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Government Relations update: New SONAR, annual NCSA meeting, PRO Act, Boot Camp, and more

Official launch of the new State of the Nation Activities Report (SONAR)
For the first time in several years, we are excited to announce the launch of the new and improved State of the Nation Activities Report (SONAR)! SONAR, a data bank, is comprised of extensive information that was meticulously gathered from NCRA affiliated state associations. The Report assists NCRA members, the NCRA Board of Directors, and NCRA staff in navigating the legislative and regulatory issues most relevant to the court reporting, captioning, legal videography, and associated legal professions.

With the help of NCRA’s web team, Government Relations, and affiliated state associations, the new SONAR pages have a new and improved layout that helps NCRA members easily locate information that is most pertinent to their specific needs. The new format allows NCRA members to view SONAR information by state, or, alternatively, by viewing key issues, including: State certification requirements; statutory pay rates for officials; digital/electronic recording; remote notarization, remote oaths and affirmations, and remote appearance requirements; firm registration; grand jury proceedings; read-and-sign requirements; and anti-contracting. The information displayed on the new SONAR pages was provided by NCRA affiliated state associations. For any specific questions, we always recommend that NCRA members contact the NCRA affiliated state association directly.

Lastly, NCRA Government Relations is excited that we can provide this essential tool and resource to NCRA members as a part of their membership. We strongly encourage members to acquaint themselves with the new SONAR pages and urge members to contact NCRA Government Relations for any assistance in navigating them.

Annual National Congress of State Associations meeting: Discussion about the PRO Act, Department of Labor Worker Open Forum, and NCRA Advocacy Action Center

PRO Act and Department of Labor (DOL) Worker Open Forum
During the annual National Congress of State Associations (NCSA) meeting at the 2022 NCRA Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla., where state leaders gathered from across the country, NCRA Government Relations discussed several important topics. The first item on the agenda was a discussion of the status of S.420/H.R. 842, The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021, and any prospective DOL rulemaking similar to the PRO Act.

The PRO Act, which seeks to reclassify independent contractors as employees, passed in the House of Representatives in March 2021 and was then referred to several U.S. Senate Committees. In March 2021 NCRA Government Relations issued an action alert opposing Section 1 of the PRO Act, which you may read more about here. Since being referred to the U.S. Senate, the bill has had little movement and currently has a 3 percent chance of possible passage into law.

Despite the lack of movement on the PRO Act, the DOL stated that it may consider proposing a rule that seeks to reclassify independent contractors as employees. However, the DOL has continued to punt any potential rulemaking down the road, as it noted that it is waiting for Congress to act.

The DOL’s rationale is that if it rules on this topic and another Executive Administration assumes power in two years (2024), the new Administration may reverse the rulemaking. Thus, it is better if the DOL waits for Congress to codify any potential law relating to independent contractor reclassification, as it would be more robust and much more difficult to reverse. 

At this time the DOL stated that it may consider potential rulemaking, as Congress is not likely to pass the PRO Act. In its consideration of potential rulemaking, the DOL recently held an employer forum and a workers’ forum to gather input regarding a prospective rule.

On Wednesday, June 29, NCRA Director of Government Relations Jocelynn Moore spoke at the DOL’s workers’ forum during a two-minute time allotment. During the allotment, Moore stated that NCRA represents approximately 14,000 highly skilled and educated members — court reporters, captioners, legal videographers, scopists, and associated legal professionals — some of whom would be affected by any potential independent contractor reclassification. Additionally, she emphasized that any prospective rulemaking would detrimentally and negatively affect the livelihood of NCRA members and their families. Furthermore, Moore stressed that an independent contractor reclassification may result in mass loss of work for many freelancers, as many small employer firms do not have the financial resources to afford to retain independent contractors as employees. Moreover, she specified that NCRA contends that a potential independent contractor reclassification would substantially infringe upon U.S. fair business practices. In her conclusion, Moore respectfully requested that the DOL refrain from any prospective rulemaking. However, if the DOL intends to propose any prospective rule, Moore respectfully requested that the DOL ensure that any rule is narrow and contains an exemption for professions such as court reporting, captioning, and legal videography.

Lastly, it was emphasized during the annual NCSA meeting that there is no proposed rule by the DOL currently. When a rule is proposed, the DOL will provide notice and a reasonable opportunity to comment. Upon receiving notice, NCRA Government Relations will notify the NCRA membership of the opportunity to provide comment.

Training for Realtime Writers Act of 2021 cosponsor campaign and the NCRA Advocacy Action Center
At the annual NCSA meeting, Government Relations also introduced and showcased the new NCRA Advocacy Action Center to the NCSA Congress. The Advocacy Action Center is a national and statewide grassroots advocacy network led and organized by NCRA that assertively acts on vital issues affecting court reporters, captioners, legal videographers, scopists, and associated legal professionals. This new resource is available to NCRA members and was launched in May 2022. To read more about the official launch, visit here.

In May 2022 NCRA also introduced its “Take Action: Support Funding for the Training of New Captioners!” federal grassroots advocacy campaign. The campaign raises awareness about H.R.4652, the Training for Realtime Writers Act of 2021 and how the bill will establish a competitive grant program that allows accredited court reporting and captioning programs to apply for funding if enacted into law. If the legislation is enacted, it will appropriate $10 million annually for five years (for a total of $50 million), with individual institutions eligible to receive up to $1.5 million for the recruitment and training of new captioners.

NCRA Government Relations launched this campaign because we want you to join us in our lobbying effort to garner cosponsors and see this bill through to the finish line. The more support our bill has and the more cosponsors that we gain, the more likely we are to see swift passage. Visit our NCRA Advocacy Action Center and send our cosponsor letter to your elected representative now!

2023 NCRA Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp
Make sure that you save the date for the 2023 NCRA  Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp, which will be held Feb. 26 through Feb. 28, 2023, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Alexandria, Va.

The NCRA Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp offers an immersive, hands-on opportunity for NCRA members to advocate for the court reporting, captioning, legal videography, scopist, and associated legal professions. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in intensive sessions and training that will teach them the skills and strategies necessary to effectively advocate for their profession in state legislatures and in Congress. Additionally, participants will have the chance to visit Capitol Hill, where they will put their grassroots advocacy training to the test and advocate before their elected representatives in Congress and staff.

For more information about the 2023 NCRA Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp, visit here. *Registration for this event will likely open in late November or early December 2022 and will be announced to the NCRA membership.

NCRA Political Action Committee raises its largest amount yet.
In case you missed it, for the first time since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCRA Government Relations Department sponsored a Gift Basket Extravaganza, a raffle to benefit the Association’s Political Action Committee (PAC). Funds raised for NCRA PAC are used to financially support NCRA’s allies in Congress.

This year, the third time the event was held, the raffle drew more contributors than in past years and raised more than $4,400 – an amount more than any previous PAC gift basket raffle. Twenty-seven unique baskets in total were donated to support the fundraising event held at the Association’s 2022 Conference & Expo.

Lastly, NCRA Government Relations would like to thank the NCRA affiliated state associations who graciously donated baskets for this event and all of the members who contributed to NCRA PAC. To read more about NCRA PAC’s successes this year, visit here.

For questions concerning any of the above information, please contact NCRA Director of Government Relations Jocelynn Moore at jmoore@ncra.org.

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