Washington E-Bulletin - September 2013

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Vol. 2013, Issue 09

A Look Ahead

Supporting Agencies Amid Tough Cuts
Like students returning to campus (and, hopefully, to your law libraries), members of Congress have returned to a crowded calendar this September. The August Recess officially ends on September 9— though key Congressional committees have already been called back to Washington to debate military action in Syria—and upon its return, Congress will face several pieces of must-pass legislation that impact the agencies we support:

Fiscal Year 2013 ends on September 30 and with it, so does funding for the federal government. It is overwhelmingly likely that Congress will again pass a temporary spending bill, called a Continuing Resolution (CR), to fund the government in the new fiscal year.  Should it fail to do so, the government would shut down— though so-called “essential services” like conducting food safety inspections and sending Social Security checks would continue. The CR debate will be fraught with volatile issues like healthcare, and it’s likely any deal reached will be a short-term one. That’s because looming sometime in mid-October is the promise of the federal government hitting the debt ceiling, the limit Congress places on its own borrowing, and a likely showdown to raise it.

On top of all of this, the Budget Control Act (or “sequestration”) remains in effect and has forced programs that normally expect flat or increasing financing to make sudden cuts.  Agencies who have thus-far delayed sequestration cuts are scrambling to make them now, often with reduced staffs because of furloughs or hiring freezes. Any CR passed will likely fund Fiscal Year 2014 at current sequestration levels, with further cuts kicking in later this fiscal year. Combined with the short-term stopgap measure approach, these deeps cuts prevent agencies from long-term planning or commitment to big projects. In his testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch in February, Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington said sequestration would prevent the Library from acquiring 400,000 or more collection items.

Federal agencies are doing their best to contend in the uncertainty of Fiscal Year 2014 but are still unable to predict how much— if any—they’ll be able to spend on programs. Thus, with so much unknown about future budgets, it is especially important to commend and support the important work some agencies do to promote access to legal information.  For instance, the Government Printing Office (GPO) is the trusted source of such information from the federal government, providing permanent public access to federal information resources in tangible and electronic formats.  GPO recently expanded its program to provide public access to authenticated lower federal court opinions through its project with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC). The U.S. Courts Opinions Collection in FDsys includes authenticated opinions from more than 60 Federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. Now, GPO and the AOUSC need to hear from you. Please share your stories about how you’ve used the collection to help students, faculty, pro se litigants and others. We’ll compile your responses and share them with GPO and the Administrative Office. Law librarian stories will go far in demonstrating the value of the GPO/AOUSC unique collaboration and the importance of permanent public access to these official, authenticated lower court opinions. Thanks in advance!

For those academic law librarians kicking off a new school year, as well public and private law librarians alike, please remember to use our Print Resource Usage Log when you use print legal materials in your library. We’ve already collected some great anecdotes but want to ensure that the project is ongoing and up-to-date. Help us build the case for print by logging each time you use, or help someone to use, a federal legal resource in print. You may even consider posting the log link on your institution’s intranet to encourage more frequent logging!

Act Now

Online Advocacy Training September 25: “Congress at Work: The Structure and Significance of Congressional Committees”
Woodrow Wilson wrote in 1885, “…it is not far from the truth to say that Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work." From markups to hearings to reports, the work of Congressional committees is often some of the most substantive in Congress, but it is also often the least transparent. As "little legislatures,” committees monitor governmental operations, identify issues for legislative review, gather and evaluate information, and recommend courses of action to the Congress from behind closed doors.

Join the Government Relations Office staff on Wednesday, September 25 from 12:00-12:30pm for our next online advocacy training, Congress at Work: The Structure and Significance of Congressional Committees,”  where we’ll take a look at the behind-the-scenes work of Congressional committees. With the House Judiciary Committee taking up copyright reform and the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees debating privacy laws, there will be many opportunities to influence committee work in the coming months. Learn how and register online by September 24.

Register for the 2013 DLC Meeting and FDL Conference
The 2013 Depository Library Council Meeting and Federal Depository Library Conference will be held from October 21 thru October 23, 2013 at the Government Printing Office’s historic location in Washington, D.C. A preliminary schedule is available for download and includes a number of focus groups on topics identified in the FDLP Forecast Study. Register for the conference online by Tuesday, October 15th. Law librarian attendees are invited to a special reception at the AALL Government Relations Office, located next door to GPO, on October 22. More details to follow.

AALL in the States

Submit your Chapter Advocacy Updates
Chapters are invited to share news, events, and policy updates with the broader AALL membership via this monthly column in the Washington E-Bulletin.  To submit chapter advocacy news, contact Elizabeth Holland (eholland@aall.org).

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