2005 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare
By: Senator(s) Burton
AN ACT TO PROVIDE THAT NO PERSON SHALL PROVIDE INTERPRETING SERVICES FOR CONSUMERS WHO ARE DEAF OR HARD OF HEARING FOR A FEE UNLESS THE PERSON IS REGISTERED WITH THE OFFICE ON DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION SERVICES; TO ESTABLISH CERTAIN STANDARDS FOR REGISTRATION; TO AUTHORIZE THE APPOINTMENT OF AN ADVISORY COUNCIL TO ASSIST IN DEVELOPING RULES FOR THE PROGRAM; TO PROVIDE FOR CONFIDENTIALITY; TO PROVIDE CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. As used in this section:
(a) "Certification" means the level of credentials that has been granted by the National Association of the Deaf or the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. It further includes the documentation that supports the certification level the interpreter has achieved.
(b) "Deaf or hard of hearing person" means a person who has either no hearing or who has significant hearing loss so as to need the services of an interpreter to communicate. "Deafblind person" means a person who has either the dual loss of hearing and sign or who has significant hearing and vision losses so as to need the services of an interpreter to communicate.
(c) "Interpreter training program" means a postsecondary degree program of at least two (2) years in duration that is accredited by the Mississippi State Board for Community and Junior Colleges, the Mississippi institutions of higher learning or, in the case of a nonresident, a comparable agency in another state.
(d) "Interpreter" means an individual certified by the National Association of the Deaf, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf or an individual who holds a valid Mississippi Quality Assurance Screening level for the level of interpreting in which they are engaged. Registered interpreters are required to adhere to professional standards and the Code of Ethics as established by the National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Interpreters will be registered by the Mississippi registering authority to perform at prescribed levels after providing evidence of their level of expertise.
(e) "Interpreting" is the process of providing accessible communication between and among consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing and those who are hearing. This process includes, but is not limited to, communication between persons who use American Sign Language, English, cued speech and oral communication. It may also involve various other modalities that involve visual, gestural and tactile methods.
(f) "Quality assurance level" means the level granted through the Mississippi Quality Assurance Screening evaluation. It further includes the documentation that supports the QA level the interpreter has achieved.
(g) "Register" means the process whereby the certification and Quality Assurance level of qualified interpreters are documented and maintained so as to permit those individuals to act as an interpreter for pay in the State of Mississippi.
(h) "Registering authority" means the agency that registers the credentials an interpreter holds, issues the registration documentation to do business in the State of Mississippi, and maintains the records to support the registration. The registering authority is the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Office on Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
(2) (a) Commencing on July 1, 2005, no person, except as noted in subsection (2)(f), shall do any of the following with respect to providing interpreting services for consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing for a fee or other remuneration unless the person is registered with the registering authority:
(i) Engage in the practice of, or offer to engage in the practice of, interpreting for a fee.
(ii) Use the title of interpreter in connection with the person's name.
(iii) Assume the identity of an interpreter.
(iv) Use the title of interpreter in advertisements or descriptions.
(v) Perform the function of or convey the impression that the person is an interpreter.
(b) On or after July 1, 2005, no person shall provide interpreting services and/or represent himself or herself as an interpreter for deaf or hard of hearing consumers for compensation unless such person is registered with the registering authority according to the provisions of this section. To register as an interpreter, one must: hold certification from the National Association of the Deaf or National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf or a Quality Assurance Screening Level.
(c) In situations where there is extreme hardship or where deaf and hard of hearing consumers would be left with no interpreting services, a provisional permit may be granted on an annual basis, provided that documentation of improved interpreting skills is shown.
(d) The registering authority shall be charged with the responsibility for keeping all records and verifying the accuracy of the credentials of each applicant.
(e) Registration shall be for a period of two (2) years, and is renewal.
(f) The following shall be exceptions to subsection (2)(a)(b)(c):
(i) A person may engage in the practice of interpreting for religious services without being registered under the provision of this section.
(ii) Students enrolled in an approved Interpreter Training Program (ITP) are granted a student level registration provided the ITP has an instructor who also is registered under the provisions of this section and the student pays the appropriate fees.
(iii) A graduate of an approved Interpreter Training Program (ITP) can continue to utilize their student level for two (2) years without registering provided they are supervised by an interpreter who is registered under the provisions of this section and the graduate pays the appropriate fees.
(g) The registering authority shall establish an Advisory Council to assist in writing the rules and setting the fees for registering. The Advisory Council shall have three (3) members. One (1) member shall be a deaf consumer; one (1) member shall be a registered interpreter who is actively engaged in the interpreting business; and one (1) member shall be at large. The Advisory Council may ask additional persons who are knowledgeable about the process and business of interpreting to assist them with the business of the council as needed.
(3) A qualified interpreter who is employed to interpret, transliterate or relay a conversation between a person who can hear and a consumer, who is deaf/hard of hearing or deafblind, is a conduit for the conversion and may not disclose or be compelled to disclose, through reporting or testimony or by subpoena, the contents of the conversations, except an interpreter working in conjunction with and paid by a state agency or primary or secondary school for the therapeutic, educational or rehabilitation purposes. This communication is confidential, but may be shared with the appropriate agency or educational staff working to assist the deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind person.
(4) The registering authority shall develop forms and assist in referring grievances to the appropriate professional organization and/or authorities.
(5) Whoever is in violation of subsection (2) or (3) is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) nor more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), and may be imprisoned for not more than six (6) months.
(6) Mississippi shall recognize interpreters who are licensed and/or certified in other states with equal or higher certification than the interpreting levels prescribed by the rules and regulations incumbent in this act. A nonresident interpreter may work up to fifteen (15) days per year without seeking a valid permit from the registering authority. The person who utilizes a nonresident interpreter is charged with the responsibility of verifying the credentials and type of interpreting the interpreter is qualified to do. If a nonresident interpreter works more than fifteen (15) calendar days per year in the State of Mississippi for compensation or other remuneration, the interpreter must become registered under the provisions of this section and pay the appropriate fees.
(7) The registering authority shall establish fair and equitable rules and a fee schedule, not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) per annual registration, to cover the cost of administering this act. The rules and fee schedule will be published for the general public.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.