§ 740 Short title.
This subchapter may be known and cited as the "Employment First Act."
§ 741 Statement of purpose.
The General Assembly finds that the benefits of meaningful work have significance and importance to all working-age individuals, including persons with disabilities, which shall include, but not be limited to, veterans with service-connected disabilities. All persons, including 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.
§ 742 Definitions.
As used in this subchapter, unless the context otherwise requires:
(1) "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.
(2) "Disability" means, with respect to an individual:
a. A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits 1 or more major life activities of such individual;
b. A record of such an impairment; or
c. Being regarded as having such an impairment,
as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended [42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.].
(3) "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.
(4) "Working age" means 14 years of age or older in accordance with § 505 of this title.
§ 743 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 subchapter 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 subchapter would otherwise be entitled. Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to require any employer to give preference to hiring persons with disabilities.
§ 744 Implementation of policy by state agencies.
(a) 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 subchapter. All state agencies are encouraged to adopt measurable goals and objectives to promote assessment of progress in implementing this subchapter.
(b) State agencies are authorized to adopt rules and regulations to implement this subchapter.
§ 745 Establishment of Employment First Oversight Commission.
(a) There is hereby established an Employment First Oversight Commission under the purview of the State Council for Persons with Disabilities, which shall facilitate the full, effective and timely implementation of this subchapter.
(b) The Commission shall consist of 11 members, who are residents of this State. The Commission shall consist of the following members:
(1) Four members who are persons with a disability and who are knowledgeable of disability issues and who are not state employees, 1 of whom shall be a veteran and 1 of whom shall be a member of the State Council for Persons with Disabilities, and of whom:
a. One shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
b. One shall be appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives;
c. One shall be appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate; and
d. One shall be appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate;
(2) One member who is experienced with employment service programs and who is not a state employee and who shall be appointed by the chair of the State Council for Persons with Disabilities;
(3) A representative of the Division of Industrial Affairs, appointed by the Secretary of Labor;
(4) A representative of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, appointed by the Secretary of Labor;
(5) The Secretary of Education or a designee appointed by the Secretary;
(6) The Secretary of Health and Social Services or a designee appointed by the Secretary;
(7) The Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services or a designee appointed by the Director; and
(8) The Chair of the Developmental Disabilities Council or a designee appointed by the Chair.
(c) Except as provided in subsections (d) and (e) of this section, each member shall serve a term of 3 years, and may succeed himself or herself for 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 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.
(d) The terms of the members of the Commission shall be staggered. Four members shall serve an initial term of 3 years, 4 members shall serve an initial term of 2 years, and the remaining members shall serve an initial term of 1 year. Thereafter, all terms shall be for 3 years.
(e) A person, who has never served on the Commission, may be appointed to the Commission for 2 consecutive terms; but no such person shall thereafter be eligible for 2 consecutive appointments. No person, who has been twice appointed to the Commission or who has served on the Commission for 6 years within any 9-year period, shall again be appointed to the Commission until an interim period of at least 1 term has expired since such person last served.
(f) Members of the Commission shall serve without compensation.
(g) Any member, who is absent without adequate reason for 3 consecutive meetings, or who fails to attend at least half of all regular business meetings during any calendar year, shall be subject to suspension or removal from the Commission.
§ 746 Commission organization; meetings; officers; quorum.
(a) 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.
(b) The Commission annually shall elect a chairperson and vice-chairperson. Each officer shall serve for 1 year and shall not succeed himself or herself for more than 2 consecutive terms.
(c) A majority of the members shall constitute a quorum for the purpose of transacting business.
§ 747 Powers and duties of Commission.
(a) The Commission shall review measurable goals and objectives as submitted to it by each relevant state agency to ensure implementation of this subchapter. The Commission shall track the measurable progress of state agencies in implementing this subchapter. All state agencies shall fully cooperate with and provide data and information to assist the Commission in carrying out its duties.
(b) The Commission shall prepare an annual report as part of, and included in, the annual report submitted by the State Council for Persons with Disabilities to the Governor and members of the General Assembly. The report shall detail progress toward the goals and objectives and full implementation of this subchapter. 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.