From the Executive Director: Advocacy and Local Legislation: See Something, Say Something

From the Executive Director
Walter Bacak, CAE

In recent months, a few state legislatures have taken steps that could affect voluntary certification programs such as ATA’s. These are certification programs that professionals can choose to pursue, but that are not mandatory to work in a given profession. The proposals range from no longer recognizing such voluntary credentials, since they might be considered barriers to the market (e.g., Louisiana1), to suggesting that the state should regulate the service, if the credential is that important (e.g., Ohio2), to somewhere in between (e.g., Michigan3 and Missouri4).

To address these concerns, ATA has joined the Professional Certification Coalition, a group of over 90 associations offering certification programs.5 The coalition, which aims to get in front of the issue in other states, is coordinated by the American Society of Association Executives.

Working on this certification issue is another example of ATA’s advocacy for translators and interpreters. This current effort follows last year’s Advocacy Day, when 50 ATA Annual Conference attendees met with their elected officials on Capitol Hill.6 ATA, through the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL)—more on JNCL below—continues to work for better wage rate survey reports through the Bureau of Labor Statistics; to educate government translation users about machine translation (MT); and to advocate for changes in how the government procures language services.

ATA’s advocacy efforts are coordinated by ATA’s Government Relations (GR) Committee in consultation with the Board of Directors. Underscoring the importance of this work, the chair of the GR Committee is always ATA’s President (Corinne McKay). The GR Committee members are the chairs of the Interpretation Policy Advisory Committee (Melinda Gonzalez-Hibner), Public Relations Committee (Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo), and Standards Committee (Jennifer DeCamp).

In addition to the efforts of ATA’s GR Committee, the Association is a longtime member of JNCL, a lobbying organization that advocates for the language industry primarily on the federal level.7 Many of the group’s members are foreign-language education associations, and ATA contributes a language enterprise perspective. JNCL provides us access to Congress for legislative issues and to the Executive Branch agencies involved in making and amending regulations. ATA’s alliance with JNCL includes a strong connection with the organization’s Executive Director Bill Rivers, as he is an experienced translator with expert knowledge of the language professions. We are also fortunate to have Bill serving on ATA’s GR Committee.

What can members do individually to assist in ATA’s advocacy? Be our eyes and ears at the local level. If you see legislation or regulations being proposed in your state or local municipality that may impact language services, please share the information with ATA President Corinne McKay: We will then work with local groups and JNCL to advocate for translators, interpreters, and language services companies.

  1. Crisp, Elizabeth. “Review of Occupational Licensing Would Begin Under Bill Advancing in House,” The Advocate (March 27, 2018),
  2. Vest, Chris. “Ohio Would Create 
State-Run Certification Programs,” Associations Now (September 10, 2018),
  3. Michigan HB 6114, Professional Certification Coalition (September 26, 2018), “Michigan Society of Association Executives Testifies at Committee on Regulatory Reform,” American Society of Association Executives (September 27, 2018),
  4. “Missouri Association Professionals Concerned with HB 1719 and Professional Credentialing,” American Society of Association Executives (May 25, 2018),
  5. Professional Certification Coalition,
  6. “Stepping Out on Capitol Hill: ATA’s First Advocacy Day in Washington, DC,” The ATA Chronicle (January–February 2018), 8, Also see: ATA T&I Advocacy Day 2017,
  7. Joint National Committee for Languages,
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