Washington Brief - March 2004

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By Mary Alice Baish

Dateline: January 16, 2004

Join Us for the 2004 Legislative Advocacy Leadership Training in Boston!
Consider yourself invited to the Legislative Advocacy Leadership Training that will be held this year from 8:30 a.m. until noon on Saturday, July 10th. Thanks to the support and commitment of AALL president Janis Johnston and our Executive Board, there is no registration fee for this special event.

This year's focus is a bit different from past years as we're going to concentrate on some crucial state issues, with funding for county law libraries at the top of the list. States are reeling from budget shortfalls and the impact on funding for state institutions continues to be severe. At the same time, public law libraries are experiencing a surge in the number of public patrons who increasingly rely on access to their resources and services. In many states, filing fees that support county law libraries haven't been raised in years (or decades, for that matter) and are wholly inadequate. The funding situation for county law libraries in Florida is dire. Legislation enacted there last July eliminated the sharing of filing fees with county law libraries. Unless we and others are successful in crafting a legislative fix that the legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush will support, funding from filing fees--which currently accounts for approximately 75% of the funding for these law libraries--will end on July 1, 2004.

Other state issues include opposition to efforts to enact the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) and the E-Government Services Act. While the latter sounds like a benign effort to improve public access to state electronic information and services, it's instead an egregious effort by industry to prevent state agencies from providing information online if the same information is already available through two commercial entities. Last, but not least, is our important effort to use the findings of the State-by-State Report on Permanent Public Access to Electronic Government Information to educate state policymakers. The report, published in July 2003, is the result of an AALL research grant awarded to the Government Relations Committee. Our goal is to promote "Best Practices" and even model state legislation to ensure the permanent public access of electronic information, especially web-based "born digital" information.

So, how do you fit into all this? Well, simply put, we will not succeed in our legislative agenda without your help. You can make a difference. The goals of this workshop are to give you an opportunity to learn about these issues that are core to our legislative work; to show you how easy (and fun!) it is to become actively engaged in our advocacy efforts; and to bring together folks who are willing to become leaders within their chapter or state. All you need to bring with you is energy, enthusiasm, and the willingness to become active on the legislative front. Our breakout sessions will train you in outlining strategies for participation on these issues and give you the confidence to succeed!

I'm very pleased to announce the outstanding group of speakers lined up for this session: Elizabeth LeDoux, Covington & Burling and chair of the Government Relations Committee (GRC); Judy Meadows, State Law Library of Montana and GRC member; Charley Dyer, San Diego Public Law Library and chair of the State, Court and County Law Libraries SIS; and Bob Riger, Miami-Dade County Law Library.

I invite you to register today. Simply send an e-mail message to baish@law.georgetown.edu and we'll add you to the list. See you there!

Join OpenTheGovernment.org
In December 2002, I was one of about 25 people invited to a meeting here in D.C. to discuss the Administration's penchant for secrecy and figure out how we might better align ourselves to become more effective in speaking out against it. During the past year, we have been successful in our funding efforts and the result is a new and exciting coalition that is being unveiled this spring, OpenTheGovernment.org. The coalition's goals are not only to fight secrecy and strengthen open government at all levels, but also to provide resources that demonstrate the consequences of excessive secrecy and show how we can unite together to fight it. We are looking for new members, and welcome national, state and local organizations as well as individuals. We especially want to bring together work being done by environmental and good government groups, librarians, journalists, labor, taxpayer rights advocates, and others working to keep our government open. As a member of the OpenTheGovernment.org steering committee, I invite you to visit our new web site at openthegovernment.org. If you agree with the following statement of values, please consider joining our efforts by signing on. Thank you!


Statement of Values

To protect the safety and well-being of our families, homes, and communities; to hold our government accountable; and to defend the freedoms upon which our democracy depends; we, the undersigned organizations, believe the public has a right to information held by our government.

The American way of life demands that government operate in the open to be responsive to the public, to foster trust and confidence in government, and to encourage public participation in civic and government institutions.

The public's right to know promotes equal and equitable access to government, encourages integrity in official conduct, and prevents undisclosed and undue influence from special interests. OpenTheGovernment.org seeks to advance the public's right to know and to reduce secrecy in government.

Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative
Edward B. WIlliams Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-1417
202/662-9200 * FAX:202/662-9202


copyright © 2004, American Association of Law Libraries