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L.D. 765 April 12th Update

Thanks to Senator Rosen, Representative Flood and all of the members of the 125th Maine Legislature's Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs:

In response to communications from concerned consumers, the Appropriations Committee has chosen to include funding for 2.5 positions identified in L.D. 765 for inclusion in Section 1 of Part FFF of the FY2013 supplemental budget bill. Section 2 of Part FFF also directs the Commissioners of Maine's Department of Labor and Department of Education to develop a plan to save $287,541 dollars through cost savings and efficiencies in order to fund four additional positions identified in L.D. 765. Section 3 of Part FFF of the budget bill directs the Commissioner of Labor and the Commissioner of Education to present their plan to the Legislature's committees on Appropriations, Labor and Education by September 15, 2012.

The positions funded in the FY2013 supplemental budget are for one contracted position for a Teacher of the Visually Impaired ("TVI") and 1.5 Orientation & Mobility ("O&M") Instructors at the Department of Labor's Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The four additional positions to be funded through future cost savings and efficiencies include one more contracted TVI, one Blindness Rehabilitation Specialist ("BRS") at DBVI and two contracted positions for Vision Rehabilitation Therapists ("VRT"). The TVI positions are currently contracted through Catholic Charities Maine and the VRT positions are contracted through The Iris Network and other private contractors.

A copy of Part FFF of the supplemental budget bill is here. It has been unanimously voted out of the Appropriations Committee with an "ought to pass" recommendation to the floor of the legislature.

While L.D. 765 is still on the Special Appropriations Table, we have been told by Representative Webster, (a member of the Appropriations Committee who lead the group of Legislators who worked out this solution to address the documented need for additional educational and rehabilitation services for Maine citizens who are blind) that L.D. 765 will die on the Special Appropriations Table because it has been taken care of in the budget bill. Therefore, the problematic change to DBVI's enabling act that was added to L.D. 765 as amended will be killed when L.D. 765 dies.

We thank the members of the Appropriations Committee for all of their hard work to include the positions identified in L.D. 765 as amended in the FY2013 supplemental budget bill. We eagerly look forward to the prospect of working collaboratively with staff at DBVI, DOL and DOE as they develop the plan to identify $287,541 dollars in cost savings and efficiencies within DOL and DOE needed to fund the four additional positions identified in Section 2 of Part FFF of the supplemental budget bill. We acknowledge that this work will be challenging, but we hope that a collaborative process will lead to the development of a sound plan for presentation to the Legislature's committees on Appropriations, Labor and Education by September 15, 2012, that will improve educational and rehabilitation services for Maine people who are severely visually impaired or blind.

Thanks, --Jim

 
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