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.

Deaf community asks for more interpreters, closed captioning

JCR publications share buttonSioux Falls, S.D., residents who are hard of hearing are calling on city officials to provide more interpreters and closed captioning services to provide them with greater access to local government and jobs. This was reported in the Argus Leader on Oct. 24.

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Online newspaper reprints NCRA advocacy article

An article authored by NCRA Director of Government Relations Adam Finkel, which appeared in the April issue of the JCR, was reprinted in the April 25 issue of AMERICOURT University Prose, an online newspaper that serves the legal community. Finkel’s article, “Legislative Update: The effectiveness of grassroots advocacy,” was reprinted under the politics section of the paper.

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NCRA submits comments to the FCC on qualified captioners

On March 15, Adam Finkel, NCRA Director of Government Relations, submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission in response to a report filed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. NCRA’s comments corrected an assumption that there are not enough captioners to cover media markets outside of the top 25. Among other points, Finkel pointed out the availability of training (including NCRA’s new Certified Realtime Captioner certification) and that some captioners are unable to accept work despite being qualified due to the inconsistent transition between POTS lines and the IP lines. “Like the consumer groups and NAB, NCRA shares the goal of ensuring high-quality captioning,” Finkel stated in the comments.

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NCRA member discusses broadcast captioning in radio interview

The Takeaway interviewed NCRA member Amy Bowlen, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Imperial, Pa., and manager of training at VITAC, on March 3 about her captioning the recent GOP debates. Bowlen is also chair of NCRA’s Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters.

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Space is filling fast for 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp

NCRA Legislative Boot Camp logoRegister now to join the leaders from more than 40 state affiliates from across the country who are participating in the 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp being held March 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, Va. Space for the event, which is sponsored by NCRA’s government relations department, is limited.

Attendees will participate in sessions that include an introduction to politics, grassroots lobbying techniques, effectively communicating with the press, understanding NCRA’s 2016 federal initiatives, building lasting relationships, and what to expect when visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The schedule also includes mock hearings and role-playing exercises, as well as tips on how to promote the profession to external audiences and consumer groups and how to successfully testify before legislators.

Tiva Wood, RDR, CMRS, NCRA President-Elect, a freelance reporter from Mechanicsburg, Pa., has attended the camp twice. “Participants in the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp leave this intensive and very informative event armed with the knowledge and confidence they need to work with their lawmakers to help ensure that issues with a potential impact on the court reporting and captioning professions are addressed swiftly and accurately and in the highest professional manner possible,” she said. “The mock trial and role-playing exercises are extremely beneficial as well for preparing participants for their visits to Capitol Hill.”

Lead presenters will include Adam Finkel, NCRA’s Director of Government Affairs, and Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, from Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies.

The two-day training culminates with a trip to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where attendees will have the opportunity to meet with their respective legislators and their professional staff members, and gain experience in lobbying. Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend an event with one of NCRA’s legislative supporters.

During visits with lawmakers, Boot Camp attendees will be encouraged to urge their representatives to reauthorize the Training for Realtime Writers grants under the Higher Education Act passed by Congress in 2009. The Act created a competitive grant program to train realtime writers to provide both captioned information and communication access for the 30 million Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing. Programs established with past grants also aided working reporters in learning and polishing realtime skills.

Registration for the 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp is available online at NCRA.org/bootcamp. The cost is $175 per attendee. For more information, contact Adam Finkel, NCRA Director of Government Relations, at afinkel@ncra.org.

 

State affiliates gear up for 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp

LBC_logo_1color_newState 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 sessions that cover an introduction to politics, grassroots lobbying, effectively communicating with the press, understanding NCRA’s 2016 federal initiatives, building lasting relationships, and what to expect when participants visit Capitol Hill. Several sessions will also include mock hearings and role-playing exercises. Attendees will also learn how to promote the profession to external audiences and consumer groups and how to testify before legislators.

Lead presenters will include Adam Finkel, NCRA’s Director of Government Affairs, and Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, from Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies.

The two-day training culminates with a trip to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where attendees will have the opportunity to meet with their respective legislators and their professional staff members, and gain experience in lobbying. Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend an event with one of NCRA’s legislative supporters.

During visits with lawmakers, Boot Camp attendees will be encouraged to urge their representatives to reauthorize the Training for Realtime Writers grants under the Higher Education Act passed by Congress in 2009. The Act created a competitive grant program to train realtime writers to provide both captioned information and communication access for the 30 million Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing. Programs established with past grants also aided working reporters in learning and polishing realtime skills.

NCRA member Rachel Erickson, RPR, CRC, a CART captioner from Minneapolis, Minn., said this year’s Boot Camp will be the first she has ever attended. She is looking forward to learning about issues that affect the court reporting and captioning professions.

“I would like to be well versed with the legislative and political information I need as well as role-playing to help better equip me to promote and advocate our profession effectively and intelligently,” added Erickson, who is preparing to become president of the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters and Captioners.

“This will be my first time attending Legislative Boot Camp, and I am looking forward to learning additional tools I can use to promote our legislative interests and share the information with other reporters and students with common passions and interests,” said Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, who serves on NCRA’s Board of Directors.

“Meeting with legislators, especially from my home state, will definitely be highlight,” added Sati, who is also a court reporting educator and an independent captioner from Dayton, Minn.

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

“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.

NCRA member adds 2016 State of the Union speech to résumé

NCRA member Megan McKenzie writes the 2016 State of the Union address

Photo credit: U.S. House of Representatives

Ask any court reporter or captioner about the various assignments they’ve worked and the answers can range anywhere from a small town court case to a papal visit to a major sporting event. In the case of NCRA member Megan McKenzie, RPR, CRR, Arlington, Va., an official reporter for the U.S. House of Representatives, reporting last week’s State of the Union address delivered by President Barack Obama was just one more high-profile job well done.

A court reporter for 15 years, McKenzie said she began her career with the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2006, after a fellow court reporter suggested she apply for an opening that was posted. She began by reporting committee hearings, investigations, and press conferences before moving to the House floor in May 2008 to make the Congressional Record.

During her time working on Capitol Hill, McKenzie said she has also had the opportunity to take testimony from actors Richard Gere and Ben Affleck, as well as musician Ricky Martin, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke, and human rights activist Martin Luther King III. She’s also taken testimony from members of the U.S. Supreme Court, the president’s Cabinet, military officers, refugees from war-torn nations, and the CEOs of several major banking institutions.

“In my opinion, reporting for the U.S. House of Representatives is the most interesting court reporting job because of the wide variety of content we are exposed to, the caliber of witnesses who come to testify before Congress, the excitement of being on the House floor when there is an important vote pending, and the ever-changing political environment,” McKenzie said.

She noted that in comparison to the diversity in the technical content she is regularly exposed to when covering the Armed Services, Financial Services, and Foreign Affairs committees, among others, a presidential speech is much easier and requires very little preparation time.

Covering President Obama’s last State of the Union speech to the nation wasn’t the first time McKenzie has reported or captioned an event with a president in attendance. Other noteworthy assignments have also included captioning President George H. W. Bush’s speech on the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2005, Vice President Joe Biden’s Family and Friends Party prior to his inauguration where country singer Faith Hill performed and President Bill Clinton spoke, and the Let Freedom Ring Concert held in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day where President and Mrs. Obama were present. In 2014, McKenzie also reported an address by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

McKenzie attributes her ability to play the piano as part of her success as court reporter and credits her parents for suggesting the career path.

“When I was in high school, my parents suggested court reporting as a career for me because they knew a court reporter and thought it would be a good fit. I had played the piano growing up, so I already had experience with that type of manual dexterity. I definitely think playing the piano helped me progress through school and have heard from other reporters that playing the piano was helpful for them as well.”

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.

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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.

Online video captioning law celebrates five years

Oct. 8 marked the five-year anniversary of the Communications and Video Accessibility Act being signed into law. The CVAA mandated that any program that was captioned on air would also need to be captioned when it was placed online. The Act also required that smartphones have accessibility technology built in that would allow for captions. NCRA was a key part of the coalition, which was made up of dozens of organizations, that helped push the CVAA into law.

“The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act has been instrumental in making captions an expected part of the Internet experience,” says NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR of Canandaigua, N.Y. “There are still steps to be done to ensure that all online programming is accessible, but the CVAA has laid the framework for captioning more content that is both broadcast via traditional means and only made available online.  Thanks to our members who make this access available to those that require this important service, which is their fundamental right.”

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