NCRA Government Relations update

NCRA Government Relations has been very busy this fall. On September 24, 2019, Jocelynn Moore, Director of State Government Relations, attended the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) meeting to demonstrate our commitment to our captioning members and the associations that support the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

NCRA also has been advocating for members on Capitol Hill this month. On Tuesday, October 8, 2019, Moore attended a tour of the U.S. Capitol Dome, which was hosted by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and his legislative assistant Emma Rindels. The Dome, which was constructed between 1854 and 1865, weighs 8,909,200 pounds and cost $1,047,291 at the time it was built.

Jocelynn Moore, NCRA Director of State Government Relations, visits Rep. Mike Gallagher’s (Wisc.) office.

Following the tour, Moore had meetings with U.S. Representatives from Wisconsin, including Jim Sensenbrenner, Bryan Steil, and Mike Gallagher, to advocate for the Training for Realtime Writers Act of 2019. The stand-alone bill was drafted by Rep. Ron Kind, also from Wisconsin, and is set to be introduced later this month.

Lastly, in an effort to reduce NCRA’s expenses for the 2020 budget, we have successfully re-negotiated a contract with lower rates for our legislative tracking software while maintaining the same legislative services we have offered to our members in the past. NCRA Government Relations looks forward to continuing our work on state and federal legislative issues and to continuing our representation of our members nationally.

NCRA files comment with FCC about captioning quality

In response to Colorado Law’s Petition for Declaratory Rulemaking, Jocelynn A. Moore, NCRA’s Director of State Government Relations, has submitted the following public comment to the Federal Communications Commission:

NCRA supports this petition with regard to the topic of Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). Additionally, we are aware that the quality of captioning remains a critical issue and look forward to working with our consumer partners regarding this specific concern. Further, NCRA and our Captioning Committee members would like to note that positive changes are occurring in the way that captioning is currently processed. This is due, in large part, to the best practices standard that our Captioning Committee advocated for before the FCC and which was ultimately implemented in 2015. For instance, due to this standard, our captioners have had more access to advanced material, including scripts and lyrics, than they had prior to 2015; access to more advanced material improves caption quality. Lastly, NCRA is committed to improving the quality of captioning and feels the FCC complaint process could better encourage viewers who use captioning to file complaints and provide feedback to the FCC.

The petition, filed by the Colorado Law Technology Law & Policy Clinic, asserts that the FCC’s “best practices standard” that already applies to human captioners should also be equally applied to ASR technologies. The Clinic also recommends that the FCC should investigate ASR technology to ensure that its captions are equal to human captioning. The “best practices standard” says:

Captioning quality will now be measured via four non-qualitative measures:

  • Accuracy – the captions “accurately reflect what is in the program’s audio track by matching the dialogue, music, and sounds, and identify the speakers”;
  • Synchronicity – the captions “are delivered synchronously with the corresponding dialogue and other sounds at a speed that can be read by viewers”;
  • Completeness – the captions “are complete for the entire program”;
  • Placement of the captions – the captions “do not obscure important on-screen information and are not obscured by other information on the screen.”

NCRA reps working for you on Capitol Hill

Over the past several months, NCRA Interim Executive Director Dave Wenhold and NCRA Director of State Government Relations Jocelynn Moore have been spotted regularly in the halls of Capitol Hill.

They are continuing the advocacy efforts that NCRA members started during the 2019 NCRA Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp. Those efforts support reauthorization of the Training for Realtime Writers Grant Program, a competitive program that was originally authorized under the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 2008, and which allocated 1.5 million dollars per year from 2010 to 2015 for the training of captioners.

“Once the legislation is introduced and moves forward, NCRA Government Relations will make sure to keep members updated as to any potential progress,” Moore said. “Thank you, again, to our Boot Camp attendees for the valuable information they collected during their Capitol Hill Day — their advocacy efforts from one day of grassroots lobbying is leading to tangible change and potential funding for the training of new captioners!”

On Capitol Hill Day, NCRA Boot Camp attendees met with more than 128 legislative representatives. During their visits, attendees emphasized the need to secure future funding for the program through the potential reauthorization of the HEA, which has been discussed in the last several legislative sessions.

After their Capitol Hill meetings, Boot Camp attendees reported back to NCRA Government Relations with crucial information concerning the possible reauthorization of the HEA and the status of funding for the Program. From the Hill visits, NCRA Government Relations learned that the HEA is still undergoing negotiations and that pursuing a stand-alone piece of legislation that seeks more funding is the best course of action.

Based on that information, Wenhold and Moore have been making the rounds in the House of Representatives and in the Senate the last several months to garner support for a stand-alone bill. In June, they met with Rep. Ron Kind, a representative from Wisconsin and a longtime ally of NCRA. Currently, Kind’s staff has graciously agreed to sponsor a new bill seeking to fund the Training for Realtime Writers Grant Program and is in the process of drafting new bill language. The congressman also sponsored stand-alone bills supporting the program in past Congresses.

NCRA Government Relations is pushing for the bill to be introduced during this legislative session, in the 116th Congress, and is seeking approximately $2 million per year. While Congressman Kind’s office has been working on bill language, Wenhold and Moore have been meeting with other representatives who may support the bill and have also been meeting with any senators who may be interested in introducing the bill in the Senate.

In June, they met with the offices of Rep. Bobby Scott (VA), Rep. Kay Granger (TX), Sen. Jon Tester (MT), Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA), Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT), Sen. Patty Murray (WA), and Sen. Mike Braun (IN). Recently, they met with the offices of Rep. Lloyd Smucker (PA), Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (WI), Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA), and Sen. Pat Roberts (KS). At this time, NCRA Government Relations is looking to Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA) to be the lead sponsor on the bill in the U.S. Senate.

NCRA Boot Camp boosts lobbying confidence

NCRA members hit Capitol Hill in full force on Tuesday, May 7, as part of the NCRA Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp. More than 80 attendees shared the importance of the court reporting and captioning professions with senators, representatives, and staff members.

Jocelynn Moore, NCRA Director of State Government Relations, called the day a big success.

“On Capitol Hill, it’s common for constituents to meet with the elected member’s staff for 15 minutes to a half hour,” Moore said. “Our Boot Camp attendees from Montana and Oregon not only met with the staff of a senator for an hour-and-a-half but were also given a private tour of the House and Senate office buildings and were invited to attend a constituent coffee the following day where they discussed the Training for Realtime Writers grant program with both senators Tester and Daines, as well as Congressman Gianforte. After their meetings, Sen. Tester’s staff even took them on another private tour to see the Capitol. As a former staffer on the Hill, I was absolutely amazed. That sort of facetime just doesn’t happen.”

The event started with two days of training with Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, NCRA Interim Executive Director, and Moore.

(Read Dineen Squillante’s “My NCRA Boot Camp experience.”)

“My experience at Boot Camp was simply amazing!” said Rebecca Brewer, RPR, CRR, of St. Louis, Mo. “I find it hard to explain to others, you simply just have to attend to understand the intensity of the training and the wealth of knowledge gained from attending. Dave Wenhold, with his vast knowledge and experience of the legislative process, was able to train the attendees in an easily understandable way, making the Boot Camp that much more enjoyable.”

Wenhold outlined the goals of the event and discussed the nuts and bolts of association work. Wenhold and Moore then talked to attendees about politics on Capitol Hill and how to effectively advocate for ideas and legislation. Moore followed with a presentation about the state of court reporting and captioning throughout the country and how to effectively advocate before state legislatures. NCRA Board President Sue A. Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, Springfield, Ohio, and NCRA President-Elect Max Curry, RPR, CRI, Franklin, Tenn., ended the first day of Boot Camp with a discussion about the state of electronic and digital recording throughout the country.

During the second day of Boot Camp, Mike Goodman, with Cornerstone Government Affairs, Washington, D.C., began the day by talking to attendees about the dos and don’ts of lobbying members of congress. Then attendees broke out into a mock scenario session, in which they were trained to lobby before senators and representatives, and they had the opportunity to testify before a mock congressional committee. The day ended with Wenhold and Moore discussing the proper way to network and what they were to expect on Capitol Hill when lobbying for key legislation.

On Hill Day, NCRA members asked legislators and staff to make sure funds for captioning training are included the next time the Higher Education Act is reauthorized.

Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, Washington, D.C., and Crystal Pilgrim, RPR, Silver Spring, Md., reported on a successful meeting with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who represents Maryland, and his Legislative Director Sarah Shenning, who said they supported the reauthorization of the captioning grant money.

“We met Sen. Van Hollen because we arrived 15 minutes early and met him as he walked in for the day,” Rogers said. “The senator asked us why we were there.  We were prepared and answered questions with confidence. We told him about the HEA Act Bill 872, the reauthorization, FIPSE. We informed him that we represented NCRA and that we were court reporters here in Washington, D.C.  He even did the court reporter finger motion and said how fascinating our jobs were.”

First-time attendee Lori McCoin Jones, RPR, CCR, Midlothian, Va., met with staff members for Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Tim Kaine, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, and Rep. Elaine Luria.

“Boot Camp was a wonderful experience to bond with other reporters, gather information, and stretch and grow as reporters advocating for our profession,” Jones said.   

Miranda Seitz, Eau Claire, Wisc., also reported a great experience.

“I think as court reporters we feel that we should not interrupt unless we absolutely have to, and as women doubly so. The fact that NCRA has taken on the task of providing this kind of training and experience for their membership that goes so much against our professional instincts is quite the endeavor. The fact that they did it so effectively and at such a pivotal time for our profession … my gratitude cannot be overstated,” she said. “Every single person that I met and networked with within Boot Camp was so genuine and engaging with me, and I did my best to do the same! I’m so glad I seized this opportunity to be able to (learn to) focus, strategize, and implement our collective goals alongside my multidimensional peers.”

See a photos from the event.

My NCRA Boot Camp experience

By Dineen Squillante

Sen. Patrick Leahy and Dineen Squillante

I signed up for Boot Camp, because I come from a state with no association. Having limited resources and many concerns about the future of our profession, I wanted to learn how to advocate effectively and appropriately for stenography.   NCRA Interim CEO Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, and NCRA Director of Government Relations Jocelynn Moore took us through the dos and don’ts of getting our legislatures behind us, and NCRA board members took our teams through perfecting our mission through role playing.  

Our team bonded quickly and strategized together. The task that seemed impossible and intimidating became fun and attainable. We all pulled from our unique strengths and conquered our mission, each contributing in our own way. Each member of our team grew more confident as the mock day progressed. At the end of the day we were all exhausted. At the same time, we were much more comfortable in the shoes we were about to wear.

When we got to Hill Day, sadly our team had to disperse and stand on our own. But every single member of our team was ready and had an over-the-top successful day. In fact, every member from every other team I spoke with had a hugely successful and exciting day. We grabbed the ear of our representatives and senators across the United States in full force! I feel like everyone who attended and/or had a part in pulling Boot Camp together lifted all of us to a higher level of confidence in advocacy. We all had exciting stories to tell about our meetings on the Hill, and, actually, how easy it was to advocate for what we believe in. 

I had the honor to meet with the following Vermont representatives: Sen. Patrick Leahy and his legislative correspondent, Jeff VanOot; Rep. Peter Welch’s legislative aide, Alexandra Morris; and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ floor coordinator, Ihna Mangundayao. All of these folks are extremely busy and graciously took time out to hear our message.

Every one of us has taken home new friends, allies, and important contacts from across the nation. Now, more than ever, we need to be confident in pushing to make sure humans stay in the chair. 

Thank you to the NCRA board, Dave, and Jocelynn for all the hard work you’ve put in to making us stronger advocates! Together we are mighty!

Shout out to my fellow Team Hotel members! Kimberly Cottrell, Quincy, Ill.; Kimberly Duran, RPR, Albuquerque, N.M.; Pam Fuller-Goold, RPR, Blanchard, Okla.; Janice McMoran, RDR, CRR, Granbury, Texas; Debbie Peterson, RPR, Prior Lake, Minn.; Kelly Shainline, RPR, CRR, Walnut Creek, Calif.

#stenoarmy

Dineen Squillante, RPR, is from Arlington, Vt.

Tennessee law gives criminal court reporters pay increase

Tennessee Court Reporters Association members convinced state legislators to adopt a law to increase pay for criminal court reporters.
Tennessee Court Reporters Association members convinced state legislators to adopt a law to increase pay for criminal court reporters.

The Tennessee legislature passed a pay increase for criminal reporters in the state. The bills, SB 667 and HB 729, were passed through both state houses with the support of the Tennessee Court Reporters Association (TCRA) legislative committee, and the bills were fully funded in the state budget. The increase is expected to go into effect July 1.

Getting this bill through the houses and signed into law was quite the coup for Tennessee reporters, according to NCRA President-Elect Max Curry, RPR, CRI, who spearheaded the legislation. “A little more than 10 years ago, Tennessee did away with the employee status of criminal reporters in Tennessee and has moved to a contractual status for the criminal courts around Tennessee. Due to the substantially lower amount in per diem and page rate offered by the criminal courts, more and more stenographic reporters were refusing to cover the work in lieu of more lucrative private sector work. The situation was creating a shortage of coverage by stenographic reporters in the criminal court system, and the Administrative Office of the Court (AOC), which administers the criminal reporters in Tennessee, had begun training electronic recording reporters to cover the criminal courts. Of course, as an association we don’t want that, so we got to work on trying to find a solution,” Curry said. 

“The clearest solution was to increase the funds being paid to attract stenographic reporters,” explained Curry. “The AOC expressed a lack of willingness to move the rate up.  We were only asking for them to increase it to the same rate as that offered by other state entities that use stenographic reporters for their hearings, depositions, EUOs, arbitrations, etc., including the Department of Labor, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and so on. All of these organizations offered higher rates. The AOC couldn’t even compete with the other State entities, much less on an open market. The situation was spiraling out of control quickly, with the AOC offering no solutions that kept the stenographic reporters involved.

“Since the new rate is competitive with other state entities, we feel this will effectively correct the issue and get the criminal courts back on an even keel with the other state entities,” Curry continued. “It will simply be up to the AOC to do rate increases to keep up with inflation and what the other State entities are offering.”

The legislation moved through the process quickly. Every other year, Tennessee’s legislature runs on a fast track, and 2019 was a fast-track year.  “Over three months, we managed to maneuver the bill through the committee/subcommittee system of both House and Senate, work with the legislature on balancing out the fiscal impact of the bill as a law, and get it passed,” said Curry. “It was passed on the final evening of the 111th Tennessee Legislature being in session this year. We literally did this just under the wire of one legislative session, which is next to impossible!

“I took the lead on lobbying to work the bills through the process in the Tennessee House and Senate. Various people from our committee would show up for some of the interviews with legislators, and I would be remiss not to mention them. They were: Dana Webb, TCRA president when the process started; Stephanie Falkner, CRI, CPE, TCRA’s state president as we finished up; Sheila Wilson, TCRA past president and legislative committee member; Sheryl Weatherford, RPR, another TCRA past president and legislative committee member; and Peggy Giles, another wonderful reporter who was part of the legislative team. Each of these people took turns to accompany me to meetings with legislators and advocated for and educated the legislators about our bill and about the court systems in Tennessee and how court reporters are used. In addition, criminal court reporters Lisa Moss, Lori Bice, Gloria Dillard, and Kim Davidson, and many others would show up for subcommittee or committee meetings to show their support of this legislation,” Curry said. “Many of TCRA’s members were involved in the grassroots portion, too, and they did a stellar job of emailing and calling legislators’ offices. I would often hear from the state senators and representatives that people were reaching out and how impressed they were with how organized it all was.”

When asked what he credits the success to, Curry said: “First, we had an excellent game plan. Sheila, Stephanie, and I had all been to NCRA’s Boot Camp in the past, so we had the training. Also, Sheila, Peggy, and I had been through the legislative efforts previously in Tennessee, so all three of us knew how the process worked, and we worked very hard to educate and train the others. In addition, our grassroots organization and ability to get info out to the membership via email blast at a moment’s notice was truly impactful as well…. and they then took action as a group!  Engagement meant everything!

“Most importantly, we had Judge Dee Gay, who is a criminal courts judge here in Tennessee, who worked with us closely, advocated for us, and got us in touch with key legislators to help us,” Curry continued. “One of the attorneys who practices in front of Judge Gay regularly is William Lamberth, who happens to be a State of Tennessee Representative, and who more importantly happens to be the Majority Leader in the House and was our House bill sponsor! This was impactful and quickly opened doors and conversations for us. We did the leg work, and he worked the power struggle in the back. He also worked very hard at making sure we found the money in the budget to address the fiscal impact of this bill as a law. Leader Lamberth also recruited as our senate sponsor a very powerful ally: Pro Tem Speaker of the House Sen. Ferrell Haile!

“That’s not to say that the process was free of problems. While the legislative committee was working to get the legislature to pass the bill to increase pay to the criminal court reporters, two competing bills were also working their way through the process. It took additional education and lobbying to make sure that the legislators understood the impact of these other bills,” explained Curry.

“One of the bills we called the ‘Free Copy Bill,’ which basically would allow litigants (or anyone for that matter) to get a free copy of the transcript once the original was purchased and filed with the court. The second bill was to install an audio recording system in every single courtroom in the state of Tennessee. Because of our involvement, the legislators just let these bills die in committee,” said Curry. “This has been an amazing legislative year in Tennessee and one I’m proud to have been a part of!”

Seattle will require closed captioning for TVs in bars, restaurants, and stadiums

The Seattle Times reported on April 30 that, under a new Seattle law, all places of public accommodation will be required to activate closed captioning on their televisions during business hours.

Read more.

NCRA letter to the Michigan House of Representatives

The following letter was sent from NCRA President Sue Terry in support of House Bill 4329, which would increase the transcript page rate for Michigan court reporters.

March 14, 2019
The Honorable Graham Filler Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary
Michigan House of Representatives
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514

Dear Representative Filler, Ranking Member LaGrand, and members of the Judiciary Committee,
As President of the National Court Reporters Association, which represents over 13,000 members, including 261 in the state of Michigan, I am writing today to express my support for House Bill 4329, which would increase the transcript page rate for Michigan court reporters. This bill would reaffirm the Michigan Legislature’s commitment to court reporters, who act as “guardians of the record” and have provided their invaluable services to the state’s court system without fair compensation for decades.
The page rate in Michigan has gone unchanged for over 30 years; and yet, inflation, general goods, and supply costs have continued to increase. For example, according to statistics from the federal government, the cost of eggs 30 years ago has gone from 71 cents to $1.63, bread from 60 cents to $1.28, and gas from 96 cents to over $2.50 and to up to $4.00 a gallon. Despite this inflation, the page rate in Michigan has remained unchanged. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the inflation rate has increased 103.58% from 1989-2018 and yet the page rate for court reporters has remained static.
Court reporters take extraordinary measures to satisfy their statutory obligation to provide accurate and complete transcripts of court records in a timely manner. Court reporters are passionate, hardworking court officials, who routinely work on producing transcripts after normal business hours with no consideration beyond the currently set statutory page rate as compensation. They are often required to produce transcripts within statutory time limits or face penalties such as fines or loss of certification. Many court reporters are required to purchase their own materials, at great personal expense, to create transcripts that are required by law. Court reporters do this because they take their obligation to the justice system and their roles as “guardians of the record” quite seriously, and they should be compensated fairly for that role.
An increase in the transcript page rate would enable those reporters to have the financial capability to satisfy their legal obligations in a more expeditious manner, ensuring that the court system in Michigan operates smoothly and efficiently. We believe that a vote for this bill is a vote ensuring that the integrity of the court record may be upheld.
NCRA stands in support of the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters and asks you to vote to pass this bill. If I or the NCRA staff can be of assistance, please contact Government Relations Director Matthew Barusch at mbarusch@ncra.org. Thank you.


Sincerely,


Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC
2018/2019 NCRA President

5 tips to be a good court reporting advocate

NCRA is committed to serving you. Our primary objective is to protect the court reporting profession. Ultimately, however, protecting your livelihood depends on each one of you individually. You are the real troops, and it is your efforts that are the key to our success. Here are some suggestions to get you started on being an advocate for the court reporting profession:

  1. Know your legislators: USA.Gov will help you locate your federal legislators. Look up your state legislators. All members have valuable information on their web pages, including biographical information, voting history, how they voted on previous legislation, and committee assignments.
  2. Build a relationship: Use your elected officials’ websites and social media presence to see where they may be speaking while back in your state or district. Look for opportunities to interact in person with your elected officials beyond visiting their offices.
  3. Follow up: Follow through makes all the difference! Look for opportunities for further interaction.
  4. Include your colleagues: Remember that there is power in numbers! Ask your colleagues and fellow state association members to join you as an advocate. Building a coalition is one of the best ways to influence policy.
  5. Get support: As a member of NCRA, our Government Relations Department is ready to support you as you prepare for engagements with stakeholders by answering questions and offering feedback and resources. Let us know how we can help, and come to the NCRA Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp to build your advocacy skills.

Former NCRA lobbyist, now Maine’s attorney general, profiled

Aaron Frey, attorney general for the state of Maine and former NCRA lobbyist, was profiled in an article posted March 3 by the Press Herald.

Read more.