S-1134.1          _______________________________________________


                                 SENATE BILL 5536



State of Washington              52nd Legislature             1991 Regular Session


By Senators Thorsness, Rasmussen, Madsen, L. Kreidler, A. Smith, Erwin, Newhouse, Jesernig, Sutherland, Saling, Bauer and Stratton.


Read first time February 5, 1991.  Referred to Committee on Energy & Utilities.Studying the state's telecommunication services for the hearing impaired.

     AN ACT Relating to establishing the telecommunications devices for the deaf task force; creating new sections; and making an appropriation.




     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 1.      The legislature finds that:

     (1) Operation of the state-wide telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD) relay service has become an integral and important part of the state's telecommunications network;

     (2) The Washington state TDD relay service (WSTRS) has, since it began twenty-four-hour operation in November 1989, provided pioneering service to the deaf, hearing-impaired, and speech-impaired citizens of this state by utilizing the best available technology;

     (3) In its report to the legislature in December 1990, the department of social and health services identified a number of major issues and alternative approaches for the continued operation of the WSTRS, including blockage rate, limitations on demand for system usage, funding, operational structure, toll call billing, regional systems with other states, and technological changes;

     (4) The federal Americans with disabilities act (ADA), enacted in July 1990, requires that state-wide TDD relay services must be available in every state by July 1993, and must comply with the requirements of the federal legislation and with regulations to be adopted by the federal communications commission by July 1991; and

     (5) It is in the best interests of the citizens of this state that the provision of state-wide TDD relay services in Washington be assessed in light of the new federal requirements, the ongoing problems and issues identified in the department of social and health services report, and potentially cost-effective technological improvements.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 2.      (1) The telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD) task force is created, consisting of the secretary of the department of social and health services and the director of the department of information services, or their designees, and the chair of the utilities and transportation commission, or his or her designee.  The utilities and transportation commission shall serve as the lead agency of the task force.

     (2) The task force shall create a working group that includes representatives of a broad range of affected interests, including telecommunications companies engaged in both interstate and intrastate communications, the hearing-impaired communities and agencies, and the speech-impaired community and agencies.   To the extent possible, the members of the working group should be persons that have been or are members of the TDD advisory committee established under RCW 43.20A.730.  The working group shall provide information, advice, and technical assistance to the task force.

     (3) The task force shall report to the energy and utilities committees of the house of representatives and the senate by December 15, 1991, on its findings and recommendations.  The report shall, at a minimum, address the following:

     (a) The requirements of the Americans with disabilities act, and the regulations promulgated by the federal communications commission to implement the act, including federal requirements as to funding mechanisms, blockage rate, and confidentiality;

     (b) The issues identified in the December 1990 report of the department of social and health services with regard to the operation of the Washington state TDD relay service, and particularly alternative operation and management structures, the utility of new cost-effective technology, regional cooperation with other states, competition and access to a variety of local carriers, utilization of the state's SCAN lines, and line blockage;

     (c) The advantages and disadvantages of allowing carriers to determine how they should meet the requirements of the Americans with disabilities act, or whether the state should take the lead in devising or maintaining a state-wide TDD relay system that would meet those requirements; and

     (d) Whether the task force should continue its work on issues that are complex, where there appears to be no consensus on any proposed direction or solution, or where the requirements of federal law have not been made clear.

     The report shall contain recommendations or alternatives for legislative action.


     NEW SECTION.  Sec. 3.      The sum of twenty thousand dollars, or as much thereof as may be necessary, is appropriated for the biennium ending June 30, 1993, from the general fund to the utilities and transportation commission for the purposes of this act.