Specifically, ACB briefly requested the following:  “It shall be discriminatory to provide an individual or class of individuals, on the basis of a disability or disabilities of such individual or class, directly, or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements, with a good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation that is different or separate from that provided to other individuals, unless such action is necessary to provide the individual or class of individuals with a good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation, or other opportunity that is as effective as that provided to others. To be effective, such a good, service, facility, privilege,
advantage, accommodation, or other opportunity must be provided to the individual or class of individuals at no additional cost and with the same timeliness of delivery, accuracy of communication, privacy, and independence as is provided to others.”  Basically, this bill states that it shall be discriminatory for business and commercial web sites to provide persons with disabilities on the basis of their disability a good, service, or accommodation that is different or separate from that provided to other individuals.  It further states that such goods and services must be provided to the individual or class of individuals at no additional cost and with the same timeliness of delivery as is provided to others.

The legislative imperative regarding quiet vehicles deals with automobile manufacturers producing increasing numbers of vehicles that are meant to be environmentally friendly. This has led to an increased number of vehicles on the road which not only utilize alternative fuels to power their engines, but also run much more quietly than older automobiles did. Though many aspects of this trend are laudatory, efforts by the auto industry to make the environment less noisy have placed pedestrians who use that noise to evaluate the safety or danger of the area in which they are traveling at serious risk.  The American Council of the Blind had urged Congress to pass a resolution in support of research by both government and private entities into  means by which the issues outlined above could be addressed.  ACB believes that Congress should provide the U.S. Department of Transportation, or other appropriate federal agencies, with funding for such research, should direct that the agencies conduct such research in a timely manner and report back to Congress at its conclusion with recommendations, and should direct that appropriate federal agencies have the
authority to commence implementation of recommended solutions within two years after the
passage of this legislation.
One suggested implementation was that the automobile manufacturers develop some sort of device that would emit a certain sound warning the pedestrian of the oncoming vehicle.  The device would be attached to the vehicle and not be the responsibility of the pedestrian to carry.

For additional information regarding any of these three imperatives, you can visit the ACB web site and link on the Washington Connection for more details.

On February 19th and 20th, we had our MCB Legislative Days in Jefferson City.  Again, I would like to thank all of the affiliates who sent their affiliate legislative representatives to be a part of this vital legislative cause.  It was my distinct pleasure to have worked so closely with all of you good folks.

On February 19th, during our legislative meeting, we had honored Mary Pendleton with a set of ceramic praying hands for her strong dedication and commitment for having served MCB the past two years as MCB Education and Welfare Chairman.  Thanks Mary for the legacy you left in having served MCB in a legislative capacity on a local, state, and national level.

I would also like to take a brief moment to publicly thank Marty Exline, from MATP, and Mike Merrick, from RSB, for providing us with their expertise on the issues we had taken to our legislators.  Their input was extremely valuable in helping us to better understand the issues. 

The issues we asked our legislators to consider were as follows:  HB 1544, sponsored by Representative Tim Jones, requires publishers of instructional materials to provide electronic copies of the material to schools for specialized use.
The companion bill is SB 719 sponsored by Senator Harry Kennedy.  At the time of this writing, the bill did have a hearing, but the committee changed the bill at the request of the publishers in a way that would actually do more harm than good.  SB 719 has not been scheduled for a
hearing.  It is doubtful that a bill will pass before the session adjourns.

HB 1345, sponsored by Representative Charles Portwood, increases the tax credit amount available for individuals making home modifications.  The companion bill is SB 717, sponsored by Senator Harry Kennedy.  Both bills were voted do pass out of their committees.  The bills now need to be placed on the House or Senate Perfection Calendar and be passed on the floor of the House or Senate.

SB 848, sponsored by Senator Wes Shoemyer, relating to accessibility in State Capitol making the Capitol accessible to persons with disabilities.  This bill had a hearing, but the committee has never voted on the bill.

HB 1662, sponsored by Representative Bill Deeken, requires certain information be disclosed to consumers by audiologists and persons who dispense hearing instruments.  a committee substitute bill was recently voted do pass by the committee.

We had also asked our legislators to move the Blindness, Education, Screening and Treatment (BEST) fund under the direction of RSB.

We had also asked our legislators to include $100,000 appropriations in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) budget for the Equipment Technology Consortium (ETC) loan program administrated by Missouri Assistive Technology Project.  The bill was HB 2002 and was left in the budget by the House but was removed in the Senate.  The item is now in the House/Senate budget conference committee which is meeting around the time of this writing.

I would like to thank Marty Exline for providing me with the updates to these bills.  I will continue to give periodic updates on these bills as they become available.

In conclusion, I would like to thank MCB for all of its support and the confidence of its members for giving me this wonderful opportunity to serve as MCB Education and Welfare Chairman.  I truly feel it is a privilege to serve MCB in this capacity.  Thanks again and may God continue to bless MCB in all of its endeavors.

Respectfully submitted,
Chip Hailey
MCB Education and Welfare Chairman

Education and Welfare Committee :: December 2007

By Chip Hailey

Dear MCB family and friends,

"To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain." Louis L'Amour

I would like to start off my report by first thanking my predecessor, Mary Pendleton, on the remarkable job she did the past two years as Education and Welfare Chair. Her legislative efforts will be long remembered not only in MCB but throughout the Halls of the Capitol. Her dedication and commitment as well as her passion she expressed in serving MCB on a local, state, and national legislative level will be very difficult to equal. However, Mary has promised that she won't be completely absent from the legislative scene. She and I will continue to work closely together to keep the membership informed of the latest legislative developments affecting the blind.

I would also like to express my deepest appreciation to all of the affiliate legislative representatives for their perpetual sacrifice. MCB would not have experienced its legislative success without your continuing endeavors.

I would also like to thank the Education and Welfare Committee for electing me as your new Education and Welfare chair. I promise to diligently work legislatively to better the lives of all blind Missourians. I will be calling on all of the affiliate representatives to join together with me in making this pledge. As we continue to work together I am confident that we will experience even greater success.

Already I have been asked to serve on the Disability Rights Legislative Day Committee. Last August, our Madam Executive Director was contacted by Megan Schulz of Paraquad about having blind representation on the committee. So then our Madam Executive Director contacted me to see whether I would be interested in serving on that committee. I attended the September and October meetings and it looks as though next year's Disability Rights Legislative Day will be another huge event that you won't want to miss. I will be providing more details as they become available.

Now for the 2008 MCB Legislative Days: MCB Legislative Days will be February 19-20, 2008, at the Hotel DeVille, in Jefferson City. The legislative meeting will begin at 2:00 p.m. on February 19, 2008. We hope to see as many of you as possible at this important event. Without your much needed help, we will be unable to have the kind of necessary impact on our legislative representatives. So please make every effort to join us in Jefferson City on the dates mentioned and together let's make a difference for all blind Missourians.

Some of the issues we will be considering will be the Textbook Revision Act, which will not only insure that blind students receive their textbooks in an accessible format but in a timely fashion as well. We will also be considering the Blindness Education Screening and Treatment (BEST) Fund to be moved under the direction of Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, and we will be requesting additional appropriations for at least 1 more blindness skills specialist.

Should you need to contact me, please feel free to do so either by phone or by e-mail. My home telephone number is (417) 781-6728, and my work number is (417) 659-8086. My e-mail address is chailey4@ipa.net. Additional information regarding MCB Legislative Days is available either by contacting me or the MCB office. Here is the contact information for the Hotel DeVille should you need it: http://www.devillehotel.com. 319 W Miller St, Jefferson City, MO 65101 (573) 636-5231. The Hotel DeVille is a hotel of eclectic charm. Conveniently located in the Downtown area, it is 2 blocks from the State Capitol Building and other nearby attractions such as the Truman and Broadway State Office Buildings, Supreme Court Building, Governor's Mansion, Missouri State Penitentiary, Lincoln University, and the Veterans Memorial.