California has a legislative bicameral body known as the Assembly and Senate with capitol in Sacramento. The legislature’s purpose is to write laws to protect the general welfare of the public and appropriate funds to the executive branch to ensure state government is functioning accordingly.
In the midst of lawmaking, legislators allow the public to view the institution in action through floor debates from the gallery or via online resources like CalChannel. Unfortunately, for the deaf and hard of hearing constituents closed-captioning resources have not been available as such struggles has been ongoing for almost 15 years.
The Florida Channel that provides coverage of the Florida State Legislature commenced closed captioning in 2005 and extended the closed captioning services online in 2012.
The Indiana legislature provides closed captioning services for the deaf and hard of hearing audience.
In 2001, then-Assemblyman Bob Pacheco (R-Walnut) introduced AB 772 and again in 2005, then-Assemblyman Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) introduced AB 181 to remedy that requires closed-captioning to be provided during Assembly floor sessions for the deaf and hard of hearing audience, but both bills died due to lack of hearing on the proposal.
Recently, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) inquired as to why there is a lack of closed captioning services during the Assembly floor sessions and committee hearings.
The Assembly Rules Committee Chief Administrative Officer, Debra Gravert, responded via correspondence to Assemblywoman Gonzalez’s inquiry, “In years past, it has been determined that, as much as we would like to serve the hearing impaired community, hiring a captioning service to “live caption” our televised sessions and committees would be extremely cost prohibitive.”
Gravert further explains that, “It is to my understanding that as a government entity we are exempt from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements regarding closed captioning, according to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations Title 47, Chapter 1, Subchapter C, Part 79.1, section e, paragraph (9). There are some other exemptions that may apply as well.”
However, Gravert explains that, “Assembly Rules Committee is able to make arrangements for sign language interpreters if a Member is requesting that assistance.”
Assemblywoman Gonzalez’s Legislative and Office Assistant Laurel Brodzinsky says, “We will continue to look into ways in which we can serve our hearing impaired constituents, although this difficult matter make take some time.”