Telecommunications devices for the hearing and speech impaired — Program for provision of services and equipment — Telecommunications relay service excise tax — Rules.
(1) The department, through the sole authority of the office or its successor organization, shall maintain a program whereby an individual of school age or older who possesses a hearing or speech impairment is provided with telecommunications equipment, software, and/or peripheral devices, digital or otherwise, that is determined by the office to be necessary for such a person to access and use telecommunications transmission services effectively.
(2) The department, through the sole authority of the office or its successor organization, shall maintain a program where telecommunications relay services of a human or electronic nature will be provided to connect hearing impaired, deaf-blind, or speech impaired persons with persons who do not have a hearing or speech impairment. Such telecommunications relay services shall provide the ability for an individual who has a hearing or speech impairment to engage in voice, tactile, or visual communication by wire or radio with a hearing individual in a manner that is functionally equivalent to the ability of an individual who does not have a hearing or speech impairment to communicate using voice or visual communication services by wire or radio subject to subsection (4)(b) of this section.
(3) The telecommunications relay service and equipment distribution program may operate in such a manner as to provide communications transmission opportunities that are capable of incorporating new technologies that have demonstrated benefits consistent with the intent of this chapter and are in the best interests of the citizens of this state.
(4) The office shall administer and control the award of money to all parties incurring costs in implementing and maintaining telecommunications services, programs, equipment, and technical support services according to this section. The relay service contract shall be awarded to an individual company registered as a telecommunications company by the utilities and transportation commission, to a group of registered telecommunications companies, or to any other company or organization determined by the office as qualified to provide relay services, contingent upon that company or organization being approved as a registered telecommunications company prior to final contract approval. The relay system providers and telecommunications equipment vendors shall be selected on the basis of cost-effectiveness and utility to the greatest extent possible under the program and technical specifications established by the office.
(a) To the extent funds are available under the then-current rate and not otherwise held in reserve or required for other purposes authorized by this chapter, the office may award contracts for communications and related services and equipment for hearing impaired or speech impaired individuals accessing or receiving services provided by, or contracted for, the department to meet access obligations under Title 2 of the federal Americans with disabilities act or related federal regulations.
(b) The office shall perform its duties under this section with the goal of achieving functional equivalency of access to and use of telecommunications services similar to the enjoyment of access to and use of such services experienced by an individual who does not have a hearing or speech impairment only to the extent that funds are available under the then-current rate and not otherwise held in reserve or required for other purposes authorized by this chapter.
(5) The program shall be funded by a telecommunications relay service (TRS) excise tax applied to each switched access line provided by the local exchange companies. The office shall determine, in consultation with the office's program advisory committee, the budget needed to fund the program on an annual basis, including both operational costs and a reasonable amount for capital improvements such as equipment upgrade and replacement. The budget proposed by the office, together with documentation and supporting materials, shall be submitted to the office of financial management for review and approval. The approved budget shall be given by the department in an annual budget to the department of revenue no later than March 1st prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. The department of revenue shall then determine the amount of telecommunications relay service excise tax to be placed on each switched access line and shall inform local exchange companies and the utilities and transportation commission of this amount no later than May 1st. The department of revenue shall determine the amount of telecommunications relay service excise tax to be collected in the following fiscal year by dividing the total of the program budget, as submitted by the office, by the total number of switched access lines in the prior calendar year, as reported to the department of revenue under chapter 82.14B RCW, and shall not exercise any further oversight of the program under this subsection other than administering the collection of the telecommunications relay service excise tax as provided in RCW 82.72.010 through 82.72.090. The telecommunications relay service excise tax shall not exceed nineteen cents per month per access line. The telecommunications relay service excise tax shall be separately identified on each ratepayer's bill with the following statement: "Funds federal ADA requirement." All proceeds from the telecommunications relay service excise tax shall be put into a fund to be administered by the office through the department. During the 2009-2011 and 2011-2013 fiscal biennia, the funds may also be used to provide individualized employment services and employment-related counseling to people with disabilities, and technical assistance to employers about the employment of people with disabilities. "Switched access line" has the meaning provided in RCW 82.14B.020.
(6) The telecommunications relay service program and equipment vendors shall provide services and equipment consistent with the requirements of federal law for the operation of both interstate and intrastate telecommunications services for the hearing impaired or speech impaired. The department and the utilities and transportation commission shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with federal requirements and shall provide timely notice to the legislature of any legislation that may be required to accomplish compliance.
(7) The department shall adopt rules establishing eligibility criteria, ownership obligations, financial contributions, and a program for distribution to individuals requesting and receiving such telecommunications devices distributed by the office, and other rules necessary to administer programs and services consistent with this chapter.
[2011 1st sp.s. c 50 § 944; 2010 1st sp.s. c 37 § 921; 2004 c 254 § 1; 2001 c 210 § 2; 1998 c 245 § 59; 1993 c 425 § 1; 1992 c 144 § 3; 1990 c 89 § 3; 1987 c 304 § 3.]
| Effective dates -- 2011 1st sp.s. c 50: See note following RCW 15.76.115.|
Effective date -- 2010 1st sp.s. c 37: See note following RCW 13.06.050.
Responsibility for collection of tax -- 2004 c 254: "(1) The department of revenue is responsible for the administration and collection of telephone program excise taxes as provided in this act only with regard to telephone program excise taxes that are imposed on switched access lines for any time period occurring on or after July 1, 2004.
(2) The department of social and health services is responsible for the administration and collection of telephone program excise taxes as provided in this act only with regard to telephone program excise taxes that are imposed on switched access lines for the current year and the four preceding years which occurred prior to July 1, 2004." [2004 c 254 § 13.]
Implementation -- 2004 c 254: "The secretary of the department of social and health services and the director of the department of revenue may take the necessary steps to ensure that this act is implemented on its effective date." [2004 c 254 § 15.]
Effective date -- 2004 c 254: See note following RCW 82.72.010.
Effective date -- 1993 c 425: "This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and shall take effect immediately [May 15, 1993]." [1993 c 425 § 2.]
Legislative findings -- Severability -- 1992 c 144: See notes following RCW 43.20A.720.
Legislative finding -- 1990 c 89: See note following RCW 43.20A.720.