ARCHIVED: Legislative and Regulatory Update - March 1996

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March 1996

Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
Georgetown University Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
202/662-9200 *FAX:202/662-9202

The AALL Vision and Our Annual Goals

Bob Oakley and I would like to take the opportunity in this month's column to share with you our annual goals for the Washington Affairs Office. Our objective last year was to synchronize our efforts with The Strategic Challenge 1994-1998. This year, in order to continue to support that vision of the association, we have formulated three major goals for 1996:

GOAL ONE: Improved Communication with Our Chapters

On pages 200-201 of our December 1995 Newsletter, I noted that each of our chapters has taken the initiative to assign a chapter public relations liaison to the national Public Relations Committee. We hope to capitalize on this model because of the obvious benefits of coordinating efforts between the chapters and the Washington Affairs Office. This year we hope to identify at least one person from each chapter (preferably each state!) to develop a two-way communication link so that we may benefit from each other's efforts.

We want to multiply the past year's legislative support at the state level in such areas as making state government information available on the Internet, and increasing the funding/support for state or public law libraries. Many state initiatives have reaped success during the past year. The example that comes most quickly to mind is the recent passage of New Jersey's new law requiring that state legislative information be made available on the Internet. Members of the New Jersey Law Librarians Association (NJLLA) have been a driving force behind this measure since the bill was first introduced in May 1994. When Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed this legislation in early January, it was like throwing a pebble into a pond....within a week, a new bill was introduced to permit that certain state executive and judicial branch information would also be made available on the Internet (Assembly bill 1245). Success is hard won, as the New Jersey law librarians will attest, but isn't this more than just a small step in the right direction? And doesn't it need to be multiplied again and again to ensure that every state gets aboard the National Information Infrastructure (NII)?

The Washington Affairs Office was pleased to be able to endorse and lend national support to the NJLLA efforts. Imagine if we could provide the same support for your own state or local initiatives. Likewise, you can assist our national efforts by getting to know your own elected representatives. Clearly, as an association, our policies will be better realized if we develop a more integrated approach.

In a letter distributed to all chapter presidents last September, we asked that a liaison be named but we've only heard from a few chapters. I'll be sending out reminders to the chapter presidents in the near future. Since many chapters have an active Government Relations Committee and all chapters have energetic and talented members, it should not be too difficult to develop a comprehensive list of liaisons.

I well understand the volunteer nature of association work and promise that serving as liaison to the Washington Affairs Office will not be tremendously burdensome on anyone's time. We want to know what's happening in your state and whether we can provide national assistance. It's also a great way to become more aware of federal and state initiatives which perhaps you've never been involved in before. One of my greatest pleasures this past year has been getting to know more of our members when we've helped out on a state issue, or when we've asked for grassroots support on federal legislation. Our greatest strength will be in enlarging and formalizing our volunteer network. I'd be delighted if you would contact me directly for more information or to sign up.

GOAL TWO: Washington Affairs Office Website (under construction)!

We are very pleased to announce that this spring we will begin the development of our own home page, to be hotlinked to Aaallnet, in order to allow us to share valuable information in a more timely manner. A large proportion of our members are already on the Internet, and more and more gain access each week. We are truly excited about this initiative! The Internet is indeed a most powerful communications tool and having our own home page will allow us to take full advantage of its enormous potential.

Our own Aaallnet guru, Mark Folmsbee, has generously allowed the Washington Affairs Office to post our newsletter columns and other documents of high interest to our members on Aaallnet. In addition, of course, the archive of letters, testimonies and other work of the Government Relations Committee appear on Aaallnet and will remain there. However, we will be able to provide members with many more resources than ever before possible. We do realize that some of our members are not yet plugged into the Net and significant documents described in our Newsletter columns will continue to be available in paper format from our Chicago headquarters.

GOAL THREE: Maintaining and Improving Our Washington Visibility

One of the tenets of the Strategic Challenge is to increase AALL's visibility and influence on national information issues. Among our significant accomplishments last year was the initiation of the COMA group which drafted the "Framework" document (see the September 1995 Newsletter, pages 14-15). COMA members continue to play an active role in the discussion of the future direction for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). We also represented all five major library associations, along with several other educational associations, in hearings before the Working Group on Intellectual Property of the Information Infrastructure Task Force. In addition, our many letters, testimonies and staff discussions attest to our day-to- day activities. We have been particularly successful this past year in coordinating efforts with the other major library associations to maximize our impact. This will certainly continue to be important particularly in the areas of copyright and changes to the FDLP.

Congress has recessed for much of February, this being a presidential election year. Even so, many hearings are being held and the key issues we have been involved in continue to demand the greater part of our time. The Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act (S. 652) passed quickly in both House and Senate on February 1, 1996 and President Clinton is expected to sign it shortly. As I noted in last month's column, the "indecency" provision included in the final version threatens libraries both as access and content providers. We may have some opportunity to modify the effects of this provision during the regulatory process. Court challenges to the "indecency" provision are already underway.

On the copyright front, Bob has just completed drafting testimony on behalf of the library associations for the February 7-8th hearings on the NII Copyright Protection Act of 1995 (S. 1284/H.R. 2441). Many of my personal efforts continue to be driven by the GPO Study and the library response to the Transition Plan described in last month's column. GPO's first budget hearing before the House Legislative Subcommittee is now scheduled for March 5th.

In addition, since Congress denied GPO funding for the large  

1996, American Association of Law Libraries