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  S.B. No. 512
 
 
 
 
AN ACT
  relating to the specialized telecommunications assistance program.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Section 56.001, Utilities Code, is amended by
  amending Subdivision (1) and adding Subdivision (2-a) to read as
  follows:
               (1)  "Department" means the [Texas] Department of
  Assistive and Rehabilitative [Human] Services.
               (2-a)  "Executive commissioner" means the executive
  commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission.
         SECTION 2.  Section 56.021, Utilities Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 56.021.  UNIVERSAL SERVICE FUND ESTABLISHED.  The
  commission shall adopt and enforce rules requiring local exchange
  companies to establish a universal service fund to:
               (1)  assist telecommunications providers in providing
  basic local telecommunications service at reasonable rates in high
  cost rural areas under two plans:
                     (A)  the Texas High Cost Universal Service Plan
  (16 T.A.C. Section 26.403); and
                     (B)  the Small and Rural Incumbent Local Exchange
  Company Universal Service Plan (16 T.A.C. Section 26.404);
               (2)  reimburse the telecommunications carrier that
  provides the statewide telecommunications relay access service
  under Subchapter D;
               (3)  finance the specialized telecommunications
  assistance program established under Subchapter E;
               (4)  reimburse the department[, the Texas Commission
  for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing,] and the commission for costs
  incurred in implementing this chapter and Chapter 57;
               (5)  reimburse a telecommunications carrier providing
  lifeline service as provided by 47 C.F.R. Part 54, Subpart E, as
  amended;
               (6)  finance the implementation and administration of
  an integrated eligibility process created under Section 17.007 for
  customer service discounts relating to telecommunications
  services, including outreach expenses the commission determines
  are reasonable and necessary;
               (7)  reimburse a designated provider under Subchapter
  F;
               (8)  reimburse a successor utility under Subchapter G;
  and
               (9)  finance the program established under Subchapter
  H.
         SECTION 3.  Subsection (a), Section 56.023, Utilities Code,
  is amended to read as follows:
         (a)  The commission shall:
               (1)  in a manner that assures reasonable rates for
  basic local telecommunications service, adopt eligibility criteria
  and review procedures, including a method for administrative
  review, the commission finds necessary to fund the universal
  service fund and make distributions from that fund;
               (2)  determine which telecommunications providers meet
  the eligibility criteria;
               (3)  determine the amount of and approve a procedure
  for reimbursement to telecommunications providers of revenue lost
  in providing tel-assistance service under Subchapter C;
               (4)  establish and collect fees from the universal
  service fund necessary to recover the costs the department and the
  commission incur in administering this chapter and Chapter 57;
  [and]
               (5)  approve procedures for the collection and
  disbursal of the revenue of the universal service fund; and
               (6)  audit voucher payments and other expenditures made
  under the specialized telecommunications assistance program
  established under Subchapter E.
         SECTION 4.  Subsection (a), Section 56.110, Utilities Code,
  is amended to read as follows:
         (a)  An advisory committee to assist the commission in
  administering this subchapter is composed of the following persons
  appointed by the commission:
               (1)  two persons with disabilities that impair the
  ability to effectively access the telephone network other than
  disabilities described by Subdivisions (2)-(7);
               (2)  one deaf person recommended by the Texas Deaf
  Caucus;
               (3)  one deaf person recommended by the Texas
  Association of the Deaf;
               (4)  one person with a hearing impairment recommended
  by Self-Help for the Hard of Hearing;
               (5)  one person with a hearing impairment recommended
  by the American Association of Retired Persons;
               (6)  one deaf and blind person recommended by the Texas
  Deaf/Blind Association;
               (7)  one person with a speech impairment and one person
  with a speech and hearing impairment recommended by the Coalition
  of Texans with Disabilities;
               (8)  two representatives of telecommunications
  utilities, one representing a nonlocal exchange utility and one
  representing a local exchange company, chosen from a list of
  candidates provided by the Texas Telephone Association;
               (9)  two persons, at least one of whom is deaf, with
  experience in providing relay services recommended by the
  department [Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing]; and
               (10)  two public members recommended by organizations
  representing consumers of telecommunications services.
         SECTION 5.  Section 56.111, Utilities Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 56.111.  ADVISORY COMMITTEE DUTIES. The advisory
  committee shall:
               (1)  monitor the establishment, administration, and
  promotion of the statewide telecommunications relay access
  service;
               (2)  advise the commission in pursuing a service that
  meets the needs of persons with an impairment of hearing or speech
  in communicating with other telecommunications services users; and
               (3)  advise the department, at that department's
  request [commission and the Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard
  of Hearing, at the request of either commission], regarding any
  issue related to the specialized telecommunications assistance
  program established under Subchapter E, including:
                     (A)  devices or services suitable to meet the
  needs of persons with disabilities in communicating with other
  users of telecommunications services; and
                     (B)  oversight and administration of the program.
         SECTION 6.  Section 56.151, Utilities Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 56.151.  SPECIALIZED TELECOMMUNICATIONS ASSISTANCE
  PROGRAM.  (a)  The executive commissioner, after consulting with
  the department, [commission and the Texas Commission for the Deaf
  and Hard of Hearing] by rule shall establish a specialized
  telecommunications assistance program to provide financial
  assistance to individuals with disabilities that impair the
  individuals' ability to effectively access the telephone network to
  assist the individuals with the purchase of basic specialized
  equipment or services to provide the individuals with telephone
  network access that is functionally equivalent to that enjoyed by
  individuals without disabilities. The executive commissioner
  [agencies] may adopt [joint] rules that identify devices and
  services eligible for vouchers under the program.
         (b)  The department may contract, as necessary, to implement
  and administer the specialized telecommunications assistance
  program.
         SECTION 7.  Section 56.152, Utilities Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 56.152.  ELIGIBILITY. The executive commissioner,
  after consulting with the department, [Texas Commission for the
  Deaf and Hard of Hearing] by rule shall prescribe eligibility
  standards for individuals, including deaf individuals and
  individuals who have an impairment of hearing or speech, to receive
  an assistance voucher under the program. To be eligible, an
  individual must be a resident of this state with a disability that
  impairs the individual's ability to effectively access the
  telephone network.
         SECTION 8.  Subsections (a), (c), (e), (f), (g), and (h),
  Section 56.153, Utilities Code, are amended to read as follows:
         (a)  The department [Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard
  of Hearing] shall determine a reasonable price for a basic
  specialized telecommunications device that permits, or basic
  specialized services that permit, telephone network access and
  distribute to each eligible applicant a voucher that guarantees
  payment of that amount to a distributor of new specialized
  telecommunications devices described by Section 56.151 or to a
  provider of services described by that section. The department
  [Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing] may issue a
  voucher for a service only if the service is less expensive than a
  device eligible for a voucher under the program to meet the same
  need.
         (c)  The executive commissioner, after consulting with the
  department, [commission and the Texas Commission for the Deaf and
  Hard of Hearing] by rule shall provide that a distributor of devices
  or a provider of services will receive not more than the full price
  of the device or service if the recipient of a voucher exchanges the
  voucher for a device or service that the distributor or provider
  sells for less than the voucher's value.
         (e)  Except as provided by rules adopted under this
  subsection, an individual is not eligible for a voucher if the
  department [Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing] has
  issued a voucher for a device or service to another individual with
  the same type of disability in the individual's household. The
  executive commissioner, after consulting with the department,
  [Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing] by rule may
  provide for financially independent individuals who reside in a
  congregate setting to be eligible for a voucher regardless of
  whether another individual living in that setting has received a
  voucher.
         (f)  The department [Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard
  of Hearing] shall determine eligibility of each person who files an
  application for a voucher and issue each eligible applicant an
  appropriate voucher.
         (g)  The department [Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard
  of Hearing] shall maintain a record regarding each individual who
  receives a voucher under the program.
         (h)  The department [Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard
  of Hearing] shall deposit money collected under the program to the
  credit of the universal service fund.
         SECTION 9.  Section 56.154, Utilities Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 56.154.  DEPARTMENT [COMMISSION] DUTIES. (a)  Not
  later than the 45th day after the date the department [commission]
  receives a voucher a telecommunications device distributor
  presents for payment or a voucher a telecommunications service
  provider presents for payment, the department [commission] shall
  pay to the distributor or service provider the lesser of the value
  of a voucher properly exchanged for a specialized
  telecommunications device or service or the full price of the
  device or service for which a voucher recipient exchanges the
  voucher. The payments must be made from the universal service fund.
         (b)  The department [commission] may investigate whether the
  presentation of a voucher for payment represents a valid
  transaction for a telecommunications device or service under the
  program. [The Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  shall cooperate with and assist the commission in an investigation
  under this subsection.]
         (c)  Notwithstanding Section 56.153(a), the department
  [commission] may:
               (1)  delay payment of a voucher to a distributor of
  devices or a service provider if there is a dispute regarding the
  amount or propriety of the payment or whether the device or service
  is appropriate or adequate to meet the needs of the person to whom
  the department [Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing]
  issued the voucher until the dispute is resolved;
               (2)  provide that payment of the voucher is conditioned
  on the return of the payment if the device is returned to the
  distributor or if the service is not used by the person to whom the
  voucher was issued; and
               (3)  provide an alternative dispute resolution process
  for resolving a dispute regarding a subject described by
  Subdivision (1) or (2).
         (d)  The executive commissioner, after consulting with the
  department, may adopt rules to implement this section.
         SECTION 10.  Section 56.156, Utilities Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 56.156.  PROMOTION OF PROGRAM. The department [Texas
  Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing] may promote the program
  established under this subchapter by means of participation in
  events, advertisements, pamphlets, brochures, forms, pins, or
  other promotional items or efforts that provide contact information
  for persons interested in applying for a voucher under the program.
         SECTION 11.  (a)  On the effective date of this Act, the
  following are transferred from the Public Utility Commission of
  Texas to the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services:
               (1)  the powers, duties, functions, programs, and
  activities of the Public Utility Commission of Texas relating to
  the specialized telecommunications assistance program established
  under Subchapter E, Chapter 56, Utilities Code, other than the
  powers and duties of the commission specified by Section 56.155,
  Utilities Code;
               (2)  all obligations and contracts of the Public
  Utility Commission of Texas that are related to a power, duty,
  function, program, or activity transferred under this subsection;
  and
               (3)  all property and records in the custody of the
  Public Utility Commission of Texas that are related to a power,
  duty, function, program, or activity transferred under this
  subsection and all funds appropriated by the legislature for that
  power, duty, function, program, or activity.
         (b)  A rule or form adopted by the Public Utility Commission
  of Texas that relates to a power, duty, function, program, or
  activity transferred under Subsection (a) of this section is a rule
  or form of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
  and remains in effect until altered by the executive commissioner
  of the Health and Human Services Commission.
         (c)  A reference in law to the Public Utility Commission of
  Texas that relates to a power, duty, function, program, or activity
  transferred under Subsection (a) of this section means the
  Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.
         SECTION 12.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2013.
 
 
 
 
 
  ______________________________ ______________________________
     President of the Senate Speaker of the House     
 
         I hereby certify that S.B. No. 512 passed the Senate on
  March 13, 2013, by the following vote:  Yeas 31, Nays 0.
 
 
  ______________________________
  Secretary of the Senate    
 
         I hereby certify that S.B. No. 512 passed the House on
  May 22, 2013, by the following vote:  Yeas 148, Nays 0, two
  present not voting.
 
 
  ______________________________
  Chief Clerk of the House   
 
 
 
  Approved:
 
  ______________________________ 
              Date
 
 
  ______________________________ 
            Governor