Washington E-Bulletin - January 2013

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Vol. 2013, Issue 01

A Look Ahead

Priorities and Preparations for the New Congress
Today, the 113th Congress will be sworn into session. To help you prepare for the upcoming legislative year with this new class, the Government Relations Office (GRO) will host a free online training on January 16th titled, “New Year, New Congress: a Month-by-Month Guide to the 113th”. This hour-long online training will provide a sneak peak at the upcoming major legislative actions and political landscape of 2013 and how you can join our Advocacy Team. GRO staff Emily Feltren and Elizabeth Holland and Government Relations Committee chair Melanie Knapp will guide participants through a timeline of the most important actions in the upcoming Congress, pointing out strategic opportunities for your involvement and insider tips. Register today to reserve your spot.   

In its last full week of work, the 112th Congress voted to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FISA) (H.R. 5959), extending the government’s warrantless wiretapping authority until 2017. Several attempts to amend the bill for greater transparency and accountability were defeated, including one amendment introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and strongly support by AALL, which sought to require the Attorney General to disclose some of the decisions and orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. President Obama signed the bill into law on Sunday.

Though the final vote was unfavorable, several Senators— including Sens. Leahy (D-Vt), Wyden (D-Ore.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Paul (R-KY), Udall (D-CO), and Reed (D-RI)— made strong statements on the floor in support of transparency and the importance of privacy protections for citizens. In addition, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a staunch supporter of FISA reauthorization, pledged to work with Sen. Merkley during the next year to find a way to publicly disclose significant Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decisions.

As the new Congress convenes, AALL expects to see protection of privacy as a priority issue, with the likely reintroduction of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which would require the government to obtain a warrant before searching emails and other electronic communications. As Sen. Leahy said when the Judiciary Committee approved ECPA in November, “Three decades after the enactment of ECPA, Americans face even greater threats to their digital privacy, as we witness the explosion of new technologies and the expansion of the Government’s surveillance powers…After decades of the erosion of Americans’ privacy rights on many fronts, we finally have a rare opportunity for progress on privacy protection.” AALL will continue to advocate for privacy protections to safeguard the rights of all Americans.

Advocacy in Practice: Excerpts from an Interview with Melanie Knapp
This is the final installment in a series of interviews with the 2012-2013 chairs of AALL’s three policy committees: the Copyright Committee, Digital Access to Legal Information Committee, and Government Relations Committee.

Melanie Knapp is the Instructional Services Librarian at George Mason University Law Library in Arlington, VA and chair of the Government Relations Committee (GRC). The Government Relations Office recently sent Melanie a number of questions about the status of her committee’s work. Below are excerpts from our conversation, which can be read in its entirety here.

The Government Relations Committee works closely with the Government Relations Office to advocate for the information policy interests of the Association. What are some of the recent initiatives of the Committee?

In recent months, the GRC has worked with Emily and Elizabeth in the GRO on new government initiatives that affect the work of AALL members. Members of the GRC analyzed and submitted comments to the Library of Congress on Congress.gov, the replacement for THOMAS that is in its Beta version, and on the second U.S. Code Beta site being developed by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel. We worked with the GRO in its preparation of a letter to the Administrative Office of the Courts in support of the expansion of a program to provide public access to authenticated lower federal court opinions on FDsys. And we worked with the GRO on comments to the House's Bulk Data Task Force to include disclaimer language directing users of bulk data to official, authenticated sources of government information available on FDsys.

Your committee recently had several programs accepted to the 2013 Annual Meeting in Seattle. Can you tell us about the programs?

Three programs that the GRC worked on were accepted for the Seattle meeting. First, the AALL Public Policy Update…This year’s program is designed to be very interactive – with breakout discussions on three separate policy issues for the upcoming year. We also award the prestigious PAGI and Oakley awards at this session. Second, State Open Records Laws and Libraries: Can We Value Openness and Privacy at the Same Time? This program will be very interesting, looking at the tension between access to records of public institutions, including public academic law libraries, and patron privacy. ... Third, State-Based Advocacy: Tales from the Trenches & Tips for Success in Your State. ... This program will focus on UELMA [and] other state issues like funding for libraries, and will feature a helpful role-play exercise to practice advocacy skills.

What else can we expect to see from the GRC this year?

GRC members will continue to monitor public policy issues, work with the GRO, write advocacy one-pagers, and meet with our state and federal representatives. In addition, we are in the process of evaluating how the GRC members can be good liaisons to the Chapters, SISs, and all AALL members to ensure that interested members can stay abreast of AALL policy and participate in developing the AALL policy agenda over time. We hope to come up with goals and a vision for how the GRC members can be most accessible, helpful, and effective as liaisons in years to come. As many of our AALL presidents have said, AALL is its members, and we want to make sure that members feel they can and are contributing to the important policy and advocacy work of the Association.

For more of our interview with Melanie, visit our Washington Blawg.

Act Now

Submit your Nominations for the 2013 PAGI and Oakley Advocacy Awards
You have until February 1st to submit your nominations for the prestigious Public Access to Government Information (PAGI) and Robert L. Oakley Advocacy Awards. The PAGI Award is given annually to recognize individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to protect and promote greater public access to government information. The Oakley Advocacy Award is given to recognize an AALL member or group for outstanding advocacy work contributing significantly to the AALL policy agenda at the federal, state, local, or international level. Email Melanie Knapp, chair of the Government Relations Committee, with your nominations of individuals and/or groups for both awards.

AALL in the States

Chapter Government Relations Virtual Training
The GRO will hold its first-ever virtual advocacy training for chapter leaders on January 30th, in lieu of the annual chapter leadership government relations training at the 2013 Annual Meeting in Seattle. This training will provide chapter leaders and government relations chairs with an opportunity to hear about the recent advocacy efforts of other chapters, learn best practices in government relations, and discover all the resources the GRO can offer. Topics will include how your chapter can help promote the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) and ensure funding for public law libraries in your state or region. We encourage representatives from every chapter to attend. Please RSVP to Public Policy Associate Elizabeth Holland by January 25.

Roundup and Review