Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Transcript from the Latest AB 2072 Bill Senate Hearing

Wednesday, August 11, 2010, 4:39 am Pacific Time

Transcript of California State Senate Appropriations Committee hearing relating to AB2072, August 9, 2010

SENATOR CHRISTINE KEHOE (Chair): And we are going to bring up Mr. Mendoza now to take up AB 2072 on hearing screening. A number of citizens have come to the Capitol to testify on this, and we have sign language interpreters here [gesturing], so we'd like to dispense with that bill. We appreciate Mr. DeVore's courtesy in allowing Mr. Mendoza to come up. So we will go to 2072. Mr. Mendoza, do you open on that?

ASSEMBLYMAN TONY MENDOZA: Yes, Madam Chair. Thank you members. I'm here to present on AB 2072, with the amendments that we've taken, the Senate Health Committee, with the help of our Senator Alquist [motions to Sen. Alquist], this bill will now require the California Department of Education to develop a pamphlet that will--that is comprehensive and provides information to parents on American Sign Language as well as auditory/oral approaches. The California Department of Education will develop this pamphlet with the input of stakeholder--by a stakeholder group that will include representatives from various communication options. The cost of this pamphlet and conducting the stakeholder panel will be covered by non-state funds--and we worked, and the Senator, on making sure we are clear on that. This information will be presented by the audiologist who tells parents that their child has been identified as deaf or hard of hearing. The information will also be given to parents at a second time by their local Early Start provider. And with that, Madam Chair, we have some folks here to speak in favor, starting with one of the parents, Licia King.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you, Mr. Mendoza. Before we go to the witnesses--that will be momentary--if I could have the audience's attention. How many people are prepared to speak on behalf, or opposed, to this bill, AB 2077 [sic]? Either way, pro or con? [pause] Alrighty, so we will take--we'll take three statements in favor, and then will take the rest of the in-favor witnesses. Then we'll take the three statements opposed, and take the rest of the statements opposed.

MR. MENDOZA: Yes, Madam Chair, do you want to set a time limit for each speaker?

SEN. KEHOE: It doesn't look like there are all that many. You know what? Statements should be on point, on the fiscal matters, and no repetition, and the statements can go on as long as the Chair is listening, so--

MR. MENDOZA: [laughs] Great, thank you.

[Audience laughs]

SEN. KEHOE: --so I'll determine--I'll determine how long they go [laughing]. But we're prepared to hear, of course, people who have come a ways to talk about the bill, so go ahead, miss.

LICIA KING: Good morning, my name is Licia King and I'm the parent of six-year-old deaf twin girls. We first discovered that the girls had their hearing loss when they failed the newborn hearing screening at birth with their confirmed diagnosis. We were given no information about communication alternatives. A teacher of the deaf did come to our home and we began learning sign language, but we quickly found that that was not well suited for us, as there are no other deaf members in our immediate or extended family. It took a friend for us to become aware of the local listening-and-spoken-language program that ultimately was a better choice for us. While attending this program, both of my daughters received cochlear implants, and by their fourth birthday they had age-appropriate speech and language skills. They're now fully mainstreamed in our neighborhood school, sitting beside their hearing peers. They require minimal support services and are meeting or exceeding state standards. [pause] I cannot stress enough that it is my parental right to make decisions for my children, and it is best to do so with complete information. We live in a country that is based on the freedom to choose, and rarely is there a situation where one size fits all. But for all future parents of children born with hearing loss, I ask that you give them the information they need to make an informed decision that is timely and best for their family situation. Thank you.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you very much. Next please.

LAURA TURNER: Laura Turner representing California Coalition of Option Schools and we're in support of the bill.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you very much.

JANET CHRISTENSEN: Janet Christensen, also of California Coalition of Option Schools. I'm also a parent and a teacher of the deaf and I'm in favor of this bill.

SEN. KEHOE: Very good. Other testimony in favor of the bill? [pause] Folks? Testimony in favor? Alright then I'll ask you three to vacate those chairs. We'll bring up those opposed to the bill--opposed to AB 2077 [sic]. [pause] Alrighty, if you could come up and give us your name and your statement, please? [pause] Good morning.

SHERI FARINHA: [voice of interpreter] Good morning. My name is Sheri Farinha. I'm here representing the California Deaf Newborn Identification Advocacy Stakeholders [CDNIAS] of parents and the Deaf community members. Senator Polanco is very ill and unable to join me today to express our concerns and why we are opposing this bill in its current form. There were amendments that were made during the Health Committee policy hearing and they're not in its current form of this bill, which is why we still stand opposed. I would like to share our concerns regarding the part of the bill that says, quote: "Provides that the State, audiologists, nor Early Start program providers shall incur any costs for implementing this bill." Who will pay for this bill? That's our question. Also, the new fund to be set up will be empty until the state gets contributions? How much money will be needed to cover this entire bill? If no money [is obtained] then what happens to this bill as required? Regarding the advisory panel, we want to make sure that this committee--that the state is responsible under the Americans with Disabilities Act to understand that it absorbs the responsibility to pay for all of the accommodations--whether sign language interpreters, oral interpreters, real time captioning--the state is responsible to pay for that and it's not contingent on any contributions to the fund. We hope that the staff analysis has asked the California Department of Education costs related to everything involved in this bill and whether they were going to absorb the costs. It's really important to have enforcement of the funds, and who will monitor and make sure that the contributions are not in conflict, from any big-time industry with those who are represented on the panel, to make sure that there's no conflict of interest--who is going to monitor that? If the bill is amended, will the Committee be looking at those changes in the amendments? The costs associated with the shipping of the current pamphlet is roughly fourteen hundred audiologists in the State of California that are California licensed. While this bill creates a new professional activity in which the degree, the certification, licensing, does not require audiologists to be knowledgeable in the educational aspect of sign language development, therefore they would be asked to present information to new parents, and that would require an additional training, so I hope that the training costs are included. The Chair of the Health Committee, Senator Alquist, did ask for restrictions on the audiologists, and that's not in the current form of the bill, so we have concerns there. What would that mean? Audiologists, [only] registration, not license required [to practice] in the State of California, not including [knowledge of] aspects related to American Sign Language, and it's really critical that they have training before they are allowed to pass out any kind of materials or information, to be able to intelligently answer questions related to American Sign Language. Also, the bill talks about the pamphlet and collecting information from the advisory panel, as well as collecting written information. We want to make sure that the California Department of Education has a survey and that that information is available in American Sign Language on video on the CDE website. [pause] The bill itself also says that the Department will be able to, or needs to include travel costs--you know that there's automatically some travel costs that affect some panel members. We hope that the Appropriations Committee takes a hard look at all of the different areas of concern and makes sure that the funds themselves--that someone is able to monitor and make sure that it's impartial, and neutral. So thank you for your attention to our concerns.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you. We appreciate your comments.

MS. FARINHA: --I'm here to answer any questions.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you. Is there--I'm going to go to Senator Alquist, the chair of our Senate Health Committee, after the testimony is finished, but first let me see. Is there any additional testimony opposed to AB 2077 [sic]? Please come on up? Any other testimony opposed, you should be coming up now. [pause] Alright, sir, tell us your name and your statement?

BOYCE HINMAN: Yes, thank you. Yes, I'm Boyce Hinman. I'm with California Communities United Institute and sadly, we must oppose this bill. We do not believe that referring the parents to an audiologist will result in a fair and accurate description of all of the options available for the parents and for their children, and we think the legislation needs to be amended to make sure that that happens, and so, as I said, regretfully we oppose the bill.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you.

MR. HINMAN. Thank you.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you. Any additional testimony for, or against, AB 2077 [sic]? Seeing none.

MR. HINMAN: 2072.

SEN. KEHOE: Beg your pardon. I'm looking at the wrong line--2072. Thank you very much. Senator Alquist, you have some comments?

SENATOR ELAINE ALQUIST: I do have some comments.

SEN. KEHOE: And we do appreciate your work on this bill in the Health Committee.

SEN. ALQUIST: Thank you, and I do appreciate Assemblyman Mendoza's work on this bill. I and my staff have spent hundreds of hours on this one bill. In fact, somebody even said to me, you know, are you--why did you even take on this issue? I took it on because I care about these children and because once a week, for all of my four years in college, I volunteered at the Illinois School for the Blind in Jacksonville, Illinois where MacMurray College is. And I worked with children who had multiple handicaps. So I really care about the children, and we here are doing something to make something better for children, and this really has become a really good bill. One thing I'd like to--well, several things. One, the opposition keeps talking about the Department of Education. Well, the opposition really wanted the Department of Education to house this bill, should it become law, and now they're bringing up some other issues which I'm sure the Appropriations staff can deal with. Assemblyman Mendoza, for his part, took every single amendment that we asked, except one, which he agreed to but just time-wise it did not work out for him to take it till now, and we're hoping--and I will say exactly what the amendment does, and I'm hoping that this can be done while the bill is on suspense here in Appropriations. I asked the author to incorporate language in the next committee to prohibit audiologists from steering parents toward a particular option and from influencing the parents' decision beyond their scope of practice. [pause] That is fair. The assemblyman agreed to it. I hope that it will be taken here in Appropriations. I've not seen any language from the opposition--any compromise language on this issue and I believe that this particular amendment will truly see to it that the audiologists are not doing anything inappropriate, which is the opposition's main concern, and I understand that, I get that, and this amendment will take care of that issue. I really hope that this bill will make it out of both houses [and] be signed into law, because it is time that parents who have babies who cannot hear have options presented to them in a timely fashion, and that means all options so that parents can decide what they want for their child, and that is what this bill does. So I really ask for your support.

[Senator Kehoe speaking with microphone turned off.]

SEN. ALQUIST: Will you take the amendment?

[Senator Kehoe continuing to speak with microphone turned off.]

SEN. ALQUIST: I would love to make the motion, but I believe it's in the bill's best interests and the children's best interests to hold the bill on suspense and take the amendment that I just addressed.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you Senator Alquist, and I will just explain the process a little bit, because Senator Alquist's remarks, I think, uh, I agree with. The bill meets the requirement for--the criteria for suspense because there are costs of about a hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars in coming years. The amendments that will be author's amendments that Senator Alquist referred to are policy amendments with no fiscal impacts, so taking care of those on suspense will not change the fiscal status of the bill. We will--unless there's further comments from members, I'll take Finance and then we'll close this.

(Department of Finance staff member:) The potential costs of convening the panel and preparing the pamphlet are unknown at this time. Preliminary estimates from the Department of Education range between three hundred thousand and four hundred thousand dollars for travel and printing costs. However we do know that the bill stipulates that no state funds will be used, and the provisions of this bill are dependent upon the determination by the Department of Finance, that sufficient funds have been collected and deposited into the special fund created for this purpose. We do continue to note that there could be potential cost pressures as a result of this measure should private funding not become available.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you. Then without further comment and without objection, the bill goes to the suspense file and we'll work with the author on the amendments between now and Thursday.

MR. MENDOZA: Yes, we will be working--actually we started working with your staff already as far as how we could reduce the costs [of the bill]. Hopefully the bill will get out of suspense.

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you.

MR. MENDOZA: Thank you, Madam Chair--

SEN. KEHOE: Thank you, Mr. Mendoza. We will continue now with file order. Let's see we have Mr. Beall--Colonel Cook, I think you're up now with two items, AB 308 and AB 2784.

[End excerpt]

[Transcript is unofficial.]

LINK TO VIDEO (00:09:35 to 00:26:04):


  1. I think Sheri did a good job...she made valid points and brillant move to convince to suspense the bill. Hope they will suspense the bill tomorrow. The State of California is literally broke! Glad Sheri used interpreter this time to speak for her. Wonderful and again she did a good job even without Senator Polanco. Comment by Penny :-)

  2. Penny,

    Of course, we were very fortunate to have Sheri as our spokesperson on the AB 2072 and carried her points very eloquently.

    Yes, we need to stop the greedy corporatism among the California Coalition lobbying group to exploit the deaf kids for just their greenbacks and rake more and more sorry taxpayers money from the State of California. :)

    That are not really about choices among the AB 2072 supporters. Just the pure greed among the AB 2072 supporters!


  3. RLM-

    I agree with you that the corporatism and others are greedy and do you know what? Deaf adults who want to have CI are very selfish people too. They know that when they want CI...they are telling the world that it is OK for deaf babies and children to get CI too. There is no law protection for deaf babies and children and Deaf adults are not taking responsibility---to say no to CI until law protection is taken for deaf babies and children. Not only corporatism and others are greedy but some Deaf people are. Truly sad to see this happening today.(Comment by Penny)