Washington E-Bulletin - February 2014

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Vol. 2014, Issue 02

A Look Ahead

Congress Set to Take Action on Net Neutrality
Back to work in its second session, the 113th Congress looks poised to debate net neutrality in the coming months. A group of congressional Democrats has introduced a bill to restore the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules.  The Open Internet Preservation Act (H.R. 3982) was introduced today by California Representatives Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo. A Senate companion bill by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts is expected soon.

In January the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the FCC’s net neutrality efforts, ruling the FCC could not apply anti-blocking and nondiscrimination rules to broadband providers as it did in its Final Rule on Preserving the Open Internet in 2011. The ruling means that companies could create a tiered pricing structure for Internet access and block or slow down any website, application, or service.

AALL strongly supports the principle of net neutrality, which ensures that all Internet traffic is treated equally. Without net neutrality, commercial Internet service providers may charge different fees for content and may tamper with the speed at which you can access certain services.  If that happens, law library users may not be able to dependably access the online legal information or research materials they need. A lack of net neutrality threatens law libraries’ ability to provide unfettered access to the Internet and impedes the free flow of information, particularly if libraries cannot afford imposed fees.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the FCC will “consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.” More than a million people signed a petition calling on the FCC to "reassert the agency’s clear authority over our nation’s communications infrastructure" by reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service subject to common carriage rules. President Obama also recently reaffirmed his support for net neutrality during a chat on Google Plus Hangout.

The Open Internet Preservation Act would allow the FCC to revive its Open Internet Order, prohibiting broadband Internet service providers from engaging in discriminatory behavior or blocking content until the FCC can devise a policy to replace the one rejected by the court. The bill will face a tough climb in the House, where several key members of the Energy and Commerce Committee have spoken out in opposition to net neutrality since the ruling.

Stay tuned for action opportunities on net neutrality in the near future.

Act Now

Register now! Local Advocate Lobby Day March 27
Now that the second session of Congress is heating up, the Government Relations Office is beginning to prepare our agenda for the second-annual Local Advocate Lobby Day on Thursday, March 27. One participant said of his experience last year, “I was pleased to see so many of our members willing to climb the Hill and devote time lobbying their representatives and advocating the values of open government, transparency, and full funding for the Library of Congress and Government Printing Office. The principles of freedom and the rule of law that our government upholds are embodied in public access to our laws and the preservation of our critical legal documents and research resources.”

Don’t miss out on this great event! During the morning session, you’ll study best practices for successful advocacy and learn talking points on important legislation. In the afternoon, you’ll put your knowledge into practice by advocating for AALL’s policy positions at pre-scheduled meetings with your members of Congress and their staffs. By making and solidifying relationships with your federal legislators, you can have a direct impact on the legislation that influences law libraries.

The Lobby Day is free of charge for all AALL members and chapter members. Breakfast, coffee, lunch, and an afternoon snack will be provided. Participants will also have the opportunity to visit area sites, including the Law Library of Congress, which will offer a special rare books display and stacks tours for attendees.

RSVP to Elizabeth Holland at eholland@aall.org by March 1.

Tell Congress to Reform Section 215
In his recent speech at the Department of Justice, President Obama outlined steps to reform the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs. AALL supports several of the proposals outlined in the President’s speech, including increased transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, changes to the use of National Security Letters, and increased executive branch oversight. However, in order to protect the privacy of library users and all Americans, Congress must enact reform to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

AALL strongly supports the USA FREEDOM Act, which would amend the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to better protect Americans’ privacy and require greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.

Ask your members of Congress to co-sponsor the USA FREEDOM Act today. The bill has gained substantial bipartisan support with 128 co-sponsors in the House and 19 in the Senate. On Tuesday, February 4 at 10:00 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to examine proposed recommendations to reform domestic intelligence-gathering. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing on "The Report of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on Reforms to the Section 215 Telephone Records Program and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court" for Wednesday, February 12, 2014. The USA FREEDOM Act has been referred to both committees. Speak out now in support of the bill.

AALL in the States

LLAM Spring Legal Institute on Access to Justice
On March 21, the Law Library Association of Maryland (LLAM) will host ALL ACCESS to Access to Justice, a day-long symposium at the John and Frances Angelos Law Center at the University of Baltimore School of Law. This symposium will offer participants practical programs that develop Access to Justice (A2J) and impart knowledge about this core library value for law firm librarians, pro bono attorneys, public librarians, academic librarians, court librarians, and anyone else interested in A2J. Participants with hear nationally-recognized speakers, discuss cutting-edge issues, learn practical how-to strategies, and network with expert practitioners. Registration is now open and space is limited. Visit LLAM’s Legal Research Institute site for more information.

UELMA Comes to Maryland
Submitted by Mary Jo Lazun, Government Relations Chair of the Law Library Association of Maryland
The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has come to the Maryland General Assembly. The House Bill 46 was pre-filed and first introduced in Maryland's House of Delegates. Shortly after the session began, UELMA had a Senate sponsor.

The House hearing was held on Thursday, January 23 before the Health and Government Operations Committee. Testimony in favor of UELMA was provided by the bill's sponsor Delegate Sam Arora, Steve Leitess, a Maryland member of the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), Emily Feltren, AALL’s director of government relations, and Tonya Baroudi, the Law Library Association of Maryland's president.

The questions from the committee co-chair, Del. Shane E. Pendergrass were interesting:

  • Why has the Act only been adopted in only 8 states in the last two years?
  • Are there major differences between the Model Act and the Maryland Act?
  • Have there been any problems where the Act has been adopted that have required a retroactive fix?
Answers were provided by Steve Leitess of the ULC who stated that it is not unusual for a Uniform Act to take more than one year for adoption, that there are no major differences between the acts and that there are no known instances of a fix being needed after adoption. 

The Senate hearing is set for February 13 and LLAM members will be lobbying their delegated on Maryland Legislative Day on February 18.

Roundup and Review
  • Farm Bill moves forward  without anti-transparency language.
  • AALL submitted comments  on PIDB’s priorities for declassification.
  • Legislation has been introduced to change GPO's name to the Government Publishing Office.
  • What’s in the FY 2014 omnibus?
  • Congress considers the scope of copyright at House Judiciary hearings.
  • The registration form, preliminary schedule, and more information about the 2014 Depository Library Council Meeting and Federal Depository Library Conference are now available.
  • What do you think of the Law Library of Congress’s Law.gov? Let them know!
  • Registration is open for the National Freedom of Information Day Conference on March 14 in Washington, DC. AALL will once again co-sponsor the Sunshine Week panel during National FOIA Day, which will be webcast. Stay tuned for more information.