Washington E-Bulletin – February 2015

Vol. 2015, Issue 02

A Look Ahead

Budget Season Begins
Today, President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) budget, kicking off the beginning of the often long and often contentious budget cycle. Traditionally, the president submits his budget to Congress by the first Monday in February, per federal law — although President Obama has missed the budget deadline five times during his presidency. The president’s budget is a non-binding proposal that’s submitted as a request to Congress and is created through a process of coordination between the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies. Based on the policy priorities of the president and his cabinet, OMB gives guidelines to federal agencies instructing them how to prepare their strategic plans and budgets. Agencies in turn then submit budget requests to OMB, which OMB compiles into the president’s budget request. This process can actually begin as early as spring of the prior year, when agencies work on a series of documents and tables that provide information on the agency’s budget needs and explain how resources will be used.

So what’s in the FY16 budget proposal? President Obama’s $3.99 trillion budget request seeks to end sequestration, the across-the-board spending limits enacted by Congress in 2011. All told, the new federal budget proposal includes about $74 billion more in “discretionary investments” than would be allowed under sequestration in 2016, about a 7 percent increase over those caps. The proposal includes an overall boost for the Library of Congress (LC) and greater support for the Government Publishing Office’s (GPO) Revolving Funding, which supports GPO’s information technology development.

Of course, Republicans — who now control both chambers of Congress — widely oppose President Obama’s fiscal approach and will likely push back on the plan as they craft their budget resolutions and begin the appropriations process, in which funds are assigned to agencies and programs.  We’ll get a better picture of actual funding levels for agencies including GPO and LC as the real work begins in the coming months, when members of each chambers’ appropriation subcommittees will try to draft and pass their respective spending bills before sending them to the full chamber in time for final passage and the president’s signature by the end of this fiscal year, October 1. In particular, we’ll be keeping a close watch on the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees on the Legislative Branch, which covers GPO and LC; Financial Services, which handles the National Archives; Labor, Health and Human Services, which covers the Institute of Museum and Library Services; and Commerce, Justice and Science, which handles the Legal Services Corporation.

That’s all in theory, of course. The normal appropriations process has eluded Congress for years. However the budget process does progress, there will be plenty of opportunities for your action and input. Learn more about what to expect at our February 11 online advocacy training, “Understanding the Federal Budget Process” (see our Act Now section below for more information). We’ll also update the Washington Blawg with more detailed budget analysis as it becomes available. 

Act Now

Budget Proposals, Resolutions, and Appropriations, Oh My!
With its wonky terminology and shifting timelines, the federal budget and appropriations process can certainly seem like an insider’s game.  But your influence is crucial!  Find out if your members of Congress are appropriators using our Legislative Action Center. Just enter your home address, click on each member of Congress’s name and scroll down to see their committee assignments. We’d love to hear from you if your Senators or Representative sit on the Legislative Branch; Financial Services; Labor, Health and Human Services; or Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittees.

We also hope you’ll join the Government Relations Office on Wednesday, February 11 from 12:00-12:30 pm ET when we will present “Understanding the Federal Budget Process,” an online advocacy training aimed at demystifying the FY16 budget and appropriations.  We’ll present an overview of the budget process, answer your questions, and highlight the best ways to engage your elected officials about funding for the agencies AALL works to support. Register by February 10.

Save the Date: March 18 Lobby Day
Registration is now open for AALL’s third annual Local Advocate Lobby Day on March 18 in Washington, D.C. Participants in this full day event will receive in an intensive training on advocacy skills, communication, and policy issues before heading to Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress and/or their staff.  This is a unique opportunity for law librarians to put their knowledge and expertise into practice, learn new skills, and develop relationships with the offices of their elected officials. Plus, we always have a lot of fun!

Registration for the Lobby Day is free of charge for all AALL members and chapter members. Breakfast, coffee, lunch and an afternoon snack will be provided. Participants are responsible for providing their own travel and accommodations. Please email Elizabeth Holland at eholland@aall.org with any questions or register online by March 1.

Can’t make it to D.C.? You can still do your part by committing to participating in our Virtual Lobby Day!

AALL in the States

SANDALL Program Materials Available Online
Submitted by Michele Knapp, Vice President of the San Diego Area Law Libraries (SANDALL)
The SANDALL 2015 Winter Institute – Authenticating Electronic Legal Materials: UELMA & Beyond – was held at the University of San Diego on January 9, 2015. State officials, government experts, and law librarians presented on best practices, authentication technologies, and advocacy efforts. AALL’s Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren presented on The National Situation: UELMA in the States. Conference materials, including recordings of each session, are available at http://www.sandallnet.org/2015-institute/conference-materials. This event was made possible by a grant from the AALL/Bloomberg BNA Continuing Education Grant Program.

Bar Journal Coverage of UELMA
Several AALL and chapter members have recently published articles about UELMA in state bar journals. The January 2015 issue of the Florida Bar Journal includes “The E-FAC: One Year Later” by Jennifer Wondracek (University of North Texas- Dallas). Amy Emerson (Cornell University Law Library) published “The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act in New York” (subscription required) in the most January 2015 issue of the New York State Bar Association Journal. See the UELMA Resources page on AALLNET for all recent coverage.

UELMA Introduced in Maryland
UELMA has been introduced in Maryland as HB0162. The bill, which was introduced with nine sponsors, has been referred to the Health and Government Operations Committee.

Roundup and Review