THE SENATE

S.B. NO.

768

THIRTY-SECOND LEGISLATURE, 2023

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

relating to language access.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


SECTION 1. The legislature finds that the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) represent a series of treaties between the United States, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, and Republic of the Marshall Islands that were established as compensation for the loss of life, health, land, and resources due to numerous United States-issued nuclear weapons tests on Marshall Islands, Bikini, and Enewetak Atolls from 1946 to 1948. Under the COFA, citizens of the aforementioned nations are granted the right to live and work in the United States with no visa requirement. They are also provided access to local social and health services.

The legislature also finds that there are at least twenty-eight thousand COFA migrants residing in the State, many who are discouraged to use public services because of language barriers. According to a department of business, economic development, and tourism study issued in February 2020, "the COFA population in Hawaii tends to be younger, less-educated, and have lower income compared to the general population" and "has the largest average household size, fewer home-owners, and is more likely to live below the poverty line than the non-COFA population". The migrant communities endure obstacles such as lack of transportation to medical facilities, crowded living conditions, scarce job security, and linguistic and cultural barriers that are exacerbated by a lack of interpreter translation services.

The legislature further finds that the COFA population contributes economic activity to the State in the form of labor and consumption of goods, as well as payment of taxes and fees. As such, the legislature believes it is incumbent upon the State to empower COFA residents to utilize social services.

Accordingly, the purpose of this Act is to establish an interpreter services program to assist COFA citizens to use public services, specifically department of motor vehicles services throughout the State.

SECTION 2. Chapter 286, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"286-   Interpreter services program; Compact of Free Association citizens. (a) Each county director of finance, in consultation with the county examiner of drivers, shall establish and implement an interpreter services program to assist the language access needs of nonimmigrants who:

(1) Are citizens of:

(A) The Federated States of Micronesia;

(B) The Republic of the Marshall Islands; or

(C) The Republic of Palau,

as defined by the Compact of Free Association Act of 1985, P.L. 99-239, as amended, or the Compact of Free Association Approval Act, P.L. 99-658; and

(2) Have limited English proficiency or are unable to read, write, speak or understand English,

to access and utilize the services provided by the department of motor vehicles of each county.

(b) The services for each county's interpreter services program established pursuant to subsection (a) shall be provided through:

(1) Contracts for services entered into by the county director of finance and service providers residing in the county; or

(2) Utilization of the department of human services Med-QUEST divisions' community navigators who provide home and community-based services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities pursuant to section 1915(c) of the Social Security Act, when applicable.

(c) The county director of finance shall consult with the executive director of the office of language access and may seek guidance from the language access advisory council established pursuant to section 321C-7 to implement the interpreter services program under this section."

SECTION 3. There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $           or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2023-2024 and the same sum or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2024-2025 as a grant-in-aid to establish and implement an interpreter services program in the department of motor vehicle of each county, to be distributed as follows:

County of Hawaii $          

County of Kauai $          

County of Maui $          

City and County of Honolulu $          

The sums appropriated shall be expended by the respective counties for the purposes of this Act.

SECTION 4. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2023.

 

INTRODUCED BY:

_____________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


 

Report Title:

Compact of Free Association; Department of Motor Vehicles; Citizens; Interpreter Services Program; Appropriation

 

Description:

Requires each county's Director of Finance, in consultation with the County Examiner of Drivers, to establish an Interpreter Services Program to assist Compact of Free Association citizens with utilizing the services provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles of each county. Appropriates funds.

 

 

 

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