Washington E-Bulletin – March 2015

Vol. 2015, Issue 03
*AALL Lobby Day Special Edition*

A Look Ahead

In just a few short weeks, nearly two dozen of your law librarian colleagues will travel to Capitol Hill to share AALL’s policy priorities with their members of Congress. Whether you’re able to join in-person or virtually for AALL’s March 18 Lobby Day (registration information below), you can help to make a difference on a number of pressing issues affecting your profession. Here’s a look at the legislation on which AALL and chapter members will engage with their senators and representatives (and we hope you will too!). Check to see if your members of Congress hold seats on the relevant committees mentioned by using our Legislative Action Center to match your district.  

FY 2016 Appropriations
Budget season is underway on Capitol Hill and AALL is advocating in favor of the funding requests of several federal agencies whose missions support law libraries. On February 26, the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch held a hearing on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding request of Library of Congress (LC), with Dr. James H. Billington testifying on behalf of the Library. The hearing for the Government Publishing Office (GPO) has not yet been scheduled, but is expected to take place later this month. AALL will submit testimony for the record in support of the funding requests ($120 million for GPO, $624.5 million for LC) of both agencies. AALL’s testimony will emphasize the role these agencies play in providing permanent public access to information and leadership on critical information policy issues, such as authentication, digitization, and preservation. Also this month, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch will hold a hearing on funding for LC. As in the past, the Subcommittee will not a hold a hearing on GPO funding, instead accepting written testimony from Director of GPO, Davita Vance-Cooks. In addition to funding for GPO and LC, AALL supports the funding requests of the Legal Services Corporation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and National Archives and Records Administration.

On the upcoming Lobby Day, AALL members will meet with the offices of members of the House and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees, as well as members of the Joint Committee on Printing, to educate them about the importance of these agencies to law libraries and their constituents. To learn more about the federal budget and appropriations process, see our recent online advocacy training.

Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments
Efforts to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) are gaining steam in both the House and Senate. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015 (S.356) has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which reported the bill last Congress. The House version of the bill, the Email Privacy Act (H.R.699), has collected 246 cosponsors to date, well over the number needed to advance. On Lobby Day, advocates will target members of both chambers’ Judiciary Committees. AALL is a member of the Digital Due Process coalition, a diverse group of companies, public interest groups, and library associations working together to strengthen ECPA to provide stronger privacy protections of electronic communications in response to changes in technology, while balancing the legitimate needs of law enforcement. When Congress passed ECPA in 1986, email was new and the World Wide Web did not yet exist. These reforms would bring electronic privacy laws in line with the technological innovations of the last three decades, protecting patron privacy.

Improving the FOIA
After last year’s last-minute failure to approve Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reforms, the House and Senate seem poised to act this year. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2015 (S. 337) was reported by the Judiciary Committee in early February and awaits a Senate vote. On Friday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Government Operations held a hearing titled “Ensuring Government Transparency Through FOIA Reform” on their companion bill, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015 (H.R.653). Subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) called the hearing to explore ways to streamline handling of the more than 700,000 FOIA requests received annually. Calling transparency “the lifeblood of our democracy” in his opening statement, Rep. Meadows cited a lack of compliance and accountability in agencies’ responses when “under the current administration, only 30% of all FOIA requests result in full disclosure of requested documents.”  The bill would place a presumption of openness in the FOIA statute and require federal agencies to justify withholding of information by showing a specific harm that is foreseeable from disclosure. The bills would also put a 25-year sunset on federal agencies’ ability to withhold records reflecting internal deliberations or other privileged communications. AALL is urging both chambers to promptly bring this important legislation to the floor.

Act Now

Join us on March 18!
Are you ready to speak up on behalf of law libraries? Now is your last chance to register of our in-person event in Washington, D.C. so book your travel and contact us with any questions! Participants in this full-day event will receive an intensive training on AALL’s policy issues, advocacy tactics, and legislation talking points before heading to pre-scheduled meetings with their members of Congress.  See our draft agenda and participant information guide for more information. Registration is free of cost and meals will be provided.

If you’d prefer to help from home, we encourage you to sign up in advance for AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day. Though anyone will be able to access sample messages on our Legislative Action Center come March 18, those who pre-register will receive customized information about their members of Congress and tips for focusing their advocacy efforts to have the most influence. More information on our Virtual Lobby Day is available on our blog.

AALL in the States

UELMA Bill Tracking Chart
Legislation to enact the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has been introduced in three states so far this year. Track the status of the bills in Maryland, Rhode Island, and Texas with our 2015 UELMA Bill Tracking Chart. The chart will be updated as new bills are introduced.

AALL, LLAM Members Testify in Support of Maryland UELMA
Submitted by Mary Jo Lazun, Government and Vendor Relations Committee Co-Chair, Law Library Association of Maryland
The Maryland House of Delegates held a hearing on the state’s Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act (HB0162/SB0611) on Wednesday, February 18, coinciding with Maryland Library Legislative Day. Many of Maryland’s public and law librarians were in attendance.

The bill’s sponsor in the House of Delegates, Cathy Vitiale, introduced the legislation to the Health and Government Operations Committee. Testifying on behalf of the Law Library Association of Maryland (LLAM) were Mary Jo Lazun and Joan Bellistri. Steve Anderson represented American Association of Law Libraries, John Venditta spoke on behalf Maryland Library Association, and Steve Leitess testified on behalf of the Uniform Law Commission. Overall reception to the bill seemed positive with only one question about how items are authenticated. On the Senate side, a hearing is scheduled for March 5 before the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Roundup and Review

  • AALL applauds the FCC’s approval of strong net neutrality rules
  • Participate in upcoming Sunshine Week events!
  • White House names two new members of Public Interest Declassification Board
  • AALL President Holly Riccio testified at the ABA’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services hearing
  • CISA is back and is still terrible for transparency
  • Congress.gov unveils bill tracking tool
  • “The prospect of meeting with the likes of Nancy Pelosi had me quaking in my boots.” – Ron Wheeler, incoming AALL vice president