Washington E-Bulletin – June 2015

Vol. 2015, Issue 06

A Look Ahead

Section 215 Sunsets
Key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, including Section 215, expired at midnight, marking a distinct victory for privacy advocates, including AALL, who have long opposed the overbroad surveillance authorities permitted under the bill. While the expiration of the USA PATRIOT Act provisions will likely be short-lived, the Senate is set to vote on the AALL-supported compromise reform bill, the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 2048), early this week. Its passage will ensure the end of bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records.

Having failed at two prior attempts to move forward on the bill, the Senate voted overwhelmingly (77-17) last night to proceed to final passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, invoking a step known as cloture. Cloture motions must “sit” for 30 hours unless no senator objects to moving forward to a full vote on the bill at hand. Enter: Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose objection ensured the midnight expiration of PATRIOT provisions.

The Senate could vote on final passage of the USA FREEDOM Act at as early as 2:00 am ET Tuesday, though a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon vote is more likely following debate of amendments to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sought to “fill the tree”, filing a handful of amendments that undercut the bill’s reforms. One would extend the transition time to the more limited rules under which the government can query records from six months to a full year. Another amendment would limit the declassification of orders granted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and another would require additional certifications to the reformed data collection program. It’s unclear how palatable these changes will be to members of the House, who passed the USA FREEDOM Act by a vote of 338-88 on May 13. Senator Paul has sought to bring his own strengthening amendments to debate. Any adopted changes will need to be reconciled by both chambers.

AALL has supported adoption of the USA FREEDOM Act, which would end bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records and enact important transparency requirements, since its first introduction in 2013. Thank you to all the AALL members who have contacted their members of Congress in support of this legislation! We celebrate this first step toward reform and urge to the Senate to pass the bill without any weakening amendments.

Appropriations Update
With the appropriations process well underway, Congressional appropriators have made progress on just five of 12 accounts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. To date, only three bills for FY16 have been passed by the House of Representatives, with the rest lagging behind at the subcommittee and full committee stage. Meanwhile, only two Senate subcommittees have taken action. The Republican leadership is focused on overall spending reduction, proposing cuts to many of the programs and agencies that matter most to the work of AALL.  

On May 19, the House voted to approve the FY 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act (H.R. 2250), including funding for the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and Library of Congress. In its current form, this bill would eliminate all funding for GPO’s Revolving Fund, which supports the development of the NextGen FDsys site. AALL strongly opposes the proposed cuts to GPO and urges the Senate to amend the bill to restore full funding. Thanks to those who wrote to your members of Congress opposing the cuts GPO. More than 400 messages from AALL and chapter members have been sent to Capitol Hill urging greater funding for GPO. See below for more on how you can take action!

The House Appropriations Committee reported its Commerce/Justice/Science bill on May 20, including a $300 million budget for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). This is a reduction of $75 million, or 20 percent, from the agency’s current FY funding. LSC is the country’s single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans and the services it provides are essential for access to justice. AALL urges Congress to appropriate LSC’s full FY 2016 budget request of $487 million.

Neither chamber has taken action on Labor/HHS/Education nor Financial Services appropriations, which provide funding for the Institute for Museum and Library Services and National Records and Archives Administration, respectively. AALL supports the full funding request of both agencies.

Act Now

Calling all Early Bird Advocates! Register for the 2015 Legislative Advocacy Training
There are only a few days left to save on early registration for AALL’s Annual Meeting & Conference in Philadelphia! When you register, be sure to sign up for our 2015 Legislative Advocacy Training, held Saturday, July 18 from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm. In keeping with the theme of the Annual Meeting and Conference, this year’s training will focus on “The Power of Advocacy Connections.” Check out the draft agenda for our program highlights, including a panel of law librarian advocates, breakout sessions, and guest speaker. Already registered for the conference but didn’t RSVP for the training? Email Public Policy Associate Elizabeth Holland.

Ask Your Senators to Restore Funding for GPO’s Revolving Fund
On May 19, the House of Representatives voted to eliminate all funding for GPO’s Revolving Fund in its FY 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. The Revolving Fund supports the development of FDsys, allowing GPO to expand FDsys content and complete the NextGen FDsys website. Without this funding, GPO may be unable to develop new content collections, increase accessibly of content, or improve discoverability. The Senate now has the opportunity to amend the bill to restore full funding for GPO.

Please contact your Senators today to urge them to oppose the cuts to GPO’s Revolving Fund in the House-approved FY 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. Using AALL’s Legislative Action Center, you can express your support for full funding of GPO and, in particular, the need to fund continued improvements to their online information system through the Revolving Fund. Read more in our advocacy one-pager on GPO. Even if you’re already taken action on this issue, you can contact your Senators today to express your support. Be sure to customize your email for maximum impact. For example, if you are a regular FDsys user, tell your Senators why it is a valuable resource to you and your patrons. Personalized constituent contacts are critical to our success in ensuring GPO can continue to fulfill it vital mission.

AALL in the States

Update on Massachusetts UELMA Bill
On May 27, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) bill H. 43. Members of the Law Librarians of New England (LLNE) were on hand with Barbara Morgan providing testimony and Marnie Warner answering questions.

If you missed our May 13 online training “Progress Report: UELMA Advocacy in 2015 and Beyond”, be sure to watch the recording on AALLNET to learn how you can help enact UELMA in your state in 2016!

Roundup and Review

  • Congress.gov marches forward
  • House renews ban on CRS publication of its reports
  • NARA has issued guidance on “Controlled Unclassified Information” in new proposed rule
  • AALL President Holly Riccio and Director of Gov’t Relations Emily Feltren met with GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks
  • See video of Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “Ensuring an Informed Citizenry: Examining the Administration’s Efforts to Improve Open Government”