Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cosponsors 28 and 29 join HR 3101

Just tonight after some relaxing and researching, Caption Action 2 discovered that two more representatives became HR 3101 cosponsors!

Our new cosponsors are Representatives Lloyd Doggett (D-25) from Texas and Carolyn Maloney (D-14) from New York State. We needed a Texas representative and we got one!

This brings up our cosponsor count to 29!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

HR 3101 Can't Move Without Boucher! Here's Proof!

Today Caption Action 2 called Representative Mary Bono Mack's (she is on the critical House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet) office. Previously, we had apparently incorrectly reported in "Two Rejections and One Sign of Hope" that Bono Mack's office had said in an email, "At this time, the Congresswoman will not be cosponsoring H.R. 3101." Caption Action 2 thought that meant that she would not support HR 3101. What her office actually meant was something else!

Jamie called Mary Bono Mack's office with the intention of trying to find out what, if anything, could get Mary Bono Mack to change her mind. What followed was a frustrating conversation with Paul Cancienne, that made it very clear what we, the deaf and hard of hearing community, are up against. Bottom line: The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 CAN NOT move without Rick Boucher, the chairperson of the House Subcommittee, letting it move!!

Cancienne: (ANS) (M) this is paul
Jamie: hello paul this is jamie berke. i am aware already that ms. bono mack has already decided not to support the bill HR 3101 but I was wondering what would get her to change her mind? I'm not giving up yet. If you were deaf like me you would not give up either. ga
Cancienne: reports that the congresswoman opposes or supports hr 3101 are false and premature. the congresswoman has simply chosen not to cosponsor this legislation. there was a blog posting roughly 2 or 3 weeks ago that inaccurately stated the congresswoman's opposition. the congresswoman does have some concerns with this bill but again she has not expressed opposition. our current attitude towards the bill right now is that its not moving thru the legislature process. until it begins to move the congresswoman's lack of formal position and her concerns will remain the same. ga
Jamie: paul, do you know the idiom about the chicken and the egg qga
Cancienne: of course I do. ga
Jamie: that's the problem here. it is a chicken and egg situation. the reason the bill is not moving is because mr. boucher is apparently not letting the bill move. at the same time, there is nobody on the Subcommittee that cosponsors the bill so there is no one to encourage Mr. Boucher to let the bill move. that is the chicken and egg problem right here. ga
Cancienne: mr boucher could move the bill with no cosponsors. hes in control of the committee if he had uh if he wanted the bill to move it would move and then we would begin that process. he doesn't need us so we are where we are.
Cancienne: if this bill begins to move im happy to resume conversations with u and any group whose interested in legislation ga
Jamie: let me try this again. maybe i was not clear enough. what i am saying is that the bill is not moving because of mr. boucher. and furthermore there is nobody on the subcommittee who supports the bill so nobody is pushing mr. boucher to let the bill move. outside of the subcommittee there are representatives signing up to cosponsor the bill. barney frank just signed on two days ago. ga
Cancienne: well maybe [there are] problems with the legislation if no one on the subcommittee is supporting it uh again mr boucher does not need us to cosponsor this bill in order for it to move and to suggest lack of co-sponsorship uh as a sign of
opposition is just incorrect. at this point understand what your trying to say but our position is going to continue to be what it is and that is until this bill begins to move the congress woman is not gonna express support or opposition ga
Jamie: i see. what if the congresswoman's constituents were to contact her? people who live in her own area? would that help qga
Cancienne: it would hold on.. uh let me think about this uh.. any time the congresswoman welcome input form her constituents but her position remains the same. the congresswoman understands the issue and the concerns that all the
sides have ga
Jamie: i see. so it boils down to mr. boucher. until he lets the bill move you won't do anything. is this correct? ga or sk
Cancienne: essentially ga

After that Jamie asked what we can do. Cancienne suggested calling Boucher's office at 202-225-3861 and speaking with/emailing Amy Levine, his counsel on the Subcommittee,

This conversation Jamie had with Paul Cancienne shows very clearly that people on the House Subcommittee will not support HR 3101 UNTIL Rick Boucher allows it to move in the Subcommittee! EVEN IF people contact their Congresspeople on the Subcommittee the Representatives on the Subcommittee are totally deferring to Mr. Boucher, and won't do anything without Boucher! Nobody on the Subcommittee is willing to support HR 3101 because they are waiting for Boucher!

It has already been more than seven months since HR 3101 was introduced by Representative Ed Markey. Currently 27 Representatives outside of the Subcommittee have signed on. But, it is now very painfully clear, it does NOT matter how many people sign on to the bill, IF Rick Boucher does not let the bill move!! We must continue the effort to get cosponsors as support will be needed if the bill makes it out of committee, BUT our primary efforts must be focused on Rick Boucher!!!

As Jamie posted on Twitter today, "Why, oh why, does Congress let one person have so much power??? It is unfair!! Our bill is held hostage by Rick Boucher!!"

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

HR 3101 Gets 27th Cosponsor

Joseph Ponte alerted us to his Proof of Democracy! Re: HR3101 blog post. HR 3101 just got its 27th cosponsor!

Let us welcome Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank (D-4).

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Monday, January 25, 2010

LA Times Writer Blasts HR 3101!

Today's editorial in the Los Angeles Times should give every deaf or hard of hearing person reason to be concerned. The writer is opposed to HR 3101. His unwarranted argument is that because technology is advancing, there is no need for HR 3101. He doesn't mention captioning but takes aim at the entire bill.

That is definitely not true! We need HR 3101 to guarantee our legal right to access. Without it, we are at the mercy of companies that choose whether to provide access.

Deaf and hard of hearing people of a certain age may recall what happened with the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990. That bill was passed to solve a chicken or egg problem. Companies didn't want to caption until more decoders were sold. Deaf and hard of hearing people didn't want to buy decoders until there was more captioned programs!

So what happened? We got some, but not that much, increase in captioned programming. Even with all TVs 13 inches or bigger now capable of showing closed captions, broadcasters were STILL reluctant to caption. So Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which mandated a schedule of increased captioning.

The LA Times writer's claim of "steeper prices, increased bulk and reduced functionality" is the same argument companies used with the 1990 Act. Quite the opposite happened. Prices didn't increase that much if at all. The captioning circuitry was quite small and today can fit on a chip. There was more functionality in terms of people being able to turn on the captioning when needed. Turning it on was as simple as pressing a button on the remote or use of onscreen menus.

Without the Telecommunications Act of 1996 would you be able to enjoy as much programming as you do now on regular television? Would broadcasters have begun captioning out of the goodness of their hearts? Some would have. Others would have refused citing cost. And the deaf and hard of hearing would not have had a legal leg to stand on.

Do you want history to repeat itself? Yes, technology is advancing. However, as that earlier experience shows, just because the technology is available doesn't mean that the companies will do it! It is the reluctant ones who have to be forced to do it through the law.

So we must not allow the ideas posed by the LA Times writer to propagate (spread). If his type of thinking is allowed to spread, we can kiss HR 3101 goodbye and forget about having any legal protection for when companies "forget" to include closed captioning on their Internet television programming and video programming devices.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Now Caption Action 2 is Upset. Boucher Again!

Today Caption Action 2 found out something that made us upset. For good reason. Remember Rick Boucher, the chairperson of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet?? He just signed on to a DIFFERENT bill that also benefits deaf and hard of hearing people: HR 3024, the Medicare Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act. He ALREADY cosponsors HR 1646, the Hearing Aid Tax Credit.

YET, Boucher won't allow HR 3101, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009, to move! We need for him to allow it to move!!

WHY does Boucher so readily support those other two bills for deaf and hard of hearing people and not HR 3101?? HR 3101 is just as important, if not MORE important, than those two bills!

We don't have the answers! What we DO know, is that it is urgent, important, mega critical, imperative, that YOU call your representatives in Congress, INCLUDING and ESPECIALLY those on the Subcommittee. That you write. That you blog and publicly post your letters to your Representatives. That you contact your local media. Caption Action 2 can not do it alone!

How does this make you feel? The chairperson of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet is supportive of those other bills, but not our bill, the one that YOU need to guarantee yourself and deaf children an accessible future on the Internet!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Two Rejections and One Sign of Hope

Caption Action 2 was recently notified that two representatives would not support HR 3101. The ONLY way to get them to change their minds is IF enough people contact them.

And a special treat, a vlog from Kate Breen at the end of this post.

Rejection from Member of House Subcommittee

First, on December 7, 2009, Jamie received a rejection email from two staff members in Representative Mary Bono Mack's office. This one really hurt, because Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) is on the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet! That is the Subcommittee that has HR 3101, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009. The email came from Paul Cancienne ( and Chris Foster ( This email stated:
At this time, the Congresswoman will not be cosponsoring H.R. 3101.
But that doesn't have to be the final answer! If we, the deaf and hard of hearing community, can show Representative Bono Mack how much this bill means to us by bombarding those two men with emails, maybe we can get her to change her mind! Anyone can send an email to those two men because the Subcommittee represents the entire United States. However, it would be even better if people who live in Mary Bono Mack's district, the 45th district of California, would contact those two men! Check to see if you live in Mary Bono Mack's district, or if you know someone else who does!

Update: What the message above meant was that Bono Mack is not opposed to HR 3101, but neither will she support it. See the newer blog post HR 3101 Can't Move Without Boucher! Here's Proof! for an explanation.

A Form Letter = Rejection

After having talked with Jim Richardson ( in Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-KS)'s office, Caption Action 2 had high hopes because Richardson specializes in disability issues. Then yesterday, Caption Action 2 got a form letter from Tiahrt's office that said "While I do not sit on this committee, if this bill reaches the floor of the House, I will be sure to keep your concerns in mind." That translated into a rejection, because it essentially means "I am not going to cosponsor the bill, but if it somehow moves, I will remember what you said."

Deaf and hard of hearing people and families in Kansas' 4th District (check to see if you live in Kansas' 4th District or if you know someone who does) should send email to Jim Richardson telling them how important HR 3101 is to them and asking that Tiahrt change his mind about not cosponsoring HR 3101.

Any Hope Here? Maybe!

Today Caption Action 2 had a positive telephone conversation with Jordan Downs, a disability and ADA issues specialist in Representative Gregg Harper's (R-MS) office! Downs is eager to hear from deaf and hard of hearing people in Harper's district - the third district of Mississippi. Check to see if you live in his district or if you know someone else who does! Downs can be contacted at

Disability specialists like Downs could be key to the HR 3101 campaign. Who else would better understand our needs and be best able to convince the Representatives to cosponsor HR 3101?

Kate Breen Vlogs About HR 3101!

Today Kate Breen (breen315) uploaded a signed video to YouTube about HR 3101:

Update: Joseph Ponte alerted us to his HR-3101 Help the cause! post in his I'm Sorry, Say That Again... blog.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

January - Get Ready to Push for HR 3101!

A new year is here, and with it, our last and best chance to push for the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (HR 3101)'s passage. Representatives will not be back at work until January 12, but the staff is already back in their offices. Now is the time to contact the Congress staff to ask that their bosses, the Representatives, cosponsor HR 3101.

Operation Get a Republican

One of our greatest needs at the moment, is to get Republican support for HR 3101. Last year, none of the Representatives who cosponsored the previous version of the bill were Republican, and that may have contributed to the bill's failure. Caption Action 2 has been in contact with many Republicans' offices, and we are hopeful that soon, we may have our first Republican cosponsor.

Several staff in Republicans' offices have told Caption Action 2 that they will review the bill and bring it up to the Representatives for consideration. These Republican Representatives' offices have said they will review the bill:

Representative Boehner, John (Ohio) - Note: Boehner leads Republicans in Congress. If we could get Boehner's support, that will really pave the way! Check to see if you live in his Ohio District.
Representative Broun, Paul (Georgia)
Representative Cole, Tom (Oklahoma) - Note: Cole is the only Native American in Congress.
Representative Davis, Geoff (Kentucky)
Representative Jenkins, Lynn (Kansas)
Representative Posey, Bill (Florida)
Representative Rogers, Mike (Michigan)
Representative Shaddegg, John (Arizona)
Representative Smith, Lamar (Texas)
Representative Tiahrt, Todd (Kansas)
Representative Westmoreland, Lynn (Georgia)
Representative Wilson, Joe (South Carolina)
Representative Wittman, Robert (Virginia)

If any of these are your Representatives, please contact them! Check the updated Congress Staff spreadsheet on the blogroll to the right; we have added DC phone numbers. If other people besides Caption Action 2 contact them, it will improve the chances of their becoming cosponsors!

Just getting the offices to say in writing that they will review the bill is an accomplishment. At least 10,000 bills are introduced in each Congress! THAT's the kind of competition for attention that we face.

Time is Short!

Caption Action 2 has been told by at least one staffer that it could be at least a few weeks before we hear anything from them. That means we may not see new cosponsors until February! We have less than a year, maybe eight months, to get this bill passed in both the House and the Senate. The eight month estimate was arrived at by subtracting holidays, weekends, and Congressional break periods. Add to that the fact that this is an election year for Congress, and we could be dealing with some very distracted Representatives.

Caption Action 2 January Newsletter

Some of the information here has been taken from the January Caption Action 2 newsletter. Read the full newsletter here:

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