May 11, 2000
Dear AALL Members and Users of Government Information,
The House Legislative Branch Appropriations Committee met on May 9 and reported the FY 2001 appropriations bill for legislative branch agencies that includes substantial cuts for the Government Printing Office's Congressional Printing & Binding (CP&B) and Salaries & Expenses (S&E) appropriations, as well as other legislative branch entities (CRS, GAO, the Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol).
Voting strictly along party lines, the Committee slashed $94 million across the legislative branch in order to meet allocations in the Budget Resolution (H.Con.Res. 290). During debate, Ranking Member David Obey (D-7th-WI) noted that the legislation leaves Congress with a total inability to meet their responsibilities to the American public. Rep. Edward Pastor (D-2nd-AZ), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Legislative, responding to the provisions of the bill that completely gut print publications from the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), said that FDLPs still need print publications to serve the public and that the bill is "a disservice to our constituents."
The CP&B is set at $65.5 million for FY 2001, a decrease of 11% from the current year. Among those publications which will no longer be produced in print are the Congressional Directory, the 2000 version of the official U.S. Code, hearings, reports, and other documents and publications. The majority on the Committee believe that electronic-only access to these core publications is sufficient.
Even more egregious is the 61% cut to the S&E that funds the FDLP. That appropriations has been slashed to $11.6 million from $29.9 million for FY 2000 in order to move immediately to a 100% electronic FDLP in FY 2001.
No further details about the cuts will be available until the House bill and report are published.
AALL endorses the fundamental principle that in a democratic society, citizens should have unimpeded access to information by and about their government. We believe this is the bedrock of our democracy. During the past five years, since the House first tried to impose drastic cuts to the FDLP, there has been a successful transition to a program that is today nearly 50% electronic.
However, before an all-electronic FDLP can be contemplated, we believe it is the government's responsibility to address two key challenges of the digital environment:
- assurance of permanent public access, which is critical to guarantee that government information available today only through the Internet will be available continuously and permanently for the future; and
- assurance of authenticity, which is critical to guarantee that the electronic version of all government publications, especially primary legal materials, are certifiable as authentic.
Letters should be faxed to all House members urging them to support the full budget request of $34.4 million for the FDLP which includes:
- $1.6 million for the award-winning GPO Access system (also urge them to help ensure permanent public access to electronic information);
- $3.3 million for the cataloging and indexing of government publications (which is even more important in the electronic environment to ensure that the American public can find the government information they need);
- $1 million for FDLP printing and distribution of the U.S. Code (mandated by law to be produced every 6 years).
Stress the AALL principles and bullet points noted above. Additional talking points are available in a "Fact Sheet on the FDLP"
and an "Appropriations Impact Statement."
Sample letters drafted by members of the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) are available.
Also, even though the House floor vote on this bill is tentatively scheduled for May 18th, call your representative's district office and invite him/her to your library or make an appointment for a face-to-face visit during the Memorial Day recess (the week of May 29th).
If possible, contact your library's users of government publications to tell them about the contemplated cuts and urge them to contact their representatives in Congress.
There is an immediate need to send letters to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to restore full funding to the FDLP. The Committee will tentatively mark-up their version of the bill on May 18th. Inform them of the draconian cuts that the House Appropriations Committee has passed and how important it is to maintain print copies of key government publications. Again, try to set up district meetings with your Senators during the Memorial Day recess, and bring along other librarians, faculty, users, even members of the public.
Our goal is to educate Members of Congress about the FDLP and the important role that the law library community plays in providing our nation's citizens with access to legal and government information. We need champions in Congress who understand the FDLP and the need to preserve core print materials. We want Members of Congress to continue to be the trustees of the FDLP, as they have been for the past 200 years.
Lastly, please contact Mary Alice via direct e-mail at email@example.com if we can count on your Representative and Senators to support the FDLP during this crisis. Thanks for your support. --Keith and Mary Alice
Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative