A Look Ahead
What the Midterms Mean for Law Libraries
The results of the November 6 midterm elections will usher in an altered political landscape in Washington, with Democrats taking control of the House and Republicans retaining their majority in the Senate. The Democrats’ House victory will undoubtedly mean more oversight of the current administration, as the new majority has declared they will investigate the administration for waste, fraud, and abuse. The Senate, meanwhile, will likely push back on House priorities and promote the majority’s interests leading into the 2020 presidential election cycle.
The AALL Public Policy Priorities for the 116th Congress identifies the key information policy topics on which we can have the most influence in the divided Congress. Our overarching priorities continue to be access to justice, balance in copyright law, greater access to government information, openness in government, and protection of privacy. For the 116th Congress, we’ve added greater proactive disclosure of government information and support for a strong, centrally-coordinated Federal Depository Library Program.
The makeup of the 116th Congress will mean significant changes in our key committees in both the House and Senate. While key leadership posts won’t be decided until the beginning of the year, AALL is preparing now for these anticipated changes.
In the House, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is likely to become chair of the Committee on House Administration. Rep. Lofgren is a strong advocate for greater access to government information and she has long been a friend to the Law Library of Congress, which falls under House Administration jurisdiction. The ranking member spot could go to Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), who currently serves as vice chairman of the Committee.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) is expected to become chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Nadler has already expressed a desire to conduct aggressive oversight of the Trump administration as chair of the Committee, but other issues that could arise in the Committee include copyright law and access to judicial branch information. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), an advocate for greater access to PACER, will be ranking member.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) has pledged to “hold the Trump administration accountable to the American people” as the presumed incoming chair of the Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee. The Committee’s jurisdiction includes the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and public information and records. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) will become ranking member.
In the Senate, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is likely to maintain his chairmanship of the Rules and Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Library of Congress (including the Copyright Office) and the Government Publishing Office. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the current Ranking Member, is expected to retain her post unless she takes the ranking member spot on the Commerce Committee.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) could remain chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the next two years, or he could become chairman of the Finance Committee–which would allow Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to take the Judiciary gavel. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is widely expected to continue as ranking member.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) will likely keep Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) as chair. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is likely to become ranking member. HSGAC is the Senate’s primary oversight committee with jurisdiction over government operations, including access to government information generally and NARA specifically.
How You Can Help
As we transition to a new Congress in January, it is essential that AALL members become effective advocates for the law libraries and legal information. AALL has extended registration for the online advocacy training, “The ABCs of Advocacy: Law Librarians and the 116th Congress“ through December 3, 2018.
AALL counted several important successes in the 115th Congress, including ensuring public access to Congressional Research Service reports after decades of advocacy; greater funding for the Library of Congress and Government Publishing Office; Committee approval of the FDLP Modernization Act (H.R. 5305); and the introduction of bills to increase access to court records through PACER. With your help, we’ll be able to achieve our policy goals in 116th Congress.
- Tuesday, December 4, 2018 / 11:00 a.m. (CST)
- Register by Monday, December 3
- Members – Free
Learn about how you can influence your members of Congress and build productive, long-term relationships with lawmakers and their staff at our next online advocacy training, “The ABCs of Advocacy: Law Librarians and the 116th Congress.” You’ll learn about AALL’s policy priorities and what the makeup of the new Congress means for our issues, identify upcoming opportunities for action, and come away with proven strategies for delivering an effective message to your members of Congress.
Save the Date / AALL Day on the Hill
- Friday, July 12, 2019
- Washington, DC
- Members – Free
Mark your calendars for AALL Day on the Hill: Advocacy Leadership Training & Lobby Day, taking place just before the AALL Annual Meeting & Conference in Washington, DC. You’ll learn about the information policy issues on AALL’s agenda and how to successfully advocate for law libraries, and then take our message to Capitol Hill for meetings with your members of Congress and their staff. Issues may include copyright, access to legal information, open government, and privacy. Registration for AALL Day on the Hill will open in early 2019.
Roundup and Review
- AALL joined the American Library Association on comments to NARA recommending several actions NARA should take to improve its records management policies to increase transparency and public participation. AALL’s comments came in response to the Department of the Interior’s request for records disposition authority (DAA-0048-2015-0003, noticed at 83 FR 45979), which raised concerns among transparency and environmental policy advocates due to its breadth and the types of records included in the request (e.g., on oil and gas leases, mining, and endangered species).
- AALL sent a letter to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee in support of Robert C. Tapella’s nomination to be the next director of the Government Publishing Office. The American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, and Chief Officers of State Library Agencies joined AALL on the letter.