Washington eBulletin – July 2017

Vol. 2017 Issue 07

A Look Ahead

House Appropriations Committee Approves Public Access to CRS Reports

The House Appropriations Committee took a major step last week to make non-confidential Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports available to the public. During its markup of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill on June 29, 2017, the full Committee approved language directing CRS to report back to the Committee within 90 days of enactment with a plan to make its non-confidential reports available to the public. The Legislative Branch Appropriations bill must still pass the House and there must be a companion bill in the Senate. However, the report language in legislative branch appropriations bills is generally adhered to even if not passed into law, so there is a good chance that CRS might respond to the House Appropriations Committee even if the language is not enacted.

Public access to CRS reports is one of AALL’s Public Policy Priorities for the 115th Congress, and we’ve been advocating for greater access for more than 20 years. Most recently, we requested that these reports be made public in our written testimony in support of the FY 2018 budget requests of the Government Publishing Office and Library of Congress. This progress would not have been possible without the support of the hundreds of AALL members who have called, emailed, tweeted, and met with their members of Congress to advocate for access to these reports.

For many years, we had heard concerns from members of the Appropriations Committee, including former chair and ranking member of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.), that providing public access to CRS reports would strain the agency and weaken its role in providing Congress with nonpartisan analysis. Former CRS employees effectively refuted those arguments in letters and talking points. The members’ concerns have also been addressed by other members of the Appropriations Committee, including open government advocate Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who has been working with AALL, Demand Progress, R Street, and others on this issue for several years.

While the House Appropriations approval is a win for public access, we’re not out of the woods just yet. AALL will continue to work with our friends in Congress and in the open government community to make sure the language is included in any final appropriations package for FY 2018. As we learn more about how the budget and appropriations process will unfold, we’ll keep you informed about any opportunities for action.

Act Now

Be a Champion of Information!

As Congress considers Fiscal Year 2018 funding levels for the Government Publishing Office and the Library of Congress, your representatives need to hear from you. When you arrive in Austin, check your registration bags for postcards to send to Capitol Hill in support of access to official, trustworthy legal information. Simply fill out the postcards and add your own stamps, or drop them at the Member Services Pavilion in the Exhibit Hall and we’ll send them for you. While you’re at Member Services, don’t forget to pick up an advocacy pin to show that you’re proud to support access to legal information. You can also send an email to your members of Congress right now through our Action Center. Show your support on social media by using #ChampionInformation, #ChampionJustice, and #ChampionKnowledge.

We look forward to seeing many of you at Advocacy Leadership: Skills for Influence and Action, which will be held on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 from 2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (CDT) and the AALL Public Policy Update (C5) on Sunday, July 16 from 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (CDT).

AALL in the States

LLAGNY Sends Letter in Support of Access to CRS Reports
The Law Library Association of Greater New York (LLAGNY) sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) before the House Appropriations Legislative Branch markup urging her to support access to CRS reports. Thank you to LLAGNY for helping to move this issue forward!

LLNE Calls for UELMA Advocacy

The Law Librarians of New England (LLNE) posted an update calling for member action in support of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) in Massachusetts.

Roundup and Review

    • AALL submitted comments to the Administrative Conference of the United States’ Committee on Administration and Management in response to its study on Adjudication Materials on Agency Websites, urging the Committee to strengthen its recommendations on the online dissemination of decisions and supporting materials issued and filed in federal adjudicative proceedings.
    • The Copyright Office released a new report on Section 1201 of Title 17, recommending the Congress keep the basic framework of Section 1201 while making certain legislative updates to allow for circumvention in certain circumstances, including for the use of assistive reading technologies, as AALL had recommended.
    • AALL will join major websites, internet users, and online communities in a mass day of action to save net neutrality on July 12, 2017. Don’t want to wait until July 12 to get involved? You can write to your members of Congress in support of net neutrality today using our Action Center.
    • AALL signed on to a letter to the Congressional Budget Office to urge them to follow digital best practices in providing access to its work products.