NCRA keeps eye on federal and state legislation

NCRA’s government relations department continually monitors legislation and regulations that may affect court reporters and captioners on the federal, state, and local levels. This year, the government relations team has identified several bills and proposed legislation on the federal level. Here is a run-down of the bills and how they might affect NCRA members.

The National Oath Act: This legislation, which has not yet been introduced, would reduce or eliminate some of the notary regulations placed on court reporters in interstate matters. While the legislation protects the rights of states and state court reporting boards to set certification regulations and govern who can take a deposition in that state, it offers court reporters the flexibility to work in various states without requiring a notary from that state. This proposed legislation is not an interstate notary either as it solely allows a court reporter to swear in a witness, not to actually take the deposition.

Local Courthouse Safety Act: The Local Courthouse Safety Act, S. 445, is bipartisan legislation intended to offer U.S. courthouses some additional assistance to increase public safety. Specifically, the proposed bill would allow courthouses to receive security equipment that is no longer being used from other federal agencies and allocate existing federal funding for courthouse security equipment and safety training for court security guards. Last session, the bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a voice vote but was held up in the Senate. At the beginning of a new Congressional sessions in January, NCRA’s government relations team was successful in getting the bill reintroduced in the Senate. This bill was the centerpiece of NCRA’s Boot Camp weekend in 2013.

Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility Act: This bill, also known as the CINEMA Act, or S. 555, would require every movie theater with two or more screens to provide captioning and video description upon request. Sen. Tom Harkin from Iowa introduced this bill. NCRA has written a letter of support on this issue. NCRA will continue to work to get the bill through Congress and signed into law.

The Air Carrier Access Amendments Act: This bill would require that airlines providing movies or other in-flight entertainment also provide captions. This would amend the current Air Carriers Access Act. This bill, S. 556, was also introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin. NCRA also wrote a letter of support for this bill.

Line of Duty Act 2013: The Line of Duty Act of 2013, S. 698, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn from Texas. This bill, which responds to a recent uptick in violent attacks against judicial employees, will place federal court reporters and other court personnel in the same category as police officers and fire fighters in terms of increased penalties in the commission of crimes. An almost identical bill, the McLelland-Hasse Line of Duty Act, or H.R. 1577, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ted Poe from Texas. NCRA has sent letters of support to both congressmen and will continue to work to strengthen currents laws designed to protect federal court reporters.

The Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act: This bill would remove restrictive regulations imposed by the U.S. Department of Education several years ago, including the gainful employment, the state authorization, and the credit hour regulations. This bill would allow educators and school administrators to focus on teaching, as opposed to dealing with complicated government bureaucracy. NCRA has sent a letter of support for H.R. 2637 and will continue to work with Chairman John Kline and Reps. Virginia Foxx and Alcee Hastings on this issue.

Federal Judgeship Act of 2013: This bill would add additional federal circuit and district judges around the country. This bill was introduced because of the high caseload for current judges. Many judges around the country have taken on more than 200 additional cases a year to make up for the loss of judges over several years, a situation that has delayed many court cases for months. NCRA is currently working on a letter of support for S. 1385.

To contact NCRA’s Government Relations team, email GovRelations@ncra.org.