Washington E-Bulletin - March 2014

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Vol. 2014, Issue 03

A Look Ahead

Let the Sunshine In
The 2014 Sunshine Week will take place from March 16-22 with events across the country. An annual, national initiative, Sunshine Week seeks to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know. AALL will again co-sponsor a Sunshine Week webcast with OpenTheGovernment.org to celebrate National Freedom of Information Day on Friday, March 14. This year’s event will focus on national security leaks and proposed reforms to surveillance practices. Learn more about the panel here and see below for information about AALL chapters’ plans for Sunshine Week. 

In Congress, open government advocates will also use Sunshine Week as an opportunity to highlight legislation on oversight and transparency. In anticipation of the introduction of new transparency bills, AALL has renewed its push on the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (H.R. 1380), joining a broad coalition of organizations on a letter calling on House leadership to consider the bipartisan bill at the earliest opportunity. Just last week, the House unanimously voted to pass the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act (H.R. 1211), which would put into the law the “presumption of openness” established by the Obama administration. AALL joined a number of organizations in a show of support for the bill, which now moves to the Senate.

With federal agencies currently working to update and expand upon their open government plans, AALL provided comments to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the department’s third open government plan. In consultation with the Government Relations Committee, the Government Relations Office (GRO) submitted recommendations for new open government commitments and opportunities to follow through on prior commitments. Highlights include urging DOJ to adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure and to consider any way to make more information, like Office of Legal Counsel opinions and additional FOIA documents, available to the public online.

Budgeting for Fiscal Year 2015
The GRO has published a comprehensive guide to explain the complex federal budget process, which officially kicks off tomorrow when President Obama will send his Fiscal Year 2015 budget request to Congress. The president’s budget proposal will set forth his policy priorities for the coming year and provide an election year map for Democratic Party messaging.

Meanwhile, Congress is slated to begin its budgetary work this week as well* and will likely move straight to the appropriations process. Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has indicated that the Senate will not set a budget resolution this year because the budget deal Congress approved in December (PL 113-67) already sets the discretionary spending limit.

The House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee is scheduled to host several budget hearings, including one for the Government Printing Office (GPO) on Tuesday and one for the Library of Congress (LC) on Wednesday.  Stay tuned for our analysis.

* The federal government, like the GRO, is closed today due to inclement weather. As a result, hearing schedules may change.

Act Now

Can’t make it to DC? Join AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 27
On March 27, AALL members will travel to Washington, DC to meet with their members of Congress to discuss AALL's top policy priorities (last call for registration!). Help give law librarians a strong showing on Capitol Hill by participating in our simultaneous Virtual Lobby Day!

Sign up to receive directions and tips about contacting your member of Congress on March 27 using our Legislative Action Center. The AALL Government Relations Office will provide background information on legislation, talking points, sample messages, and suggested tips to help maximize your influence.  Email Elizabeth Holland at eholland@aall.org with any questions.

AALL in the States

LLAM’s ALL ACCESS to Access to Justice on March 21
On March 21st at the University of Baltimore School of Law, the Law Library Association of Maryland (LLAM) will sponsor a national conference on Access to Justice (A2J), open to the public. The ALL ACCESS to Access to Justice program will feature nationally-recognized speakers, discussions of cutting-edge issues and practical how-to strategies, and networking opportunities with expert practitioners. Visit the recently updated symposium site for updated information and to register. The event is co-sponsored by the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C. and Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association and supported by the AALL/Bloomberg BNA Continuing Education Grants Program.

Californian Library Chapters Plan Sunshine Week Event
Submitted by Judy Janes, NOCALL Government Relations Chair
The Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL), California Library Association (CLA), California Public Library Advocates (CPLA), and Special Library Association/Sierra-Nevada Chapter are sponsoring a half-day program on March 25, 2014 at Pacific McGeorge School of Law in celebration of Sunshine Week. Attendees will view the national Sunshine Week webcast and engage in a discussion on access to public records with program panelists Tom Newton, General Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, and Juan Cornejo, Assistant General Counsel at the McClatchy Company. Registration is $20 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch buffet. Register online or contact Judy Janes, UCDavis Mabie Law Library, for more information.

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