Vol. 2015, Issue 05
With a calendar full of markups, hearings, and votes, Congress has been busy recently at the committee level and the old adage about “how the sausage gets made” could certainly apply; the process has not been particularly pretty. AALL’s Government Relations Office staff is closely tracking the progress of several bills through the committee process, a few of which we’ve highlighted below. You can view our Bill Tracking Chart for the 114th Congress to keep up-to-date on the status of all of our federal legislative priorities.
GPO Funding Under Threat
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, which funds the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Library of Congress (LC). Under the bill, GPO receives $110.2 million, $9.8 million below the current level of funding. The Library of Congress receives $591.4 million, an increase of $510,000 above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level.
Despite strong opposition from AALL and many of our members, the bill as approved by the committee eliminated funding for GPO’s Revolving Fund. 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. AALL is grateful to Legislative Branch Subcommittee Ranking Member Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) and Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) for speaking in support of GPO’s full budget request during the committee’s markup. Both members noted GPO’s vital role in providing no-fee permanent public access to government information.
The next step for the bill is consideration by the full House. Please contact your members of Congress now to ask them to support as close to full funding as possible for GPO and LC, including reinstating appropriations for the Revolving Fund. More information is available below under Act Now. Personalization is key to effective communication with Congress; please include personal stories or examples to illustrate why funding for FDsys is important to you. Thank you for taking action!
Surveillance Reform Faces Uncertain Future
The newly reintroduced USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 2048, S. 1123) now awaits consideration on House floor after the chamber’s Judiciary Committee favorably reported the bill without amendment yesterday by a 25-2 vote. Committee leaders blocked amendments to the surveillance reform bill as members marked it up, citing concerns that any changes would prevent the bill’s progress. As Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) made clear, “House leadership has all but assured us that if the bill is amended, it will not be considered on the House floor.”
AALL signed on in support of an amendment to prohibit the use of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to collect Americans’ communications. Despite the vocal support of all members, the amendment failed, magnifying the precariousness of the compromise to enact surveillance reform. The amendment’s co-sponsor, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) posed the difficult question: what can members do when House leadership is blocking reform favored by a majority of the House?
Despite our disappointment in the committee process, AALL supports passage of the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015; while the bill lacks some of our preferred transparency provisions and reporting requirements, it fixes many of the “specific selection term” issues from last Congress and, most importantly, would end the bulk collection of Americans’ communications records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA pen register authority, and National Security Letter statutes. Passage of the USA FREEDOM Act would ensure important reforms that are a better alternative to simply allowing Section 215 to expire in June.
In spite of yesterday’s progress, the future of surveillance reform remains uncertain. While House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said he hopes the House will vote on his bill when lawmakers return to Washington after next week’s recess, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has said he isn’t preparing to take up the USA FREEDOM Act. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has introduced legislation to cleanly reauthorize Section 215 without amendment and invoked a procedural rule to hotline the bill without committee consideration. AALL strongly opposes this and any other proposal to cleanly reauthorize Section 215. With the June deadline just around the corner, we will be tracking this issue closely and urge both chambers to avoid political gimmickry by moving swiftly to adopt the USA FREEDOM Act.
Despite strong bipartisan support in both chambers, efforts to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) remain stalled in committee. The Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699) remains referred to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations; The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015 (S. 356) awaits consideration by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Meanwhile, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015 (H.R. 653) and FOIA Improvement Act of 2015 (S. 337) have stalled after being reported to the full chambers.
Urge Congress to Restore Full Funding for GPO
As outlined above, the House Appropriations Committee recently moved to eliminate FY 2016 funding for the GPO’s Revolving Fund in the amount of $9.8 million. This fund is necessary to the continued improvement and advancement of GPO’s FDsys.
The House will vote on this appropriations request in the near future. Contact your members of Congress today to urge them to restore full funding for GPO. Using our Legislative Action Center, you can easily customize and send an email to your Representative and Senators, including your personal anecdotes about the importance of FDsys. This is a time-sensitive and urgent issue. Be sure to take action now!
Register Now: “Progress Report: UELMA Advocacy in 2015 and Beyond”
Since its approval by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) in July 2011, the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has been introduced in 20 legislatures and become law in 12 states, thanks in large part to the dedicated advocacy of AALL members and chapters. Join AALL’s Government Relations Office on Wednesday, May 13 at 12:00 pm ET for an online advocacy training in which we’ll assess progress made on UELMA and opportunities for the future. In this 30 minute presentation, we’ll cover both common advocacy challenges and strategies for success – from grabbing the attention of busy legislators and answering complex questions about technology and costs to identifying allies and building influential coalitions. You’ll learn more about the process of shepherding UELMA through the legislative process and identify opportunities for you to help enact UELMA in your state!
This training is complimentary for AALL and chapter members. Register by May 12 to participate.
AALL in the States
California Pushes Forward UELMA Implementation
Submitted by Judy Janes, Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL) Government Relations Chair
California is one-step closer to meeting its UELMA implementation deadline of July 1, 2015. The state’s Office of Legislative Data Center (OLC) unveiled its plan for authentication of the online version of the states’ chaptered bills, current code, and constitution, at a recent meeting attended by law librarians, members of the Legislative Counsel’s Office, as well as staff from the State Printer, State Archives, and Department of General Services.
OLC’s methodology relies on an Adobe standard. When a document is verified, a blue ribbon certificate displays in a banner across the top of the PDF document. An authentication seal is added to the top left corner of the document as well. If the online document is tampered with or altered at any time, the ribbon certificate turns red. When downloaded, the printed version displays the authentication seal, but not the ribbon.
The OLC implementation team is still developing preservation details. At present, only the chaptered bills are scheduled for archival storage, beginning with July 1, 2015. Law librarians suggested the need to archive and make available the authenticated annual codes to assist with legislative history research.
NOCALL Supports California County Law Library Fees
Submitted by Judy Janes
NOCALL is supporting California SB 711, a bill that allows county law libraries in the state to impose charges for the electronic delivery of services, as well as for select additional library services. Funding sources for county law libraries in California is in a critical state, and SB 711 provides some assistance. This legislation will help libraries meet ongoing demands for library services by courts and the legal communities as well as provide assistance to the growing population of members of the public who cannot afford an attorney, and turn to the county law libraries for help. NOCALL sent letters of support to the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee in preparation for its hearing on the bill. The funding crisis has been created, for the most part, by the dramatic decline in revenue from civil filing fees, their primary source funding.
Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL) Government Relations Chair David McFadden also reports that the SCALL Government Relations Committee has requested support letters for SB 711 and members of San Diego Area Law Libraries (SANDALL) have recently been asked to advocate for county law libraries.
Roundup and Review
- Congratulations to AALL member Melissa Bernstein on her appointment to GPO’s Depository Library Council (DLC)!
- AALL opposes cybersecurity information-sharing legislation
- CIO Council has released a searchable library of public laws, executive orders, and OMB documents
- When Congress heads home, head to your elected’s office or town hall
- Recent developments on the public access front
- The Copyright Office published an Index of Fair Use Decisions
- Presentations from this week’s Virtual DLC meeting, including updates on GPO’s National Plan for Access to U.S. Government Information and proposed discard policy, will soon be available in the archive
- Don’t forget to sign up for our Legislative Advocacy Training in Philadelphia when you register for the 2015 Annual Meeting. Our draft agenda is now available.