The 2016 election: How the results will affect the profession

Photo by Vox Efx

Photo by Vox Efx

By Matthew Barusch

At long last, this election is over. The American people have cast their ballots, and perhaps the most unique and consequential presidential campaign in recent history has reached its conclusion. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been elected as the 45th President of the United States. President-elect Trump will now prepare to govern with a fully Republican Congress, and for the first time since 2001, the Republican Party will have control of all three branches of government.

The effects of a Trump administration on the court reporting profession are relatively uncertain, partially because uncertainty surrounds his upcoming presidency. Trump will be expected to fulfill numerous promises he made during his campaign, including his policies on immigration, the economy, and foreign affairs. Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be able to target all of the Obama administration policies that the party has been fighting against for years, including the Affordable Care Act, executive orders on immigration, and energy restrictions on fossil fuels. The vacancy on the Supreme Court will also likely be filled within the first few months. Merrick Garland’s nomination is likely to be tossed aside after Trump’s inauguration in favor of a conservative judge off the list he circulated during his campaign.

With these issues as the primary focus going into Trump’s presidency, issue areas affecting the court reporting profession such as education will likely take a back seat. If and when education is taken up, it will potentially be viewed as an area for budget cuts, which may rule out any new appropriations for court reporting programs.

Trump has also spoken to his desire to make the country safer and improve the country’s infrastructure. A case could be made for the revival of the Local Courthouse Safety Act, particularly in a time where the country is focused on violent shootings and the public is uneasy. In past iterations, the proposed legislation would distribute existing surplus security equipment to local and state courthouses to enhance the security infrastructure of courthouses that lack them. Such legislation would speak to Trump’s campaign promises; however, it is likely that the focus of his administration and the 115th Congress will be on fulfilling his more high-profile pledges.

A broader look at the congressional elections shows that members of Congress who support the court reporting industry have been re-elected on both sides of the aisle in both chambers. In the Senate, Sen. Patty Murray has won re-election in Washington with 61 percent of the vote. Sen. Murray is likely to become Minority Conference Chair in the Senate and remain the ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which will give NCRA a powerful ally in the Senate minority. In the House, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries in New York, Rodney Davis and John Shimkus in Illinois, Suzan Delbene in Washington, Ron Kind in Wisconsin, and Dennis Ross in Florida all won re-election. As a result, NCRA retains a strong list of allies on important committees, such as the House Judiciary Committee, which are primarily responsible for addressing education issues of import to the profession. There are also some newcomers to Congress this cycle who are likely to support initiative affecting court reporting. One such person is Jimmy Panetta, who won election in California as Representative for the 20th Congressional District.

NCRA will continue to work for the court reporting profession with its allies in the 115th Congress and looks forward to a hopeful and prosperous future ahead.

Matthew Barusch is NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations. He can be reached at mbarusch@ncra.org.

Court reporters recognized by U.S. representative

Remarks made on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, recognizing the important work of court reporters in making the official record, were included in the Feb. 29 issue of the Congressional Record.

Read more.

NCRA cosponsors forum and reception focused on preventing hearing loss

Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. David McKinley, and Andy Bopp, HIA, at the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus reception

(From left) Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. David McKinley, and Andy Bopp, HIA

On Oct. 21, NCRA joined more than 150 Congressional staffers, hearing advocates, and guests at a screening reception hosted by the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus. The event, which was held at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., included hearing screenings by hearing health professionals and earbud-noise testing sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

About 50 attendees had their hearing screened and ears checked by volunteer audiologists, hearing-aid dispensers, and otolaryngologists. Professionals were also on hand to provide advice about preventing hearing loss and options available to those who have experienced hearing loss.

“NCRA is privileged to be a part of events such as this forum sponsored by the FCHHC. Raising awareness of how consumers can protect their hearing through screenings and understand that there are options available to assist them in improving their quality of life with hearing loss is a vital service this Congressional Hearing Health Caucus provides,” said NCRA’s Director of Government Relations Adam Finkel.

The Congressional caucus aims to broaden support and knowledge of hearing health-care issues within Congress and provide an educational setting for discussion of issues related to hearing health. Honorary co-hosts of the event were Reps. David McKinley (W.Va.) and Mike Thompson (Calif.).

In remarks to attendees, Rep. Thompson noted that hearing health is an important element of overall health care and that it is critical to address hearing loss early to avoid negative impacts on a person’s learning and earning potential.

In addition, Rep. McKinley noted the importance of following up on passage of HR1344, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention bill, which was passed by the House in September and is now being considered by the Senate.

In addition to NCRA, other Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus include: A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Academy of Doctors of Audiology; American Academy of Audiology; American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery; American Cochlear Implant Alliance; American Speech-Language Hearing Association; Hearing Network Alliance; International Hearing Society; National Association of the Deaf; Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf; and Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

To learn more about the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Caucus, contact Adam Finkel at afinkel@ncra.org.

NCRA cosponsors luncheon focused on improving outcomes for children with hearing issues

On June 11, NCRA joined a number of organizations to cosponsor a briefing luncheon hosted by the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus. The luncheon, which was held at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., featured experts discussing programs that are designed to improve outcomes for children who are born deaf or hard of hearing.

Rep. David McKinley addresses the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus

Rep. David McKinley addresses the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus

The Congressional caucus, which aims to broaden support and knowledge of hearing health care issues within Congress and provide an educational setting for discussion of issues related to hearing health, is chaired by both Reps. David McKinley and Mike Thompson. Reps. McKinley and Thompson both served as honorary hosts of the event.

Speakers at the luncheon event included Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, and Dana Suskind, M.D., Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Chicago Medicine.

“NCRA has long supported the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus and appreciates the value it brings to the constituents and stakeholders of the many organizations that support it,” said Adam Finkel, NCRA’s Director of Government Relations.

“NCRA looks forward to continuing to be an active friend of the group and bringing awareness to lawmakers and the public about the many issues that surround broadcast and CART captioning, hearing health, and issues that affect individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing,” he added.

Rep. Lois Capps addresses the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus

Rep. Lois Capps addresses the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus

The briefing focused on efforts to follow-up with children who are born deaf or hard of hearing to ensure the best outcome possible. Dr. Fitzgerald examined Georgia’s Early Hearing Detection & Intervention follow-up programs, while Dr. Suskind spoke about the 30 Million Words initiative, which she founded to focus on the importance of early exposure to language.

Newborn hearing screening programs have been implemented in all 50 states with funding provided by Congress through the Early Hearing Detection & Intervention program that was first authorized in 2000. EHDI programs include hearing screenings at birth, diagnostic evaluations to confirm hearing status, and early intervention including medical services, early intervention programs, and family support. When EHDI was first approved in 2000, only 44 percent of newborns had their hearing screened; however, the implementation of EHDI nationwide has resulted in nearly universal hearing screening at birth with 98 percent of newborns screened. Reps. Brett Guthrie and Lois Capps have introduced legislation (HR1344) to reauthorize EHDI this year.

In addition to NCRA, other Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus include: A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Academy of Doctors of Audiology; American Academy of Audiology; American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery; American Cochlear Implant Alliance; American Speech-Language Hearing Association; Hearing Network Alliance; International Hearing Society; National Association of the Deaf; Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf; and Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. To learn more about the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Caucus, contact Adam Finkel at afinkel@ncra.org.

2015 Court Reporting & Captioning Week recognized by U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta

U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta (N.H.) recognized the 2015 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week, Feb. 15-21, in a floor speech at the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 12. In his remarks, he thanked court reporters and captioners working across the nation, noted the vital role in history court reporters have served, and acknowledged his own parents who were court reporters, as well as NCRA Board of Directors member Michele York, RMR.

Read more. Watch the video.

Why ending sequestration is good for official court reporters

President Barack Obama has called on Congress to end the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration and proposed a 7 percent hike in spending above those limits. In translation, the move would mean federal workers, including official court reporters in federal courts, would be protected under sequestration from losing their salaries should the government face a shutdown. An article posted by USA Today on Jan 29 takes an in-depth look at the measure.

Read more.

NCRA member recognized in Congressional Record

Joe W. Strickland, RPR, CRR, CCP, retiring Chief Reporter of Debates for the U.S. House of Representatives, was recognized from the chamber floor according to the proceedings and debates recorded in the Jan. 2 edition of the Congressional Record. Strickland, who has served in the position for nearly 22 years, was recognized especially for his dedication to capturing the record.

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Senate to vote on ratification of U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty

On July 21, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty, sending it to the Senate floor. In order for the United States to join the other 147 countries that have ratified the treaty, the treaty will need to be approved by two-thirds of the voting senators and then signed by the president. The treaty requires the following provisions from all countries that have ratified it:

  • Non-discrimination against individuals with disabilities
  • Allowing individuals with disabilities full and effective participation and inclusion in society
  • Respect for differences and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
  • Equality of opportunity for individuals with disabilities

The treaty is a significant step forward promoting and ensure disability rights. Earlier this year, NCRA, through the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance, took submitted letters to all senators, asking for their support in ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Last congress, the CRPD failed to secure the two-thirds of all senators, with all 54 Democrats and seven Republicans voting in favor. Thirty-eight Republicans voted against the treaty.

NCRA needs your help to pass the CRPD treaty. To submit a letter in support of the treaty, visit disabilitytreaty.org and use their online resources. To view the letter that was submitted by the DHHA previously, click here. If you have any questions, contact NCRA’s government relations department.

Senator wants closed captioning of in-flight movies

The Hill posted an article on a June 5 blog about U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s push for U.S. airlines to add closed captioning to movies that are shown during long flights in an effort to aid airline passengers who are hearing impaired. During a markup of the measure on Thursday, Harkin said he was considering adding an amendment requiring the airline industry to at least study the proposal for a $54 billion funding bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

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Keynote links hearing loss and healthy aging at Hearing Health Caucus event

Anthony DeMarco, Connie Templin, and Darlene Parker pose in front of the NCI display

Anthony DeMarco, Connie Templin, and Darlene Parker pose in front of the NCI display

The Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus hosted a briefing luncheon and hearing screenings on May 22. The caucus is co-chaired by Reps. Tom Latham of Iowa, and Carolyn McCarthy of New York, and NCRA is one of dozens of affiliated Friends of the caucus. Brandon Schall, NCRA’s government relations specialist, was one of approximately 30 hearing health professionals and government representatives in attendance. “NCRA is pleased to help sponsor the Hearing Health Caucus, and we look forward to continue being an active member of the group by bringing awareness on all hearing health issues,” said Schall.  The American Cochlear Implant Alliance, Starkey, and Siemens had exhibits on types of hearing aids, as well as a display of historical hearing devices from the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the National Captioning Institute provided a demonstration of live captioning. Christine Slezosky, RPR, CBC, CCP, of Annapolis, Md., was the CART provider for the keynote address.

Christine Slezosky, RPR, CBC, CCP, gets ready to CART caption the event

Christine Slezosky, RPR, CBC, CCP, gets ready to CART caption the event

Frank R. Lin, M.D., Ph.D., gave the keynote address, Hearing loss in older adults: A public health perspective. Lin began his talk by explaining that age-related hearing loss, or ARHL, is a normal process – in fact, two-thirds of people 70 and older have a meaningful hearing impairment – but this hearing loss can lead to more than just a decline in quality of life. “If you think about hearing loss in the context of healthy aging,” Lin said, “it becomes really important.”

Lin explained that when the cochlea in the ear begins sending fuzzy sound signals to the brain, the brain then needs to devote more resources to decoding the information, resources that could be used toward memory or thought. This can then lead to cognitive decline, which could imply a higher risk for dementia. Cognitive decline can also be linked to physical disability, like prevalence for falls, or social isolation.

Darlene Parker gives a presentation of the NCI to keynote speaker Dr. Frank Lin (third from left) and others

Darlene Parker gives a presentation on the NCI to keynote speaker Dr. Frank Lin (third from left) and others

A randomized clinical trial on the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline/dementia is being planned with the National Institute of Health, but it will take several years for results. In the meantime, Lin recommended four ways to improve the situation: raise awareness, change the regulatory climate, provide easier access to services, and increase funding. The Center for Disease Control does not yet provide information for ARHL on its website. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration set its regulations for hearing health care in 1977, and the 1965 Medicare Act precludes therapeutic audiology services. At this time, getting treated for mild hearing loss can involve six months of seeing specialists and cost an average of $5,000, which is a bundled price for a device, therapy, and counseling. However, technology has changed a lot in the past few decades, and we now have the potential to provide “over-the-counter” type hearing aids that incorporate Bluetooth technology and would cost only about $100-200. Lin proposed that community health care workers could do screenings in the field and provide these types of devices to counteract mild hearing loss, leaving the more severe cases for audiologists. Finally, the discrepancy in Congressional funding between hearing and vision research is $415 million vs. $693 million, respectively.

Lin concluded his talk by comparing the current situation with ARHL and the situation with hypertension in the 1990s. Like ARHL, hypertension was viewed as a normal consequence of aging, and the fact that hypertension led to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke was accepted. Now, however, when patients are diagnosed with hypertension, they have a medical intervention with medication and lifestyle changes. Lin suggested that the same could be done for ARHL.

Rep. McCarthy, who wears a hearing aid herself, echoed many of Lin’s statements. “It’s not right that people who don’t have the money can’t get hearing aids,” she said. “It’s important that we get the message out … [hearing aids] can make such a difference in someone’s life.”

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