Washington E-Bulletin - October 2012

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Vol. 2012, Issue 9

A Look Ahead

 

With Five Weeks till Election, Washington on Hold

Both the Senate and the House are holding pro forma sessions until after the November elections, a move likely made to prevent President Obama from making recess appointments. It's probable that no legislative business will be conducted over the next five weeks. As a recent Politico article stated, "Let the recess shenanigans begin."  

 

Members of Congress returned to their districts after passing a continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 117) at the end of September to keep the government funded through March 2013. While we don't anticipate much action on issues critical to AALL before the lame-duck session begins, your Government Relations Office (GRO) staff is tracking several important bills. In particular, the Congressional Research Service Electronic Accessibility Resolution of 2012 (H. Res. 727) must gain approval by the Committee on House Administration if it is to see any chance of passage in the lame-duck. Before recessing, the House voted to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act (H.R. 5949), and the Senate version of the bill (S. 3276) will likely be considered before the end of the year. If approved, the FISA Amendments Act will extend the National Security Agency's controversial warrantless wiretapping program for another five years. Finally, on Friday, September 28, the House approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) (S. 743) by voice vote. With nearly all members now back in their districts to campaign, both chambers had agreed to the provisions of WPEA in advance. The bill will be sent back to the Senate for final passage.

 

While Congress is quiet this month, the GRO will continue to work with agencies in support of information policy issues. For example, we will continue to support the National Archives and Records Administration in helping agencies address e-records management in light of the recent directive. We will also work with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) on matters related to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Last month, DOJ's Office of Information Policy (OIP), the office responsible for FOIA administration, issued new guidance to help make agencies' use of FOIA exemptions more transparent. The guidance will require agencies to report annually the number of times they applied an exclusion and provide educational information about exclusions in their response letters to requesters and on their FOIA website, hopefully bringing greater clarity and accountability to a practice that concerns many open government advocates. AALL also supports the launch of the new FOIAonline, which allows users to track requests, communicate with agencies directly, and receive records electronically. GRO staff participated in discussions with the agencies as they developed this new portal. Participating agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency, Merit Systems Protection Board, Department of Commerce, Federal Labor Relations Authority, and NARA.

 

Law Via the Internet Conference October 7-9

AALL Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren will join Tina Ching, Electronic Services Librarian at the Seattle University School of Law, and Judy Gaskell, Librarian of the Court (ret.) at the United States Supreme Court Library, to present at the 2012 Law Via the Internet Conference next week in Ithaca, NY. The panelists will present on the first-ever National Inventory of Legal Materials in a panel titled "Can We Trust What's Online? Conclusions from the National Inventory of Legal Materials." The program will provide a status report and summarize the initial findings (more information below), describe how the data is being used to update AALL's groundbreaking reports on digital authentication and preservation, and explain how the inventory helps public access advocates promote enactment of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA).

Act Now

 

Receiving Unordered and Unwanted Materials from Vendors? Tell the FTC!

The Government Relations Office, working with the Consumer Advocacy Caucus under the direction of the AALL Executive Board, has issued a new Action Alert asking you to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if your law library receives unwanted and unordered merchandise from a legal materials vendor. AALL Vendor Liaison Margie Maes urged members in her May 2012 Update to submit complaints to the FTC because a rise in complaints may spur the FTC to revise a rule concerning the Use of Prenotification Negative Option Plans. The current rule only applies to individual consumers, such as those who join a subscription club. In 2009, AALL submitted comments to the FTC urging the agency to revise the rule to cover institutional consumers including law libraries. The FTC has not yet taken any action. Please follow the instructions in our new alert to submit complaints to the FTC.

 

Have You Joined AALL's Advocacy Team?  

Though we're bound to see a quiet end to the 112th Congress, your GRO staff is already looking forward to the 113th Congress and are planning ways for you to get more involved!  Here's a friendly reminder to complete our brief Advocacy Team questionnaire if you haven't already done so. By providing information about yourself and your interests, you'll help to strengthen our grassroots advocacy and allow us to help you become an even more effective advocate.

 

Don't forget to complete our short Print Resource Usage Log each time you use a federal legal resource in print. We still need your help to build the case for print legal materials and your stories will make a difference on Capitol Hill.

 

Last but not least, be sure to save the date for AALL's upcoming online advocacy training on January 16 at 12:00 p.m. EDT. We'll cover everything you need to know about advocating in the new Congress, from answering your questions about who can advocate to providing tips and tricks on how to do so. We hope you can join us!

AALL in the States

 

Preliminary Analysis of AALL's State Legal Inventories   

AALL's Digital Access to Legal Information Committee (DALIC) and Government Relations Office have released a summary analysis of AALL's state legal inventories. The analysis, which updates the conclusions of AALL's State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources and 2009-2010 update, answers questions related to Official Status, Authentication, Preservation, Permanent Public Access, and Copyright for six online primary legal materials: the Administrative Code, Administrative Register, Statutes, Session Laws, High Court Opinions and Appellate Court Opinions.

 

The GRO and DALIC found that while no additional states have begun authenticating their online legal materials since the 2009-2010 update, eight more states have designated at least one online primary legal resource as official, bringing the total number doing so to 24. Our summary chart links to each state's inventory so anyone can access the underlying information. We applaud the hundreds of AALL volunteers who contributed their time to their state's inventory and made this analysis possible.

 

The DALI Committee and GRO continue to work with AALL volunteers to complete several state inventories that have not yet been verified. We will continue to update the chart as we receive more information from state working group coordinators or learn of changes in the states.

 

California Enacts UELMA

Submitted by Michele FinertyNOCALL Government Relations Committee chair

California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1075, the bill to enact UELMA, on September 13, 2012. SB 1075 (Chapter 310, California Statutes of 2012) provides that the California Constitution, the state statutes, and the California Codes will be the authenticated online documents. Sponsored by the Senate Committee on Rules, SB 1075 leaves open the option to include additional categories of legal material through amendment, and it establishes that the official publisher of the electronic legal material is the Legislative Counsel Bureau of California. The act is slated to become operative on July 1, 2015.

 

Michele Finerty, Judy Janes, David McFadden, and Larry Meyer worked closely with the members of the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL), the Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL), the San Diego Area Law Libraries (SANDALL), and the Council of California County Law Librarians (CCCLL) to coordinate a strategy that contributed to the success of this initiative. Throughout the year, they coordinated their efforts with Diane Boyer-Vine, Legislative Counsel of California, and Dragomir Cosanici, supervising librarian, Office of Legislative Counsel, as the bill passed through the California Senate and Assembly committees and onto Governor Brown to sign. As in the case of Colorado, which was the first state to enact UELMA, the next step for California is to determine the authentication method to be used.  This will be explored in the near future. 

 

Preparing to Advocate for UELMA in 2013

With the enactment of UELMA in Colorado and California this year, many states are hoping to follow on the Act's success in 2013. Uniform Law Commissioners in 10 states have already placed UELMA on their enactment plans for next year, demonstrating their commitment to promoting and prioritizing the bill. Those states are: Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington, D.C. The GRO is working with law librarians and chapters in each state to pursue enactment. We are also exploring the possibility of introduction in several more states. If you're interested in getting involved, please contact AALL Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren at efeltren@aall.org.

 

SNELLA Government Relations Chair Jonathan Stock attended the Connecticut Library Association Legislative Committee Meeting in Middletown on September 6. Among multiple legislative objectives shared in common, UELMA passage was especially important from the AALL/SNELLA prospective.  Jon writes, "Vigorous steps are being taken on all sides to assure that UELMA is reintroduced in the 2013 session early on. Special attention is being given to assure that this time--in contrast to the failed S.B. 418 last year--the new effort will be a separate bill not linked with companion legislation. Prospects, at this time, are positive."

 

New Connecticut Bar Association Law Library Section Holds Inaugural Meeting

Submitted by Jonathan Stock, SNELLA Government Relations chair

The Connecticut Bar Association Law Library Section held its first organizational meeting on July 19, 2012 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale Law School. Graciously hosted by Section co-chair Jason Eiseman, it made excellent progress on all fronts: planning Continuing Legal Education Courses for 2012-2013; arranging for a full Section vote on whether to adopt the Executive Committee Recommendation for UELMA passage next year; and constituting the three remaining standing committees--Outreach, Continuing Legal Education, and Legislation. All these matters have advanced in excellent fashion. Work is ongoing for our first educational offering at present. The full membership has, by majority vote, endorsed UELMA passage next year. Necessary UELMA related documents have been drafted for consideration by the CBA Legislative Policy & Review Committee next month. Our three standing committees are duly established and working. The next meeting is scheduled for October 16 at CBA headquarters in New Britain.


Roundup and Review

 

  • Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) urges President Obama to issue an Executive Order on cybersecurity.
  • The Government Accountability Office finds some successes, someroom for improvement on E-Government
  • Register for the Federal Depository Library Conference, Oct. 15-18!
  • And speaking of Twitter... follow us at @AALL-GRO!