Hearing Date: April 25, 2011 - Bill No: SB 671
SENATE COMMITTEE ON BUSINESS, PROFESSIONS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Senator Curren D. Price, Jr., Chair
Bill No: SB 671 - Author: Price
As Amended: April 14, 2011 - Fiscal: Yes
SUBJECT: Shorthand reporters. Continuing education requirements.
SUMMARY: Requires the Court Reporters Board of California to establish continuing education requirements for renewal of a shorthand reporter certificate.
1) Certifies and regulates some 7,700 certified shorthand reporters (CSRs) and regulates 16 shorthand reporting schools by the Court Reporters Board of California (Board) within the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).
2) Provides that a CSR certificate is valid for one year, and may be renewed by applying for the certificate renewal, paying the renewal fee, and notifying the Board of any substantially related criminal convictions or of any disciplinary action taken by any regulatory agency against the licensee. (Business and Professions Code (BPC) § 8024)
3) Establishes various fees which may be charged by the Board, including fees for examinations, initial and renewal CSR certificates. (BPC § 8031)
4) General provisions of the Business and Professions Code require the director of DCA by regulation to develop guidelines for continuing education programs by DCA boards and bureaus to ensure that mandatory continuing education is used as a means to create a more competent licensing population. (BPC § 166)
1) Requires the Board, by July 1, 2012, to adopt regulations to establish minimum continuing education requirements for renewal of a CSR certificate.
2) Requires that, no earlier than six months after the effective date of the regulations, a CSR renewing a certificate must certify to the Board completion of the minimum continuing education requirements.
3) Requires the Board to ensure that the required continuing education is relevant to the practice of shorthand reporting.
4) Requires the Board to establish a procedure for approving continuing education course providers, and requires continuing education providers to comply with procedures established by the Board.
5) Authorizes the Board to establish a fee for providers of continuing education courses.
6) Authorizes the Board to establish exceptions to the continuing education requirements for individuals who cannot meet the continuing education requirements for reasons of health, military service, or undue hardship.
7) Requires the continuing education requirements to fully comply with the guidelines for mandatory continuing education established by DCA.
8) Additionally, authorizes the Board to adopt regulations to implement the continuing education provisions.
FISCAL EFFECT: Unknown. This bill has been keyed “fiscal” by Legislative Counsel.
1. Purpose. This bill is sponsored by California Court Reporters Association and Deposition Reporters Association (Sponsors) to require the Board to establish minimum approved continuing education requirements for renewal of all shorthand reporter (both court reporters and “freelance” reporters) certificates on or before July 1, 2012. According to the Sponsors, there are currently no provisions which ensure the consumer that the CSR is gaining or maintaining the education necessary to stay updated on the rules, regulations and statutes that affect the way they practice shorthand reporting. The Sponsors believe that continuing education will provide confidence to the citizens of the state that the verbatim record is and will continue to be held to the highest possible standards. Mandating continuing education requirements will ensure that all rules, regulations and statutes specific to the CSR are known by and followed by the CSR, according to the Sponsors.
2. Background. Certified shorthand reporters, commonly known as court reporters, typically engage in one of two types of shorthand reporting practice. “Official” reporters are individuals who work as employees of the court system, and “freelance” reporters are individuals hired privately by court reporting businesses and firms or attorneys to report depositions. In order to obtain licensure, both types of reporters must qualify by attending one of the 16 California schools of court reporting authorized by the Board and passing two written exams and a performance exam. There are currently approximately 7,700 certified shorthand reporter licensees statewide. The CSR certificate is issued for a one-year period, expiring on the last day of the birth month of the licensee.
3. Judicial Counsel Continuing Education Requirement. Beginning January 1, 2007, the Judicial Counsel of California adopted a continuing education requirement for all personnel employed by the Court, including court reporters (California Rules of Court, Title 10, Division 2, Chapter 8, Rule 10.451, ff.). The Rule requires each employee to complete 8 hours of continuing education every 2 years. The Judicial Council has listed education as a vital component in achieving the goals of its Long-Range Strategic Plan, which including access, fairness, and diversity; branch independence and accountability; modernization of management and administration; and quality of justice and service to the public.
4. Continuing Education for Court Reporters: A Legislative Sunset Review Issue. The issue of continuing education has been raised when reviewing the Board under the sunset review process. In 1996, the Joint Legislative Sunset Review Committee (Joint Committee) noted that the Board had been instrumental in attempting to provide leadership in the area of continuing education for the profession. At that time, there had been much discussion about the pros and cons of such requirements, but the Board had deleted a continuing education proposal from its 1994 legislation when it learned that the Governor would not approve it. At that time the Board stated, that many in the profession believe that the Board’s pre-license testing system keeps the standard of entry at an appropriate level, and the intensity demanded in the day-to-day requirements in this occupation drives the individual licensees to seek and find the educational training requirements necessary on their own initiative. However, others believe that the use of electronic information processing and the speed with which technologies are changing, are putting more pressure on the profession to keep the standard of performance at its highest level. Ultimately, the Joint Committee’s recommendation did not include pursuing continuing education. The issue was again raised in the 2004/2005 review of the Board, however, the Joint Committee did not recommend establishing a continuing education requirement, due primarily to the unwillingness of the Schwarzenegger Administration to establish a continuing education requirement.
5. Prior Legislation. AB 2189 (Karnette) from 2008, was substantially the same as this bill and would have required the Board to establish continuing education requirements by July 1, 2009. That bill was vetoed by the Governor stating that the continuing education requirements impose an additional burden on the regulated profession without justifying a compelling need.
6. Arguments in Support. In sponsoring the bill, California Court Reporters Association (CCRA), states that currently there are no structures in place that ensure that the CSR is gaining or maintaining the education necessary to stay updated on the rules, regulations and statutes affecting the practice of shorthand reporting. The recently-adopted Judicial Council rules mandating continuing education for all staff, including court reporters, does not specifically mandate that the official court reporter obtain continuing education specifically as it relates to the job of court reporting according to CCRA.
CCRA further states that in the world of ever-changing technology, the consumer of the products and services of the CSR expect to be offered and provided the latest technological advances that are available; i.e. real time reporting, Internet text streaming, transcript repositories, exhibit scanning and linking to transcripts, and much more. The job of a CSR has really morphed into more of an information manager, an important and integral component to the litigation process, according to CCRA.
Also sponsoring the bill, the Deposition Reporters Association of California (DRA) additionally argues that deposition reporting is one of the most critical parts of our system of resolving disputes. An accurate written record of who said what in court is essential if the outcome of judicial proceeding is to be accepted by the litigants and the public as non-arbitrary, fair, and credible, and against a backdrop, where a single error can translate into the distorted and arbitrary administration of justice, deposition reporting professionals absolutely must, not just at the time of licensure but throughout their careers, maintain the highest possible level of ethics and competence to protect consumers and our system of justice.
DRA suggests that continuing education as well as vigorous enforcement are the two tools regulatory boards use to ensure a sustained level of quality in licensed professionals throughout their careers.
DRA additionally argues that although official reporters who work in courtrooms must currently complete ongoing continuing education, deposition reporters must ensure the integrity and accuracy of the vital written record while working in a private commercial setting, even though they are hired by one of the parties in often hotly contested litigation.
Many arguments for the bill focus on informing CSRs about changes in laws and regulation, court procedures, and technological advances in the profession. In many cases, continuing professional development and education will be undertaken voluntarily by conscientious, motivated licensees on their own who are motivated to stay on top of their profession. Yet, the proponents of the bill point out that typically deposition reporters practice in isolated settings, apart from other CSRs and may not have ready access on their own to information regarding changing practices, technological advances, and changes in the law.
7. Regulatory Issues to be Addressed by the Board. In implementing the continuing education requirement for CSRs as provided in the bill, there are several issues that Board will need to consider, including:
a) Whether the continuing education requirements established by the Board will be in addition to or the same as the continuing education requirement established by the Judicial Council for official reporters. In other words, will a licensed CSR who is employed by the court and who must complete the continuing education required by the Judicial Council be required to fulfill as separate continuing education requirement to renew their license from the Board? While it seems appropriate that the two continuing education requirements work together, it is recommended that the specific nature and extent of how they work together be left to the Board to address through its regulatory process.
b) The bill broadly requires the Board to ensure that the required continuing education is relevant to the practice of shorthand reporting. In addition, general DCA guidelines require boards to ensure that mandatory continuing education is used as a means to create a more competent licensing population. These provisions will guide the Board in establishing the regulations, so that irrelevant courses will not be allowed for continuing education.
c) The bill does not specify the number of hours of continuing education would be required for each annual license renewal period. As stated above, the Judicial Council requirement for official reporters is to complete eight hours of continuing education every two years. The Board will need to determine an appropriate number of hours through its regulatory process.
d) The bill authorizes the Board to establish a fee for providers of continuing education courses. This provision, which authorizes but does not require, the Board to require the fee was added to the bill out of concern about the Board’s funding and staffing necessary to assume the new responsibility of approving continuing education providers. In addition, the bill currently does not establish a maximum fee level. An appropriate level will need to be amended in as the bill goes forward through the legislative process.
SUPPORT AND OPPOSITION:
California Court Reporters Association (Sponsor)
Deposition Reporters Association (Sponsor)
None received as of April 20, 2011
Consultant: G. V. Ayers