Expanded licensure for sign language interpreters advanced

Lawmakers advanced a bill April 29 that would expand licensure requirements for sign language interpreters.

Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar, sponsor of LB287, said the bill was introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. One percent of Nebraskans are deaf and 9 percent are hard of hearing, Haar said, and expanded licensure of interpreters would enable the commission to address proficiency and competency issues.

“The passage of LB287 guarantees that all Nebraskans receiving sign language interpreting services will obtain a higher standard of communication access,” Haar said.

Under the bill, all interpreters would be required to obtain licensure by Jan. 1, 2016, and pay a licensure fee established by the commission. An individual or entity providing interpreting services without a license after that date would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $500 for each offense.

Interpreting services would be exempt from the licensure requirement if conducted:
• as part of a religious service;
• in a health care emergency until a licensed interpreter could be obtained;
• by a student under the direct supervision of a licensed interpreter;
• by an educational interpreter working under regulation of the state Department of Education; or
• by an individual licensed in another state who is awaiting commission approval in Nebraska.

LB287 also would create a licensure category for video remote interpreting services.

A Health and Human Services Committee amendment, adopted 27-0, removed specific references to American Sign Language from the bill.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, chairperson of the committee, said the change was introduced at the request of the commission.

“The amendment is necessary to ensure that we are not limiting [the bill] to a particular language,” she said.

LB287 advanced to select file on a 27-0 vote.

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