SECTION 1. Section 66 of chapter 3 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition , is hereby amended by adding the following section:-
Section 70. (a) There shall be established a permanent commission on the status of people with disabilities comprised of 17 persons including; 1 person appointed by the president of the senate; 1 person appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives; and the following persons appointed by the governor: 1 person nominated by the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities; 6 persons nominated by local and regional disability rights organizations; 1 person nominated by the architectural access board; 1 person nominated by the Massachusetts office on disability; and 6 persons from among the following industries: communications, education, architecture, assistive technologies, arts and engineering who have demonstrated competence in universal or inclusive design within their respective industries.
The commission shall be an independent agency of the commonwealth and shall not be subject to the control of any other department or agency.
(b) Members of the commission shall be drawn from diverse racial, ethnic, religious, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and socio-economic backgrounds from throughout the commonwealth and shall have experience working toward improving the status of people with disabilities in society. Members of the commission shall be subject to the provisions of chapter 268A as they apply to special state employees.
(c)(1) Members shall serve terms of 3 years and until their successors are appointed.
(2) Vacancies in the membership of the commission shall be filled by the original appointing or nominating authority for the balance of the unexpired term. If the position was filled by a nominating body, the replacement member shall be selected from solicited nominations.
(3) Nominations for vacancies in the membership shall be solicited between January 1 and February 15 of each year through an open application process using a uniform application that is widely distributed throughout the state. Appointments shall be announced on April 1 of each year.
(4) The commission shall elect from among its members a chair, a vice-chair, a treasurer and any other officers it deems necessary to carry out its mission.
(5) The members of the commission shall receive no compensation for their services, but shall be reimbursed for any usual and customary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.
(d) An executive director shall be selected by the commission, and shall hire staff, subject to appropriations. The executive director shall be qualified by his or her accomplishments in eradicating barriers to equality for people with disabilities, in organizing research and reports, and by having demonstrated leadership abilities. The executive director shall not simultaneously serve as a member of the commission on the status people with disabilities.
(f) The commission shall work to foster strategic integration of disability diversity within all sectors of the commonwealth; collect data relevant to short and long-term community support and independent living service delivery programs; continuously monitor and evaluate plans, programs and policies relevant to equalizing access to justice as well as assets and opportunities for people with disabilities; and provide an annual report with recommendations including, but not limited to; (i) tools and guidelines; (ii) specific disability benchmarking goals and objectives; (iii) necessary legislation, if any; and (iv) mechanisms and processes.
(g) The commission shall: (i) study, review and report on the status of people with disabilities in the commonwealth; (ii) evaluate baseline conditions of accessibility and integration throughout the commonwealth and propose improvements to further the equal inclusion of people with disabilities in economic, housing and environmental programs including new benchmarks and data collection efforts; (iii) establish an informal resource group to provide and support a platform of dialogue and feedback amongst program users and planners; (iv) inform leaders of business, education, health care, state and local governments and the communications media of issues pertaining to people with disabilities; (v) identify and recommend qualified disabled persons for appointive positions at all levels of government, including boards and commissions, as the commission deems necessary and appropriate; (vi) assess programs and practices in all state agencies as they affect people with disabilities, as the commission deems necessary and appropriate; (vii) advise executive and legislative bodies regarding the impact of proposed legislation on people with disabilities, as the commission deems necessary and appropriate; and (viii) promote and facilitate collaboration among local disabilities commissions and among disability rights advocacy organizations in the state, as the commission deems necessary and appropriate. The commission shall annually, on or before June 2, report the results of its findings and activities of the preceding year and its recommendations to the governor, the senate and house committees on ways and means, the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate, and the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities.
(h) The powers of the commission shall include but not be limited to the following: (i) to use voluntary and uncompensated services of private individuals, agencies and organizations as may from time to time be offered and needed; (ii) to recommend policies and make recommendations to agencies and officers of the state and local subdivisions of government to effectuate the purposes of subsection (f); (iii) to select an executive director and to acquire adequate staff to perform its duties, subject to appropriation; (iv) to establish and maintain such offices as it may deem necessary, subject to appropriation; (v) to enact bylaws for its own governance; (vi) to appoint members to regional chapters of the commission; and (vii) to hold regular, public meetings and fact-finding hearings and other public forums as it may deem necessary.
(i) The commission shall meet once a month for at least 11 months each calendar year. The governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, the president of the senate, the chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities and the directors of the state disability offices and commissions, or their designees, shall be invited to attend the monthly meetings.
(j) The commission may request from all state agencies such information and assistance as the commission may require.
(k) The commission may accept and solicit funds, including any gifts, donations, grants or bequests or any federal funds, for any of the purposes of this section. Such funds shall be deposited in a separate account with the state treasurer, be received by said treasurer on behalf of the commonwealth, and be expended by the commission in accordance with state and federal law.
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