New Legislative Boot Camp Experience inspires attendees to take action

Enlightening, enriching, insightful, and inspiring are just some of the adjectives representatives from 28 state court reporter associations used to describe their experiences at NCRA’s 2018 Legislative Boot Camp held March 11-13 in Reston, Va.

With a lineup of top speakers that addressed issues ranging from how to stop overthinking, why certification is important to state associations, how to support successful grassroots lobbying efforts, and how to implement effective programs at the state level, attendees of the NCRA 2018 Legislative Boot Camp were given access to an impressive learning opportunity. Attendees also participated in mock trials as they prepared to take new skills and insights they learned during the sessions to advocate for the court reporting and captioning professions during visits with lawmakers and their staff members on Capitol Hill.

Carolyn Coronado, RPR, and Keith Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, visit Rep. Pete Sessions office

“There was a lot of information shared during this event. It was enlightening, and I have some great ideas to take back to my state association, as well as some really good points I can use when I meet with my legislators,” said Carolyn Coronado, RPR, an official court reporter from Houston, Texas, and first-time boot camp attendee.

“For me personally, I can see how I can use the information I learned to address my judges as well on certain issues. I came here to learn, and now thinking ahead, I may become more involved with NCRA and committee work,” added Coronado, a past board member of the Texas Court Reporters Association.

Shelley Row, speaker, consultant, and author, led an insightful session laced with humor and personal stories in her presentation “Go with Your Gut: Effective Decision-Making in an Overthinking World.” The self-proclaimed recovering overthinker shared with attendees how she used infotuition – the combination of intuition and information – to learn to recognize the signs that made her an overthinker. She shared her cognition-intuition balance model that is based on understanding what constitutes a no-brainer decision versus a knee-jerk decision and how to leave room in our thinking to allow the “Aha!” moments. She also shared how important it is to remove yourself from heated situations before reacting, the positive impact of taking brain breaks, and recognizing body markers.

“Thinking and acting is not enough. You have to think, feel, and act. Taken together, the brain, gut, and the body’s neurological system create embodied intelligence that supports infotuitive decision-making. Understand in advance what triggers launch what reactions in you when faced with making good decisions. Learn ways that you can return to calm, and take brain breaks to allow all parts of the brain to work together to make decisions,” Row told attendees.

“Everything we talked about here are skills. They take practice. You are always practicing; every minute of every day is practice. It is likely that between today and tomorrow you will encounter a triggering event. You can make the decision to do what you’ve always done, or choose to slow it down and think about it differently. Either way is practice. Are you practicing the behavior that serves you best to make decisions from your gut?”

Row left attendees with one final thought: “A good message to take with you is that a lot of people go through life and don’t take a breath or don’t realize what affects them. You need to breathe. As court reporter you need to stop and do that.”

Attorney James Cool presented a session that discussed how to implement effective programs at the state level by understanding the moral philosophy framework for political persuasion. His presentation was focused on the five oral axes as explained in the book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, written by Jonathan Haidt, which explains how moral underlining philosophies drive our decision-making. The five moral axes that trigger our morality he touched on included:

  • Care/harm
  • Fairness/cheating
  • Loyalty/betrayal
  • Authority/ subversion
  • Sanctity/ degradation

Other sessions presented during boot camp that armed attendees with more insight and skills before heading to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staffs on the last day included:

  • “The State of Court Reporting” by NCRA President Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Matthew Barusch, NCRA State Government Relations Manager
  • “Grassroots Lobbying” by Jacqueline Sly, former state representative for South Dakota
  • “A Lesson on the Importance of Certification” with John Brandon, interim president of the Connecticut Court Reporters Association
  • “Certification: An Important Issue in the States” presented by Barusch and Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA Senior Director of Certification and Education, about why certification is an important issue for the states.

Rob Jones interviewed by NCRA President Chris Willette as Tricia Rosate, RDR, CRR, transcribes and Joe Donahoe videos

Other highlights of the 2018 boot camp experience included traveling into Washington, D.C., to Capitol Hill via the Metro, lunch in the Dirksen Senate Dining Room, and a special wrap-up reception at the Library of Congress in honor of the Veterans History Project (VHP). The reception also included an interview for the VHP by Willette with retired U.S. Marine Sgt. Rob Jones, a double above-the-knee amputee who has been inspiring fellow veterans with his 31 marathons in 31 days in 31 different cities and bike trip across the United States. Jones also holds a Bronze medal in rowing from the U.S. Paralympics. Planet Depos provided their top-notch videography services for the event and captured the entire interview for the National Court Reporters Foundation.

“I really enjoyed the networking sessions. I learned a lot. I liked the in-depth discussions of critical issues. These conversations are important. My biggest takeaway from Boot Camp is that I see there are people in virtually every state that care deeply about our profession and are willing to work together to address these issues,” said Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, a captioner from New York, N.Y., and president-elect of the New York State Court Reporters Association.

“You can have a bigger impact working together than alone in many areas. Court reporting and captioning as a field depends on the passion of our members,” he added.


Protecting the rights of people with disabilities is not optional

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting,, JCR WeeklyAn opinion piece posted Sept. 26 by the Washington Post takes issue with a bill recently advanced in Congress called the ADA Education and Reform Act, noting that it would make the ADA much harder to enforce.

Read more.

Michigan lawmakers introduce courthouse violence bill

JCR publications share buttonWSBT 22, Berrien County, Mich., reported on March 6 that three state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would increase the maximum penalties for people who commit or attempt to commit courtroom assaults on a courtroom employee, including judges, prosecutors, police, and court reporters.

Read more.

City of Portland, Ore., passes TV caption ordinance

In 2014, a coalition of concerned citizens called Portland: Turn on the Captions Now brought the issue of local businesses not turning the captions on their televisions to the attention of Portland, Ore., City Commissioner Amada Fritz. A year later, on Dec. 18, 2015, an ordinance took effect that requires captions be turned on all the time on televisions in public places throughout the city. The expectation of the coalition: Businesses in Portland will turn on the captions once, and leave them on.

“The members of this coalition found that most often when they would ask for captions to be turned on at places that had televisions, the employees of the business would say they didn’t know how to turn them on, or they could not find the remote control, or it was too hard to do when they were busy,” said NCRA member Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRC, CRC, a broadcast captioner and member of the Portland: Turn on the Captions Now coalition.

“Comcast is the major cable provider in Portland. And turning the captions on through a Comcast box is not always easy to do, even if you know how to work with TV equipment. Some businesses turn on the captions all the time and enjoy having them on. But those businesses are in the minority,” added Studenmund, who also serves on NCRA’s Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee.

Joining Studenmund on the coalition were also Portland residents Jim House and Steve Brown, both deaf and long-time advocates for the deaf community on city, state, and nationals levels, as well as David Viers, a long-time advocate for people with hearing loss who wears two cochlear implants.

According to Studenmund, prior to the ordinance, many businesses with televisions would have them turned on sometimes with the sound on and only sometimes with captions on, 99 percent of the time for entertainment purposes only. However, when emergency coverage goes on the air, the captions need to be visible so that everyone can understand what is being said. “The bottom line of this effort was to make sure all citizens in Portland have access to important information during times of emergency,” she said.

Studenmund said that captions can also help people learn to read and learn the English language. In Multnomah, Ore., for example, County Sheriff Dan Staton ordered that captions be turned on the televisions located in the county jail over two years ago as a way to teach inmates how to read. In addition, when the National Captioning Institute sold caption decoders before televisions were required to have caption decoders built in, more than 40 percent of the people who purchased a decoder reported that it was to help them learn English as a second – or third or fourth – language.

“During the process of getting this ordinance written and passed, the U.S. Department of Transportation implemented a rule requiring all televisions in U.S. airports have the captions turned on all the time. That U.S. DOT rule helped the City Council come to its decision about this local ordinance. The vote of the Council was 5-0,” said Studenmund.

According to Studenmund, businesses should not have to spend any money to accomplish providing captioning on their television sets. Comcast, she noted, is ready to help its business customers turn on the captions. In addition, Portland has created a website with more information and may fine a business up to $500 per day for not turning on captions.

“But it is not the city’s goal to need to impose that fee on any business,” said Studenmund. “The goal is to turn the captions on and leave them on. Any fine would be imposed only after many unsuccessful attempts are made to get the captions turned on.”

Portland: Turn on the Captions Now also created a Kansas: Open Caption Initiatives and Kansas: Turn On the TV Captions Now projects. The projects will help build statewide support for a mandate requiring captions on all TVs located in public places, as well as open captioning in movie theaters and at major public events.

Gear up for the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp

State affiliates gear up for 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp

State affiliates from across the country are making plans to participate in the 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp being held March 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, Va. The event is sponsored by NCRA’s government relations department.

The schedule for this year’s event will include seminars on the political climate on a state and national level, as well as ways to promote the profession to external audiences and consumer groups. Attendees will also be trained how to testify before legislators, partake in rigorous roleplaying exercises, and receive an intensive overview of the current legislative and regulatory issues at hand. The two-day training culminates with a trip to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where attendees will have the opportunity to walk through the building, meet with their respective legislators and their professional staff members, and gain experience in lobbying. Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend a political fundraiser for one of NCRA’s major supporters.

“The NCRA Legislative Boot Camp is one of the most important benefits of membership in the Association because it provides training in the skills needed to successfully advocate and participate in the legislative and regulatory processes when issues in either of those arenas arise that could hinder or help the future of the court reporting and captioning professions,” said NCRA President Stephen A. Zinone, RPR, an official court reporter from Pittsford, N.Y.

“If you are in the business of making the record and preserving history or providing valuable captioning services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, then you are in the business of protecting our profession,” said Zinone.

Online registration is now open for the 2016 Legislative Boot Camp at The cost is $175 per attendee. For more information, contact Adam Finkel, NCRA Director of Government Relations, at

California Court Reporters Association fights electronic reporting

The California Court Reporters Association issued a call to action Jan. 8 asking members to help support AB 749 (Bloom), a two-year bill that mandates that a court reporter report all family proceedings. This came in response to the 2016 proposed budget released by the state’s governor that calls for the “development of electronic recordings in family courts.”

Read more.

John Zandonella Act of 2015 now law in California

Effective Jan. 1, legal professionals in California who prepare deposition notices have new disclosure obligations under the John Zandonella Act of 2015, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. The Deposition Reporters Association of California has launched an informative website to help educate court reporters, court reporting firms, and legal professionals about the law’s requirements and ramifications.

This new legislation should serve as a reminder that the practice of court reporting can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to the next. It is therefore incumbent on all reporters to be aware of the rules, regulations, and laws governing the proceedings they are reporting.

Read more.

New York governor signs bill to provide CART services in state courtrooms

Sponsor_StudentIn September 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed bill S5533-B, referred to as the CART bill, which expands provisions to enable people who are deaf or hard of hearing with access to court proceedings.

NCRA member Adam H. Alweis, RPR, a senior court reporter from Syracuse, N.Y., and a board member for the New York State Court Reporters Association, provided the following information on what the CART bill was, the events leading up to its signing, and how the bill may be implemented in the New York courts.

The JCR first wrote about the CART bill in July.


The CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) bill was created by the Association of Surrogates and Supreme Court Reporters union down in New York City, namely, President Brian DiGiovanna, RPR, CRR, CMRS, and Legislative Chairperson John Cardillo, as well as the NYSCRA Legislative Chairperson Myron Calderon. These individuals deserve high praise for their efforts in this regard.

The bill provides for having a realtime court reporter present in any situation within the court system where a juror, litigant, judge, family member, etc. who is deaf or hard of hearing is in need of realtime access in order to be more fully able to participate in the proceedings in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New York State Senator John DeFrancisco was approached by DiGiovanna initially to put forward this bill in the New York state legislature. Both Sen. DeFrancisco and Assemblyperson Helene Weinstein sponsored the bill, which eventually passed through both houses.

In July, DiGiovanna had contacted me in Syracuse about doing a press conference to outline for the press and the public what this bill’s intentions were and its positive impact on the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. After meeting with the senator’s staff, along with their assistance, we set up a wireless realtime demonstration for the press conference using two iPads for display to the audience.

The press conference occurred in late July in the Onondaga County Courthouse in Syracuse. Sen. DeFrancisco spoke to those who attended along with a representative from the hard-of-hearing community. A sign language interpreter was also present. At the end of the conference, I gave a brief outline as to how the realtime worked using a wireless Internet device.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill on Sept. 25.

The following would be my understanding on how this will work. Those working in the New York state courts should check with their individual supervisors for more information.

For a juror who is deaf or hard of hearing, a realtime court reporter will have to shadow that juror throughout his or her participation in the proceedings. What that means is that, most likely, you would need two court reporters in the courtroom at the same time: one who is recording the proceedings and the other who is shadowing the juror.

If none of the court reporters within the court system are available to do this shadowing, then the court system will be responsible for finding someone from outside to handle this.

As far as litigants in need for realtime, I would imagine that would be handled by the supervisors in each office as to how to implement that.

If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to contact the officers and directors of NYSCRA and/or the officers of the ASSCR.

NCRA urges sponsorship of legislation critical to aiding courts in recovering funding

In a letter sent June 24, NCRA President Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, urged Sen. John Thune to become an original sponsor of the Crime Victim Restitution and Court Fee Intercept Act. The legislation would allow for interception of individuals’ federal income tax returns to pay for existing court fees that the individual may owe.

In the letter, Nageotte notes that the concept already exists in federal law as related to child support, state tax, and other federal debts. She said the legislation would have a tremendous and immediate impact on court budgets nationwide and would help to alleviate many of the stresses that have accumulated within the court systems since the late-2000s.

Read more.

The future of tax reform

In early December, I was able to attend a Bloomberg Government panel discussion on tax reform on behalf of NCRA. Robert Litan, Jennifer Blouin, William Gale, and Doug Holtz-Eakin were speakers on the panel, all providing insightful perspectives from their fields.  Tax reform remains one of the most discussed issues on Capitol Hill and understanding the issue is important with potential changes coming in the near future.

When the tax code was created, 100 years ago, it was less than 500 pages. Today the tax code is more than 70,000 pages, creating confusion and providing thousands of specific exemptions. Tax reform remains a key issue for several reasons, mainly that American corporations are unable to stay competitive in today’s market and the increasingly complex code needs to be simplified. The United States has not seen a major overhaul to the tax code since 1986, when President Ronald Reagan was able to work with House Speaker Tip O’Neil and achieve a major legislative victory simplifying the tax code.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., released a new plan to fix our country’s corporate taxes, especially uncollected offshore income, in an effort to move along tax reform legislation. Baucus suggests a one-time minimum tax on offshore profits to bring revenue back into the country.  He took major heat from Republicans because of the timing of his plan which was introduced when both sides were focused on getting a budget done before the government shutdown that would occur in January, if nothing is passed. With a rough political climate right now and a president with weak political capital after a failed rollout of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are worried about conceding too much in any potential deal with primaries early next year. Political pundits point to 2015 as the year tax reform would be more likely since the 2014 elections will give both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee new chairmen. The president will also be looking for a second term legislative victory to put his name on, something that looks gloomy until after midterm elections.

During the last several years, both parties have agreed that tax reform is a critical issue for the country to address. However, Republicans have been wary of agreeing to more tax increases while Democrats have been insistent that revenues be raised somehow. It seems unlikely that a tax reform bill will pass this year, but many businesses are hopeful that the tax code will be simplified. While economists continue to note that the U.S. is losing money every year because of our tax code, money is not being reinvested back in the U.S. because of the high tax rates.  Each side has their own policy that they believe will be best for the country.

Baucus and the White House are pushing to keep one of our current policies known as the international tax, a tax that is only used by the United States. As an example of our current system: Starbucks, an international company, is taxed in the United States and then must pay taxes on certain gains after it pays a territorial tax (income tax in the country the business is located) in another country. Oftentimes, most companies never pay the tax or hide gains in tax loopholes because companies are not taxed upfront under current tax code. Under the Democrats’ proposal, Baucus would keep the current international tax system while providing a tax holiday and lower overall tax rates for business.

On the Republican side, David Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, has floated a proposal that would change two major parts of the current tax policy. First, Camp suggests changing the top tax bracket for high income earners and businesses to 25%, which is lower than Baucus’ proposal. This would make the U.S. more competitive on the business front, as the U.S. currently has one of the highest corporate tax rates. The second part of the plan would move the country to a territorial tax system from an international tax system. Most other developed nations run their tax system on a territorial system. A territorial system is believed to help change how companies operate outside the U.S.

Both sides seem willing to allow an exemption of a low tax or no tax if companies bring back the money from overseas by a certain date. This was last used by President George Bush. Under the “Tax Holiday,” Bush allowed companies to use offshore income to reinvest in America under a lower tax rate, bringing back $360 billion. This would be something both sides seem willing to do again in the future to try to get the economy moving again. Scholars have different opinions on the amount of money that would be reinvested this time around but believe it to be a significant amount, as many companies have significant amounts of capital housed in overseas accounts.

Despite these proposals and some positive overtures by both parties, tax reform seems to be unlikely this year. If tax reform happens, 2015 seems to be the most likely opportunity.