2014 Regular Session
To: Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency
By: Senator(s) Burton
AN ACT TO CREATE THE "EMPLOYMENT FIRST ACT"; TO REQUIRE THAT STATE AGENCIES THAT PROVIDE SERVICES AND SUPPORT TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES SHALL CONSIDER, AS THEIR FIRST OPTION, COMPETITIVE EMPLOYMENT IN AN INTEGRATED SETTING FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES; TO REQUIRE ALL STATE AGENCIES TO FOLLOW THIS POLICY FOR EMPLOYMENT BY COORDINATING ALL COLLABORATING EFFORTS AMONG AGENCIES; TO AUTHORIZE STATE AGENCIES TO ADOPT RULES AND REGULATIONS TO IMPLEMENT THE ACT; TO ESTABLISH AN EMPLOYMENT FIRST OVERSIGHT COMMISSION WHICH SHALL REVIEW MEASURABLE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES AS SUBMITTED TO IT BY EACH RELEVANT STATE AGENCY TO ENSURE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ACT; TO PROVIDE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act may be known and cited as the "Employment First Act."
SECTION 2. Statement of purpose. The Mississippi Legislature finds that the benefits of meaningful work has significance and importance to all working age individuals, including persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have a right to the opportunity for competitive employment. In order to achieve meaningful and competitive employment for persons with disabilities, employment opportunities in fully integrated work settings shall be the first and priority option explored in the service planning for working age persons with disabilities.
SECTION 3. Definitions. As used in this act, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) "Competitive employment" means work in the competitive labor market that is performed on a full-time or part-time basis in an integrated setting and for which a person with a disability is compensated at or above the minimum wage, but not less than the customary wage and level of benefits paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by persons without disabilities.
(b) "Disability" means, with respect to an individual:
(i) A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such
(ii) A record of such an impairment; or
(iii) Being regarded as having such an impairment, as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended.
(c) "Integrated setting" means with respect to an employment outcome, a setting typically found in the community in which persons with disabilities interact with persons without disabilities, other than persons without disabilities who are providing services to those persons with disabilities, to the same extent that persons without disabilities in comparable positions interact with other persons.
(d) "Working age" means [insert age] years of age or older in accordance with [cite our labor code].
(4) Employment First Policy. It is hereby declared to be the policy of this state that competitive employment in an integrated setting shall be considered its first and priority option when offering or providing services to persons with disabilities who are of working age. All state agencies that provide services and support to persons with disabilities shall follow this policy and ensure that it is effectively implemented in their programs and services. Nothing in this act shall be construed to limit or disallow any disability benefits to which a person with a disability who is unable to be employed as contemplated by this act would otherwise be entitled. Nothing in this act shall be construed to require any employer to give preference to hiring persons with disabilities.
SECTION 4. Implementation of policy by state agencies. (1) All state agencies shall coordinate efforts and shall collaborate within and among such agencies to ensure that state programs, policies, procedures and funding support competitive employment in integrated settings for persons with disabilities who are of working age. All state agencies shall, whenever feasible, share data and information across systems in order to track progress toward full implementation of this act. All state agencies are encouraged to adopt measurable goals and objectives to promote assessment of progress in implementing this act.
(2) State agencies are authorized to adopt rules and regulations to implement this act.
SECTION 5. Establishment of Employment First Oversight Commission. (1) There is hereby established an Employment First Oversight Commission under the purview of the Mississippi Council on Developmental Disabilities, which shall facilitate the full, effective and timely implementation of this act.
(2) The commission shall consist of nine (9) members, who are residents of this state. The commission shall consist of the following members:
(a) Four (4) members who are persons with a disability and who are knowledgeable of disability issues and who are not state employees, at least one of whom shall be a veteran, and at least one of whom is under the age of thirty (30) years old, of whom:
(i) Two (2) shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
(ii) Two (2) shall be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor; and
(b) One (1) member who is experienced with employment service programs and who is not a state employee and who shall be appointed by the Governor;
(c) Three (3) representatives from the Mississippi Partnerships in Employment (MSPE) Project funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities.
(d) One (1) additional individual with knowledge, interest, and experience regarding employment of people with disabilities who shall be appointed by the Governor.
(3) Except as provided in subsections (d) and (e) of this section, each member shall serve a term of three (3) years, and may succeed himself or herself for one (1) additional term; provided, however, that where a member was initially appointed to fill a vacancy, such member may succeed himself or herself for only one (1) additional full term. Any person appointed to fill a vacancy on the commission shall hold office for the remainder of the unexpired term of the former member. Each term of office shall expire on the date specified in the appointment; however, the member shall remain eligible to participate in commission proceedings unless and until such member's successor is duly appointed.
(4) The terms of the members of the commission shall be staggered. Three (3) members shall serve an initial term of three (3) years, four (4) members shall serve an initial term of two (2) years and the remaining members shall serve an initial term of two (2) years. Thereafter, all terms shall be for three (3) years.
(5) A person, who has never served on the commission, may be appointed to the commission for two (2) consecutive terms; but no such person shall thereafter be eligible for two (2) consecutive appointments. No person, who has been twice appointed to the commission or who has served on the commission for six (6) years within any nine-year period, shall again be appointed to the commission until an interim period of at least one (1) term has expired since such person last served.
(6) Members of the commission shall serve without compensation.
(7) Any member, who is absent without adequate reason for three (3) consecutive meetings, or who fails to attend at least one-half (1/2) of all regular business meetings during any calendar year. shall be subject to suspension or removal from the commission.
SECTION 6. Commission organization; meetings; officers; quorum. (1) The commission shall hold regularly scheduled business meetings at least once in each quarter, and at such times as the chairperson deems necessary, or at the request of a majority of the members of the commission.
(2) The commission annually shall elect a chairperson and vice chairperson. Each officer shall serve for one (1) year and shall not succeed himself or herself for more than two (2) consecutive terms.
(3) A majority of the members shall constitute a quorum for the purpose of transacting business.
SECTION 7. Powers and duties of commission. (1) The commission shall request that measurable goals and objectives to be submitted to it by each relevant state agency to ensure implementation of this act. The commission shall establish the time frames for submissions by state agencies and track their measurable progress in implementing this act. All state agencies shall fully cooperate with and provide data and information to assist the commission in carrying out its duties.
(2) The commission shall prepare an annual report to the Governor and members of the Legislature. The report shall detail progress toward the goals and objectives and full implementation of this act. All state agencies shall cooperate with the commission on the creation and dissemination of the report. The report also shall identify barriers to achieving the outcomes along with the effective strategies and policies that can help realize the employment first initiative.
SECTION 8. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2014.