SPONSOR: Caskey (Boucher)

COMMITTEE ACTION: Voted "do pass" by the Committee on Consumer Protection by a vote of 18 to 0.

This substitute requires the Missouri Assistive Technology Advisory Council to establish an assistive technology loan program to be funded from the Assistive Technology Revolving Fund established in the substitute. The fund will receive any appropriation and grant moneys from the federal Assistive Technology Act of 1998 or any applicable source.

The substitute revises the program of the Missouri Public Service Commission for telecommunications equipment for hearing- and speech-impaired persons. The substitute adds definitions to expand the scope of the program to all telecommunications equipment, including voice and text.

The Missouri Assistive Technology Advisory Council, as the program administrator, will provide a statewide telecommunications equipment and distribution program for persons who cannot use traditional equipment due to disability.

The substitute specifies the duties of the program administrator which include customer service and cost-effective procurement of adaptive equipment. Expenditures for program administration will not exceed 20% of total program expenses. The Missouri Assistive Technology Advisory Council is authorized to make rules to implement and administer the program and to enter into contracts to deliver consumer support and administrative services relating to equipment distribution.

The Public Service Commission will annually request, as a separate budget item, appropriations from the Deaf Relay Service and Equipment Distribution Program Fund to deliver dual-party relay service. The Missouri Assistive Technology Advisory Council will annually request, through a separate line item, an appropriation from the same fund to deliver the equipment distribution program.

The Deaf Relay Service and Equipment Fund surcharge will not be increased for 2 years, subject to changes in federal requirements. On August 28, 2000, the Department of Labor will make its initial recommendation to the commission regarding the amount of the surcharge necessary for funding the equipment distribution program and will annually make such a recommendation to the Public Service Commission.

FISCAL NOTE: Estimated Net Cost to General Revenue Fund of $0 in FY 2001, $0 to $600,000 in FY 2002, and $0 to $100,000 in FY 2003. Estimated Net Effect on Assistive Technology Loan Revolving Fund of $0 in FY 2001, FY 2002, and FY 2003. Estimated Net Cost to Deaf Relay Service and Equipment Distribution Fund of $650,000 in FY 2001, FY 2002, and FY 2003.

PROPONENTS: Supporters say that expansion of the program will help people with disabilities to participate more fully in technological advances.

Testifying for the bill were Senator Caskey; Assistive Technology Council; Missouri Council of the Blind; Multiple Sclerosis Society; AARP; and Governor's Council on Disability.

OPPONENTS: There was no opposition voiced to the committee.

Donna Schlosser, Legislative Analyst