Commission rejects unfair interpreter rules

The Legislative Commission on Wednesday rejected proposed regulations by the state's hearings division, saying the regulations would be grossly unfair to injured workers who don't speak English well.

Bryan Nix, head of the division, said providing interpretive services is a burden on his budget. He said the attorney for injured workers should ask for a budget to provide interpreters rather than relying on the hearing division to provide the services.

He argued that his division needs the other provisions in the proposed regulations that establish a code of conduct for hearings, training requirements and deal with industrial insurance issues.

But Nancy Ann Leeder, who heads the office providing attorney services for injured workers, said an interpreter is needed in up to 20 percent of her cases.

"In order to have a fair hearing, the injured worker has to be able to understand what's going on," she told the commission. "He has to be able to understand what they are saying."

She said outside there is already an interpreter in the hearing but under recent changes to the division's rules, that interpreter no longer provides the service to the injured worker, that he only interprets the questions being asked of the worker and the worker's answers. She said none of the other conversation in the hearing is interpreted so that the worker with limited English skills understands what is happening around him.

"They always did it in the past," she said.

She said the hearings division has a budget of about $75,000 for interpreter services.

Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, agreed.

"I really have a hard time saying we don't have enough money to make sure justice is served," he said.

Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, agreed the division needs some of the other provisions in the regulation.

"But we're probably going to have to reject this regulation."

The vote by the commission was unanimous.

- The commission approved a regulation expanding the ability for counselors to be licensed as marriage and family counselor interns. Lawmakers were told as many as 400 people could be qualified under the proposed regulation to be licensed in rural areas of Nevada where there is a severe shortage of counselors.

- The board also approved the Wildlife Commission's request to add wolverines to the list of protected animals in Nevada. Carpenter voted against the proposal.

Cameron Whithman of Wildlife Commission said there has not been a confirmed siting of the wolverine in Nevada but that one was caught last spring on a remote automatic camera in the Sierra near Truckee.

"It was the first one seen in the Sierra in 100 years, but we've had reports from government trappers who've seen their tracks," he said.

Wolverines are normally found in more northerly parts of the country including northern Minnesota, Montana and Idaho as well as in the Oregon cascades.

But Whithman said wildlife officials don't want people randomly shooting them if they see one of the animals.

Wolverines are the largest land mammals in the weasel family and second overall in size to the giant otter. They are considered one of the most aggressive and violent predators which, despite being only about 30-40 pounds, will attack and kill prey as large as deer and even elk. In the Midwest and northern states, they have been known to wreak havoc on chicken coops and trap lines as well as unprotected domestic stock such as calves and sheep.

They are considered a threatened species.

- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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