Vol. 2016 Issue 6
A Look Ahead
Members of the House and Senate are home this week for the Memorial Day break. Before leaving Washington, both chambers moved on a few of AALL’s policy priorities, including protecting the privacy of online communications and providing adequate funding for the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and Library of Congress. Unfortunately, the House Appropriations Committee also missed an opportunity to increase public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports.
After years of advocacy by AALL, privacy organizations, and technology companies, we celebrated late last month when the House unanimously passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699), which would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 to provide privacy protections for online communications. The bill had bipartisan support and more than 300 cosponsors, making passage swift once the bill reached the House floor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hold a markup of the ECPA reform bill on May 26, but the markup was postponed at the last minute after the sponsors learned that a couple of members of the Committee were planning to introduce amendments to weaken the bill. Amendments included one from Senator John Cornyn (R-Tx.) that would allow law enforcement to use national security letters to obtain electronic communications transaction records. AALL urged the Committee to take up and pass H.R. 699 without changes that would weaken the bill. Our friends in the Senate are now in negotiations to ensure that the bill can move forward without the weakening amendments.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their Legislative Branch funding bills for Fiscal Year 2017 (H.R.5325, S.2955). After a hard fight last year to reinstate money for GPO’s Revolving Fund (the account that supports the development of FDsys/govinfo), we’re pleased to report that GPO received full funding this year under both bills. The Library of Congress fared better under the House bill, receiving $629 million compared to $609 million in the Senate bill. The bills include funding for information technology upgrades for the Library of Congress and for the Law Library’s compact shelving replacement, for which AALL urged funding in our written testimony. While both bills represent an increase for the Library over FY 2016 levels, the amount is tens of thousands less than the Library’s request. AALL will continue to advocate for increased funding for the Library so that it can preserve, protect, and provide access to its vast collections.
During consideration of the Legislative Branch bill in the House Appropriations Committee, two amendments were introduced to make Congressional Research Service reports more widely available to the public. The effort to release the reports was led by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.). The first amendment was essentially the text of the Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016 (H.R. 4702,S. 2639), which would provide public access to the reports through FDsys/govinfo. AALL strongly supports these bills. Rep. Quigley offered a second amendment to require CRS to publish online a cumulative, continuously-updated list of all new CRS Reports. Unfortunately, both amendments failed, with Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chairman Tom Graves (R-Ga.) and Ranking Member Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) asserting that the amendments would burden CRS and impact the important role that CRS plays in providing members of Congress with expert research. AALL signed on to a letter in November 2015 that rebuts these concerns, and we will continue to urge passage of H.R. 4702 and S. 2639. Please use our Legislative Action Center to tell your members of Congress that greater public access to CRS reports is important to you, too. Thank you in advance!
Don’t Miss Out! Register Now for the 2016 Legislative Advocacy Training
Join your colleagues at this year’s Advocacy Training workshop on Saturday, July 16 in Chicago and leave prepared to effectively advocate for the issues that matter to you. The training, which is offered free of charge, will provide you with the opportunity to hear from special guest speaker Krys Shaw, Deputy District Director for Rep. Quigley, on the ins and outs of the political process and how to have the greatest impact on policy-making. You’ll also have the chance to network with experienced law librarian advocates who will provide their advice about how to influence decision-makers. See more in our draft agenda. Register through Annual Meeting registration, or by contacting Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren.
AALL in the States
Arizona Enacts UELMA
In May, Arizona became the thirteenth state to enact the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA). The Arizona Association of Law Libraries (AzALL) and members of AALL strongly supported the Act, and their effective advocacy helped to ensure its passage. Congratulations to our advocates in Arizona!
MichALL Advocates for UELMA
Submitted by Marlene Coir, Michigan Association of Law Libraries (MichALL) Government Relations Committee Chair
Michigan House Bill No. 5653 (2016), introduced on May 12, 2016, would amend Michigan’s Legislative Council Act to include the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act. The MichALL chapter is in the process of promoting its passage by drafting a letter of support which may be used by individual chapter members, and other constituents, to solicit endorsement of the bill from their respective state house and senate members. The chapter has also passed a resolution supporting the bill, and has drafted a chapter letter advocating enactment of the bill into law.
NOCALL Opposes Overbroad Copyright Bill
Submitted by Judy Janes, Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL) Government Relations Committee Chair
NOCALL has joined with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization concerned with protecting civil liberties in the digital world, and others, to oppose California Assembly bill 2880. The bill would grant, for the first time, a broad authorization to all California state government, local government, and political subdivisions the power to exert copyright restrictions over publications, videos, pamphlets, and other public records that contain copyrightable materials. This conflicts with California’s Public Records Act, Govt. Code §6250 et. al., which extends free and open access to information in possession of public agencies.
SANDALL Supports Urgent Funding Increase for County Law Libraries
Vance Sharp, San Diego Association of Law Libraries (SANDALL) Government Relations Committee Chair
SANDALL is encouraging Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators to include a one-time appropriation of $16.5 million in the final California state budget for the state’s County Law Libraries. These libraries provide access to much needed legal information for millions of residents who cannot afford attorneys and must navigate the legal process on their own. This appropriation is much needed since 90 percent of County Law Library revenue comes from receiving a small portion of civil filing fees. This revenue source has dropped by 37 percent over just seven years, in part due to legislative changes that affect how court funding is allocated. Until that issue is resolved this appropriation would help shore up the budgets of the libraries, some of which are on the verge of closing.
- AALL submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission in support of proposed rules that would offer greater privacy protections for internet users who access commercial broadband in public law libraries
- The Copyright Office held roundtables in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. as part of its Section 1201 study. A transcript and video will be coming soon. AALL submitted comments in response to the Office’s call for comments, urging reforms that would ease the burden on law libraries.
- The 50th anniversary of FOIA is coming up on July 4, 2016. Learn how open government groups are celebrating, while calling for reform