Sen. Breen’s bill to help deaf students becomes law

Posted: March 02, 2016 | Senator Breen
Sen. Cathy Breen, second from left, is joined by MECDHH Executive Director David Sherry, MECDHH Consultant Barbara Keefe, and Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth.

Sen. Cathy Breen, second from left, is joined by MECDHH Executive Director David Sherry, MECDHH Consultant Barbara Keefe, and Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth.

New law levels playing field by allowing one-of-a-kind school accept private donations

AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, that supports the state’s only educational institution for deaf and hard of hearing students by removing needless government regulation became law on Wednesday without the governor’s signature.

The new law removes a restriction that prohibited the Maine Education Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, or MECDHH, from accepting private donations from alumni, foundations and others who wanted to support the school’s mission of education deaf and hard of hearing students.

“When I learned that needless government regulation was putting MECDHH at a disadvantage, I promised to do everything I could to cut red tape and help the school succeed,” said Sen. Breen. “Now that this bill has become law, the school can conduct the same routine fundraising to which every other school in Maine was already legally entitled. Today is a victory not only for Maine’s deaf and hard of hearing students, but for fairness in our laws.”

Since its founding in the 1960s, the school has provided necessary, effective, and cutting-edge education programs to Maine students who are deaf and hard of hearing.  The school’s main campus is located on Mackworth Island in Falmouth, an enduring gift to the state from Gov. Percival Baxter.

Today, the school serves students not only at its Mackworth Island campus, but in local school districts all over the state. Like many educational programs, this school has evolved, grown and adapted to the ever-changing needs of the community it serves.  Not every need and challenge is met with public dollars, but when the school sought recently to embark on a fundraising campaign, it learned that state law prohibited it from accepting donations.

That prohibition was lifted by Breen’s bill, which was enacted by the Senate on February 18. Gov. Paul LePage did not sign or veto the bill within the 10-day window afforded to him by Maine’s constitution, so it became law without his signature.

“I speak for myself, the School Board, the staff and for those that we serve when I say that I am ecstatic about the passage of this bill into law,” said David Sherry, MECDHH’s executive director. “This law will allow us to raise funds for a variety of activities to enhance program offerings for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and their families statewide. It will also provide the opportunity for us to do further training of teachers throughout the state who are working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. We are very grateful to Sen. Breen for the work she has done on behalf of MECDHH/GBSD.”

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