NFB logo and tagline - voice of the Nation's Blind. 'Whozit' is a stylized figure of a person using a long cane. The head of the figure is a yellow-orange crescent-shape, the right arm is red and holds a light gray cane, the left shoulder and right leg are violet, and the left leg is light blue.

UPDATE DATED APRIL 12, 2012- text from an email written by James E. Phipps:

Here is a brief summary of how things are playing out with L.D. 765:

As a result of all of the phone calls and messages written by consumers about the bad language that was added to L.D. 765 by the Commissioner of Education and the urgent need for new funding for additional specialized blindness education and rehabilitation services, the Appropriations Committee decided to amend the FY2013 supplemental budget bill, rather than dealing with L.D. 765 on the special appropriations table. L.D. 765 is still on the table, but I am told by the member of the Appropriations Committee who championed this solution that L.D. 765 will be killed when the Committee gets to it on the table because it has been dealt with in the budget bill. This will kill the bad change to the DBVI enabling act that was the cause for our major concern.

The Appropriations Committee amended the FY2013 supplemental budget bill to add funding for one TVI position and 1.5 O&M positions. The amendment to the budget bill (known as Part FFF) also includes the following two paragraphs:

Sec. __-2. Savings. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Commissioner of Education and the Commissioner of Labor shall work together to identify $287,541 in efficiencies and savings within existing General Fund programs of the Department of Education and the Department of Labor in order to support the cost of one full-time Blindness and Rehabilitation Specialist position within the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Department of Labor, one Teacher of Visually Impaired Children contracted position and 2 Vision Rehabilitation Therapist contracted positions to provide services to blind and visually impaired children and adults.

Sec. ___-3. Report. No later than September 15, 2012, the Commissioner of Education and the Commissioner of Labor shall present their findings to the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriation and Financial Affairs, the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs and the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development along with a plan to apply the identified savings to support the positions identified in section 2.

Now, make no mistake, we all know that the savings that they expect to achieve to fund the additional four positions is expected to come from consolidation of DBVI into the general V.R. program, but the good news is that there is, for the first time, a plan to fund 6.5 positions of the 7 that were identified in L.D. 765 and there is a timetable for getting it done. Furthermore, they will be required to publicly present their plan to achieve these cost savings by September 15, 2012, and this will provide us with the opportunity to participate in the debate on that plan.

If, as we expect, the plan is to achieve the savings needed to fund these positions through consolidation of DBVI into the general V.R. program, statutory changes will be needed to DBVI’s enabling act and these changes will have to go before the legislature and be vetted in public hearings before the Legislature’s Committee on Labor. Consumers will have the opportunity to present testimony. The consolidation fight is dangerous and we may never see the four positions identified in Section 2 of Part FFF of the FY2013 budget bill, but the consolidation battle is coming regardless and we stand a chance of winning the fight. I anticipate that the blind community in Maine will need all the help we can get to wage this battle over the next several months and I am gratified to have the support of NFB at the national level as we prepare for what is to come.

I want to thank you for your support and assistance so far. I look forward to the likelihood that we will need to call on you again in the near future to help the consumer community in Maine deal with the consolidation effort in the coming months and I appreciate knowing that you are ready and willing to answer our call when it comes.

Best personal regards, --Jim

James E. Phipps, MBA/JD
Executive Director
The Iris Network
189 Park Avenue
Portland, Maine
U.S.A. 04102
Phone: (207) 774-6273 (Ext. 3305) / Fax: (207) 774-0679
www.theiris.org

INFORMATION BELOW THIS POINT IS PRIOR TO APRIL 12: Critical information you need to know and can use to reverse L.D. 765


(The first section of this page will provide further background information on the issues at hand, and a call to take action. The second section will provide you with: A. a model letter which can either be used to draft your personal response, or it can be use as "talking points" it you wish to call your legislator. B. The contact information for the Appropriations Committee. The third section will provide you with links to additional resources.)

Section I. Background Information To The Issues At Hand

(The text below was copied from a series of connected emails created and sent by James E. Phipps, MBA/JD, Executive Director, The Iris Network.

Subject: Fw: Help from the Consumer Advisory Committee -- FW: L.D. 765 - an
additional amendment is critically needed
Attachments: Letter-LCRED032412.doc

From: James Phipps
Subject: Help from the Consumer Advisory Committee -- FW: L.D. 765 - an additional amendment is critically needed

Good morning members of the Consumer Advisory Committee:
A significant concern has come up regarding L.D. 765 and we need your help to contact members of the Appropriations Committee within the next two weeks. I will describe the situation below, but also see the email forwarded below and the attached letter for more details.

I am forwarding an email message and an attached letter to the members of the Legislature’s Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development as well as the Sponsors of L.D. 765. The email forwarded below and the attached letter describe a negative change in L.D. 765 that has evolved since the Work Session that was held on February 10th at the Statehouse. This change will result in loss of federal matching funding for DBVI if we cannot get the Appropriations Committee to fix it.

We have about two weeks to get the Appropriations Committee to amend L.D. 765 as described in the message below and the attached letter and to find money for the funding initiatives in the bill. In a moment, I will forward a draft message that each of you may wish to customize in your own personal style and send to members of the Appropriations Committee. Alternatively, you may wish to use this information to call the members of the Appropriations Committee. I will also send along a list of contact information for the members of the Appropriations Committee.

Any steps that you can take within the next two weeks to inform the members of the appropriations Committee or other Legislators about this critical situation will be helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions about this matter. Thank you for your anticipated assistance.

Very truly yours, --Jim

From: James Phipps Sent: Saturday, March 24, 2012 12:40 PM

Dear Senator Rector, Representative Prescott, members of the L.C.R.E.D. Committee and Sponsors of L.D. 765:

The Iris Network and Catholic Charities Maine, administrator of DBVI’s Education Services for Blind Children program, both have significant concerns regarding certain language now included in L.D. 765 as amended. That is, the second sentence of the proposed change to DBVI’s enabling act has substituted a legislative mandate in DBVI’s enabling act instead of a simple change in the existing Memorandum of Understanding between Maine’s DOE and DBVI as originally proposed by Representative Davis at the Work Session on February 10th.

Consequently, it is now necessary to delete the following sentence from L.D. 765 as amended:

Educational services that are required by federal law to be provided to blind or visually impaired children from birth to 20 years of age must take precedence over services provided to blind or visually impaired adults.

The shift away from Representative Davis’s approach that focused on requiring children to be served first in the MOU, to the approach now included in L.D. 765 as amended which mandates that children be served first in DBVI’s enabling act, changes the (so called) “children first” principal originally intended to be managed administratively through the MOU, to a statutory requirement. If enacted, this change in DBVI’s enabling act will require DBVI to reallocate funds from critical adult services in order to provide services to students whenever there are inadequate resources to meet all of the educational and rehabilitation needs of students and adults. This reallocation will result in the loss of federal matching funds for DBVI’s vocational rehabilitation services for transition-age students and adults as well as for independent living services for older adults; thus, further exacerbating the critical funding shortages that now exist.

For more information, please see the attached letter which provides more background information.

Also, please help us work with the members of the Appropriations Committee to amend the language of Section 1 of L.D. 765 as amended by striking the sentence quoted above in order to avoid losing federal matching funds.

Finally, please continue to urge the members of the Appropriations Committee to find new money for the funding initiatives included in L.D. 765 in order to bring the state into compliance with federal special education requirements.

Very truly yours, --Jim

**Here is the text of the letter which was mentioned above as being attached to this email:

March 24, 2012

Re: L.D. 765 as amended

Dear Senator Rector, Representative Prescott, members of the L.C.R.E.D. Committee and Sponsors of L.D. 765:

The Iris Network and Catholic Charities Maine, administrator of DBVI’s Education Services for Blind Children program, both have significant concerns regarding the language now included in L.D. 765 as amended. Our two organizations are seeking your assistance to inform the Appropriations Committee of the importance of striking certain language that is now part of the amended bill.

Our concern is that L.D. 765 as amended now includes problematic changes to DBVI’s enabling act that were not discussed by the L.C.R.E.D. Committee at its Work Session on February 10. Specifically, the bill now includes the following provision:

Sec. 1. 26 MRSA §1418-D, sub-§2, as enacted by PL 1995, c. 560, Pt. F, §13, is amended to read:

2. Department of Education input; school administrative units. The division shall ensure that the Department of Education has input into any contract to provide educational services and delivery of those services to blind or visually impaired children from birth to 20 years of age. Educational services that are required by federal law to be provided to blind or visually impaired children from birth to 20 years of age must take precedence over services provided to blind or visually impaired adults. Nothing in this section relieves school administrative units from fulfilling their responsibilities under Title 20-A, Part 4, subpart 1. (Emphasis added)

The second sentence of the paragraph quoted above has replaced language that Representative Davis presented at the February 10 Work Session and that the L.C.R.E.D. Committee included in its motion that L.D. 765 as amended ought to pass. Specifically, the language no longer included is as follows:

… A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be created to ensure that the Maine Department of Education (DOE) has substantive input to any Contract to provide educational services to blind or visually impaired children, age birth to twenty (20.) The MOU will also ensure that the DOE has substantive input for the delivery of services to blind or visually impaired children, age birth to twenty (20). In addition, the MOU will ensure that children are served first, by staff who serve both children and adults. The DOL/DBVI will continue to be the contract administrator.

The language now included in L.D. 765 as amended would have significant negative consequences on the delivery of blindness education and rehabilitation services to students and adults throughout the State of Maine. If enacted, this will require DBVI to reallocate funds from adult services in order to provide services to students whenever there are inadequate resources to meet all of the educational and rehabilitation needs of students and adults. Such a reallocation will result in the loss of federal matching funds for DBVI’s vocational rehabilitation and independent living services; thus, further exacerbating the critical funding shortages that now exist.

This shift in approach is a major public policy change. DBVI’s enabling act now provides for DBVI to assist schools to meet their obligation to provide specialized educational services for students who are visually impaired or blind. The proposed change in DBVI’s enabling act would shift the burden of providing a free and appropriate public education to students who are visually impaired or blind from local schools to DBVI. It would also result in cutting resources available for vocational rehabilitation and independent living services for adults who are visually impaired or blind.

We sincerely appreciate the true understanding of the compelling need for increased funding to address the educational and rehabilitation needs of Maine citizens who are visually impaired or blind which all of the members of the L.C.R.E.D. Committee have expressed during numerous public hearings and work sessions. We want to sincerely thank the members of the L.C.R.E.D. Committee for their strong support for the bill as expressed in their letter addressed to the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs dated February 14, 2012, this bill was intended, however, to obtain additional resources to address the educational and rehabilitation needs of Maine’s visually impaired and blind citizens. The language quoted above would undermine this effort by reducing the amount of federal matching funds DBVI would receive.

Please help us work with the members of the Appropriations Committee to amend the language of Section 1 of L.D. 765 as amended by striking the second sentence in order to avoid losing federal matching funds. Please also continue to urge the members of the Appropriations Committee to find new money for the funding initiatives included in L.D. 765 in order to bring the state into compliance with federal special education requirements.

Very truly yours,
James E. Phipps, Executive Director
The Iris Network

cc: Commissioners of DOL and DOE, Director of DBVI, Director of the Education Services for Blind Children’s Program at Catholic Charities Maine, Chair of the SRC to DBVI, Presidents of ACB of Maine, NFB of Maine, NAPVI/Maine and Pine Tree Guide Dog Users

Section II. A Sample Letter And Contact Information

(A. First is a sample letter. B. Second is contact information to the committee.)

A. Note from James Phipps: "Hi there everyone, -- Your phone calls and email messages will do the most good if made within the next two weeks. as promised, below please find a sample message that you can customize in your own personal style to send to members of the Legislature including members of the Appropriations Committee."

Dear Senator Rosen, Representative Flood, and members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee:

I am writing to ask you to find funding for L.D. 765 which is now on the Special Appropriations Table, but I have concerns regarding certain language now included in L.D. 765 as amended.

The concern is that L.D. 765 as amended now includes problematic changes to DBVI’s enabling act that were not part of the bill that was voted ought to pass by the L.C.R.E.D. Committee back on February 10. . Specifically, we urge you to pass L.D.765 with the following sentence deleted from the bill.:

Educational services that are required by federal law to be provided to blind or visually impaired children from birth to 20 years of age must take precedence over services provided to blind or visually impaired adults.

If enacted, this change in the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s enabling act will require DBVI to reallocate funds from adult services in order to provide services to students whenever there are inadequate resources to meet all of the educational and rehabilitation needs of students and adults. This reallocation will result in the loss of federal matching funds for DBVI’s vocational rehabilitation and independent living services; thus, further exacerbating the critical funding shortages that now exist. This loss of matching federal funds would have a disastrous consequence for blind citizens of Maine.

?Thank you for removing this sentence and finding funding for the initiatives in this critical legislation.

Very truly yours, --[your name and address]

B. Contact Information for- Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs

1. Senator Richard W. Rosen (R-Hancock), Chair
Address: PO Box 877, Bucksport, ME 04416
Phone: (207) 469-3779; Email: rrosen113@aol.com

2. Senator Roger J. Katz (R-Kennebec)
Address: 3 Westview Street, Augusta, ME 04330
Phone: (207) 485-2394; Email: RKatz@lipmankatzmckee.com
When the Legislature is in session, you can leave a message for Sen. Roger Katz by calling the
State Senate Message Phone: (800) 423-6900 or by calling the office at: (207) 287-1505.

3. Senator Dawn Hill (D-York)
Address: P.O. Box 701, Cape Neddick, ME 03902
Phone: (207) 337-3689; Email: SenDawn.Hill@Legislature.Maine.Gov

4. Representative Patrick S. A. Flood (R-Winthrop), Chair
Address: 56 Wedgewood Drive, Winthrop, ME 04364
Phone: (207) 395-4915; E-Mail: patricksaflood@roadrunner.com

5. Representative Tom J. Winsor (R-Norway)
Address: 107 Thurston Road, Norway, ME 04268
Phone: (207) 527-2233; E-mail: twinsor@megalink.net

6. Representative Kathleen D. Chase (R-Wells)
Address: 142 Branch Road, Wells, ME 04090
Phone: (207) 646-2118; Cell Phone: (207) 468-9747; E-mail: kathydhchase@hotmail.com

7. Representative Tyler Clark (R-Easton)
Address: P.O. Box 243, Easton 04740
Cell Phone: (207) 227-6971; E-mail: tyleraclark@msn.com

8. Representative Kenneth Wade Fredette (R-Newport)
Address: P. O. Box 70, Newport, ME 04953
Phone: (207) 368-4242; E-mail: fredlaw@myfairpoint.net

9. Representative Dennis L. Keschl (R-Belgrade)
Address: 1024 Wings Mills Road, Belgrade, ME 04917
Phone: (207) 495-2973; Cell Phone: (207) 441-3701; E-mail: keschl@yahoo.com

10. Representative Margaret R. Rotundo (D-Lewiston)*
Address: 446 College Street, Lewiston, ME 04240
Phone: (207) 784-3259; E-Mail: mrotundo@bates.edu

11. Representative John L. Martin (D-Eagle Lake)
Address: P. O. Box 250, Eagle Lake, ME 04739
Phone: (207) 444-5556; State House E-Mail: RepJohn.Martin@legislature.maine.gov

12. Representative David C. Webster (D-Freeport)
Address: P. O. Box 124, Freeport, ME 04032
Phone: (207) 865-4311; E-mail: dcwebster@comcast.net or dcwebster@suscom-maine.net

13. Representative Sara R. Stevens (D-Bangor)
Address: 252 Nowell Road, Bangor, ME 04401
Phone: (207) 942-8900; State House E-Mail: RepSara.Stevens@legislature.maine.gov

section III. Resources To Find Additional Information

Hello all,
Below you will find recent correspondence to me from Mrs. Mauer and the National Center. It has some research done by rehabilitation experts, James Omvig and also Dr. Fred Schroeder. The Resolution passed by the membership at National Convention in 2009 follows. I hope this is helpful as we come up to the important work session of the Labor Committee this Friday.

The services to the blind community in Maine are already in non-compliance with Federal Regulations. LD 765 clearly states that what is asked for as far as positions is the minimum to begin to address the waiting list for educational services to Maine's school students and adult rehabilitation. But this is already a "settle for" and twice as much, realistically, is needed. So, the Labor Committee's suggestion from the work session last week that they "find" some monies to fund a couple of positions would be laughable, if this were not so serious. Plus carving up services to the blind is not best for the blind community or cost effective for state funds. Thank you to all for your efforts to keep this legislation going.

Patricia Estes
President, National Federation of the Blind of Maine
207 344 8292

Here are some sources that may be of use in your efforts:

(Note: Provided to us by Edward T. Morman, MSLS, PhD, Director, Jacobus tenBroek Library, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND JERNIGAN INSTITUTE)

Separate Agency for the Blind: Best Practice for Success by James H. Omvig

Politics And Rehabilitation: Serving The Customer, Serving The Agency, Serving The Public by Fredric K. Schroeder, PhD

New Mexico Gets A Commission for the Blind by Fred Schroeder

Victory in Indiana by Pam Schnurr

Here’s our most recent resolution on this issue: Resolution 2009-07 Regarding Separate Services for the Blind WHEREAS, federal law permits states to maintain separate rehabilitation agencies under the Rehabilitation Act, one to serve blind people and another to serve people with other disabilities; and WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has maintained a long-standing policy of supporting separate state agencies for blind consumers because such agencies recognize the unique needs blind people have and demonstrate greater commitment to addressing those needs; and WHEREAS, a new federal administration is now in place, and many members of the United States House of Representatives and some United States senators may be unaware of our policy regarding separate services for the blind; and WHEREAS, the Workforce Investment Act, which includes the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as Amended) awaits reauthorization, which provides an opportunity to change the law, taking away the right of states to maintain separate services for the blind; and WHEREAS, from time to time proposals are offered to require states to maintain only one rehabilitation agency serving all disabled individuals; and WHEREAS, the governor of Oregon sought to eliminate the Oregon Commission for the Blind, Oregon’s agency serving blind adults, and other states have considered or will consider similar actions especially because they incorrectly believe that doing so will permit them to save scarce revenue: Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind, in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2009, in the city of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization reaffirm our commitment to separate services for the blind and urge the Obama administration and Congress to maintain separate services and agencies for the blind where these exist because of their proven value to blind people; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon states that have separate agencies serving the blind to maintain them; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge states with single general rehabilitation agencies to adopt separate agencies as the best means of providing rehabilitation services to blind people.


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