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Relating to services for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and certification requirements for interpreters for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing; providing an administrative penalty; requiring a fee and changing the rate of a fee; requiring an occupational certification.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
No fiscal implication to units of local government is anticipated.
Currently, the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI) in the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) is responsible for testing and issuing certificates to interpreters, and only those interpreting court proceedings are required to be certified.
The bill would amend Chapter 81 of the Human Resources Code to require the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to certify any person who provides interpreting services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, the bill would allow the following persons to practice as an interpreter without being certified in Section 81.057:
DARS would be authorized to impose a maximum $5,000 penalty for each violation under Section 81.057. An individual would not be required to hold a certificate under the new requirements before June 1, 2017.
Licensing is already required for sign language interpreters in court and educational settings. Adding to the list of settings where an occupational license is required in order to provide signing services is the wrong way to go in terms of attracting qualified, skilled interpreters.
Although we understand there have been some high-profile situations where incompetent or fraudulent sign language interpreters have caused significant problems, we believe the problems raised by expanding a state licensure outweigh the benefits. We also understand that sign language interpretation has grown as a profession and as a popular field of interest, which may require some policing. This is nothing that a state master list of qualified interpreters on the DARS website cannot solve, which would provide an alternative to tighter regulation and a valuable resource for the open market. We oppose HB 1069 in the interests of limited government and the free market.