STAND. COM. REP. NO. 3470

 

Honolulu, Hawaii

 

RE: H.B. No. 1762

H.D. 1

S.D. 1

 

 

 

Honorable Ronald D. Kouchi

President of the Senate

Thirty-First State Legislature

Regular Session of 2022

State of Hawaii

 

Sir:

 

Your Committees on Human Services and Government Operations, to which was referred H.B. No. 1762, H.D. 1, entitled:

 

"A BILL FOR AN ACT RELATING TO LANGUAGE ACCESS,"

 

beg leave to report as follows:

 

The purpose and intent of this measure is to:

 

(1) Require the Executive Director of the Office of Language Access to submit an annual report to the Governor and Legislature on the compliance of state agencies and certain other entities with state and federal language access laws; complaints of noncompliance, if any; resolution of the complaints; and recommendations on how to enhance and promote language access; and

 

(2) Appropriate funds to establish three full-time equivalent (3.0 FTE) Limited English Proficiency Language Coordinator positions in the Office of Language Access.

 

Your Committees received testimony in support of this measure from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Office of Community Services, Department of Human Services, Hawaii Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Hawaii Friends of Civil Rights, Common Cause Hawaii, Catholic Charities Hawaii, Hawaii Children's Action Network Speaks!, Refugee Advocacy Lab, The Legal Clinic, Pacific Gateway Center, and six individuals. Your Committees received testimony in opposition to this measure from one individual. Your Committees received comments on this measure from the Office of Language Access, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Department of Defense Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, Department of Budget and Finance, and one individual.

 

Your Committees find that one out of nine persons living in Hawaii has limited proficiency in English. This limitation often impedes those person's access to important benefits and services, including access to health care and other public benefits; essential information during public health emergencies, pandemics, or natural disasters; and access to earned benefits, including unemployment benefits and workers' compensation.

 

Chapter 321C, Hawaii Revised Statutes, was enacted for the purpose of affirmatively addressing the language access needs of limited English proficient persons defined as individuals who, on account of national origin, do not speak English as their primary language and self identify as having a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand the English language. These principles are guided by Executive Order No. 13166 and succeeding provisions of federal law, regulation, or guidance. Under chapter 321C, state agencies and covered entities are required to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to services, programs, and activities by limited English proficient persons.

 

The Office of Language Access was established under section 321C-6, Hawaii Revised Statutes, to provide oversight, central coordination, and technical assistance to state agencies in their implementation of language access requirements. However, existing law does not require the Office to file reports with the Governor or the Legislature on the status of state agencies' implementation of language access requirements. The reporting requirement under this measure will ensure that state agencies and other entities are in compliance with the state and federal language access laws. The establishment of permanent Limited English Proficiency Language Coordinator positions will facilitate the implementation and delivery of each state agency's language access plans.

 

Your Committees note the testimony of the Office of Language Access, stating that its existing office space cannot accommodate three more positions and requesting that it be allowed to utilize the funding for the establishment of one full-time equivalent (1.0 FTE) Limited English Proficiency Language Coordinator position and to cover the Office's operating expenses for purposes of this measure.

 

Accordingly, your Committees have amended this measure by:

 

(1) Making an appropriation of an unspecified amount to fund:

 

(A) The establishment of one full-time equivalent (1.0 FTE) Limited English Proficiency Language Coordinator position in the Office of Language Access;

 

(B) The operating expenses of the Office of Language Access to collaborate with all state departments to ensure compliance with all state and federal language access laws; and

 

(C) The development of a comprehensive statewide plan to increase language access by the Office of Language Access; and

 

(2) Making technical, nonsubstantive amendments for the purposes of clarity and consistency.

 

As affirmed by the records of votes of the members of your Committees on Human Services and Government Operations that are attached to this report, your Committees are in accord with the intent and purpose of H.B. No. 1762, H.D. 1, as amended herein, and recommend that it pass Second Reading in the form attached hereto as H.B. No. 1762, H.D. 1, S.D. 1, and be referred to your Committee on Ways and Means.


 

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the members of the Committees on Human Services and Government Operations,

 

________________________________

SHARON MORIWAKI, Chair

 

________________________________

JOY A. SAN BUENAVENTURA, Chair