Washington Brief - May 2001

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Dateline: March 28, 2001

Hatch-Leahy Bill on Distance Education
In my summary last month of the legislative priorities of Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), I noted that both senators from these very rural states highlighted distance education as among the most important issues for their constituents. It was entirely fitting, therefore, that they jointly introduced S. 487, the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2001 (the "TEACH Act") on March 7th. Provisions of the bill are based substantively on the recommendations of the Copyright Office's May 1999 Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education. The goal of the TEACH Act is threefold: to promote digital distance learning by eliminating the physical classroom requirement in current law; by clarifying that the distance learning exemption covers temporary copies made in the course of transmitting material over the Internet; and by expanding the current scope beyond the performance of "non-dramatic literary or musical works" to permit the transmission of limited portions of movies, videotapes or plays.

New Administrator for OIRA
President Bush has selected John D. Graham, a Harvard professor and founder of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, to become the new head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget. OIRA, formerly headed by Sally Katzen during the Clinton Administration, is the office in charge of reviewing all major federal regulations and developing information policy for the executive branch. Historically, OIRA has been understaffed with the result that the major emphasis has been on the regulatory side, not on information issues. While Graham is under fire by consumer groups for the corporate contributions that fund the Harvard Center, we in the library community are very concerned with his lack of experience in the information policy issues that are so important as we move further towards an e-government.

Lieberman Bill on E-Government
Along with our colleagues in the non-profit community, I have been working closely with staff of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) over the past two months to help develop several provisions of his draft E-Government Act of 2001. This legislation would create a Federal CIO position for the executive branch outside of OIRA and address many issues related to information resources management and permanent public access of agency web-based information. Sen. Lieberman hopes to introduce his E-Government bill during the next month, so we will be calling upon you to help us get your Senators to cosponsor this important legislation. Stay tuned!

250th Anniversary of Madison's Birthday
This year's March 16th Freedom of Information Day program, marking James Madison's 250th birthday and the 35th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), focused on the theme of Access, Privacy and Security: A Troubled Tangle. The day's program included several distinguished panels to talk about new FOI initiatives and declassification projects. Testifying early that morning before the Judicial Conference's Subcommittee on Privacy and Electronic Access to Case Files (as follow-up to our formal comments submitted in January), I unfortunately missed the first panel of the day on the same topic, "Court Records on the Internet: Too much of a Good thing?"

John Podesta, President Clinton's former chief of staff, received the 2001 Madison Award and highlighted the progress made during the Clinton years in increasing public access to millions of pages of government files and declassifying secret files, including documents from WWII, the Vietnam War years and the Kennedy assassination records. Learn more about the day's interesting discussions at: http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=13192.

NY AG Proposes Strong Anti-UCITA Legislation
In what we hope will be an important turning point in our state-by-state battle over UCITA, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has issued a memorandum and proposed legislation as part of his Legislative Program (Program Bill #33-01) to protect residents of New York from a broad array of consumer harms. The proposed legislation affirms that UCITA is contrary to the public policy of New York State and renders unenforceable any contractual provision that would subject residents to the provisions of UCITA under Maryland or Virginia law. In the memorandum, Spitzer makes a very strong statement about our library concerns as well, that "UCITA would permit practices that are contrary to the first sale and fair use protections of U.S. copyright law, as well as other state and federal laws that protect consumers."

In other state news, after a Senate committee hearing, UCITA has now been tabled in Arizona and the bill's sponsor, Senator Hatch-Miller, is sending a compilation of amendments submitted to him by UCITA opponents to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL). Special thanks to Tory Trotta for her successful partnership with the Arizona AFFECT coalition members that turned the tide for us in Arizona! And in the other key battleground state, Texas , a Senate hearing scheduled for March 27th has been postponed until mid-April while the House sponsor seems to have lost interest in holding a hearing this year. Our thanks to GRC Chair Keith Ann Stiverson for being a leader among the Texas library community in educating legislators about the many harmful effects of UCITA on library services. We thank Tory and Keith Ann as well for leading our advocacy efforts in both these states!

E-Mail Overload in Congress: Managing a Communications Crisis
AALL members frequently ask me about the effectiveness of communicating with legislators via e-mail, and my pat answer has always been that e-mail is fine but be sure to fax a copy of your correspondence just to be on the safe side. A new report issued by the Congressional Management Foundation sheds light on the flood of e-mail being sent to Congress: from 1998-2000, the number of messages to members of the House more than doubled, from 20 million to 48 million. Insufficient funding and lack of software to efficiently process e-mail messages in congressional offices are the two greatest stumbling blocks to getting a timely response. The report provides four key principles for an effective e-mail system and lists a handful of members who are successfully applying best practices for automating constituents' e-mail. (http://www.congressonlineproject.org/email.html)

CA Chapters' Pre-Institute Workshop a Huge Success!
GRC member Sam Trosow coordinated the first ever state advocacy training and Legislative Day in Sacramento on March 15, 2000 for members of our three very active California chapters. Don't miss David McFadden's summary of this milestone on page *** , with an eye towards how your chapter might consider planning a similar event.


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