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NFB MI Comments on State Plan
Michigan Commission for the Blind
State Plan Written Comments
Received by July 16, 2012
These are all of the written comments submitted by the close of business on July 16, 2012.
Public Comment #1
This is the official position of the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan concerning the state plan and services to blind people.
National Federation of the Blind of Michigan
July 16, 2012
3253 Dolores Avenue
Warren, Michigan 48091
MPOWELL at WOWWAY.COM
2013 MICHIGAN BLIND STATE PLAN COMMENTS
Although Executive Order 2012-10 keeps intact the former commission as a discrete and separate organization with responsibility strictly for blind persons, we are concerned that the executive order may reduce the level of consumer control of vocational rehabilitation and related services to blind citizens of Michigan. The following comments contain our recommendations to maintain proper consumer control of services to the blind.
Executive Order 2012 abolishes the Michigan Commission for the Blind Board. The board is a five-person Commission, three members of which must be blind. Following are some of the major functions of the Commission as mandated by statute:
Public Act 260 of 1978
Following is a list of broad powers and their foundation.
1. AN ACT to revise and codify the laws relating to blind persons and visually handicapped;
2. to create a commission;
3. to prescribe its powers and duties and those of other state agencies relative to blind persons;
4. to provide services, education, training, and assistance to blind persons;
5. to regulate concessions operated by blind persons;
6. To transfer powers, duties functions, and appropriations; and to repeal certain acts and parts of Acts.
In the above it is clear that the five-person commission was to be responsible for services specifically to blind persons. The list below sets forth duties of the commission board.
393.352 Commission for blind; creation; appointment of members; chairperson; appointment
and evaluation of director of commission; terms, compensation, and expenses of members;
1. Three of the members shall be blind persons.
2. One of the members shall be designated by the governor to serve as the chairperson.
3. The commission shall recommend to the director of the department a person to serve as director of the commission
4. from a list of eligible persons certified and submitted by the department of civil service who shall be classified as a civil service employee,
5. Should that person be rejected, the procedure shall be repeated until a director is appointed.
6. The commission shall evaluate the performance of the director annually and submit its evaluation and recommendations to the director of the department.
1. Appointment of a blind person to serve as the chairperson of the Advisory Commission:
Executive Order 2012-10 replaces the current policy-making commission board with an advisory commission for blind persons. The advisory commission will be comprised of seven members, four of whom must be blind. Section II of the executive order states in part:
A. The Commission for Blind Persons ("Commission") is created as an advisory commission within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
B. The Commission shall consist of seven members appointed by, and serving at the pleasure of, the Governor. Four of the members shall be blind persons.
D. The Governor shall designate a member of the Commission to serve as its Chairperson. The Chairperson shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
Executive Order 2012-10 states that the governor will appoint a chairperson from the members of the advisory commission; however, the executive order does not require that the chairperson be blind. To maintain credibility of the advisory commission among blind consumers, we believe that it is essential that the chairperson be blind. For this reason we strongly urge the governor to name a chairperson of the advisory commission who is blind.
2. Appointment and supervision of the director of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons:
A major function of the current commission board is the power to recommend an individual to serve as the commission director and to evaluate his or her performance. The executive order makes no mention of the process to be used in appointing and evaluating the director of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons. We strongly recommend that the governor instruct the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to consult with the advisory commission in the appointment of a bureau director and consult with the advisory commission in the ongoing evaluation of the bureau director.
3. Randolph-Sheppard Disputes:
Another critical function of the current commission board relates to the dispute resolution process for complaints brought under the Randolph-Sheppard blind vending program. Under current law, the commission board reviews the findings of an administrative law judge and renders final agency action on behalf of the commission. Section I of the executive order states in part:
E. Any authority, powers, duties and functions relative to final agency decisions for cases arising under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, 20 U.S.C. 107 to 107f, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Public Law 93-112, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 732, and the Blind and Visually Disabled Persons Act, 1978 PA 260, MCL 393.351 to MCL 393.369, are transferred from the Commission for the Blind to the Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
We strongly recommend that the governor instruct the director of LARA to delegate the authority to render final agency action related to Randolph-Sheppard disputes to the advisory commission.
4. State Rehabilitation Council:
Under current law, the consumer-controlled commission board carries out the functions of the State Rehabilitation Council. The executive order sets up a single State Rehabilitation Council to serve both the general agency and the agency for the blind made up of 17 persons, a majority of whom must be persons with a disability. Unlike the commission, there is no requirement that any of these individuals must be blind. This is a troubling reduction in representation in the policy-making and oversight activities of the agency for the blind. We strongly recommend that the governor instruct the director of LARA to constitute a separate State Rehabilitation Council for the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons.
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