Senate Committee to Consider Presidential Records Act Amendments

March 31, 2009

On Wednesday, April 1, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a business meeting, during which they will consider H.R. 35, the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2009. This bill, which passed the House on January 27, 2009, would restore standards for the timely release of Presidential records. Similar legislation cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on June 20, 2007.

On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order on Presidential Records, E.O. 13489, to revoke E.O. 13233, the controversial order issued by former President Bush that gave current and former presidents and vice presidents the expanded authority to withhold presidential records indefinitely. AALL strongly opposed E.O. 13233 and we applauded President Obama’s Executive Order. To ensure these changes are made by law, AALL and other open government groups continue to support H.R. 35.

To find out what other legislation AALL is tracking, see our comprehensive list in Section 3.2 of our new Advocacy Toolkit.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


AALL’s New Advocacy Toolkit for the 111th Congress

March 24, 2009

In his latest e-newsletter, AALL President James Duggan announced AALL’s Advocacy Toolkit for the 111th Congress: 2009-2010, an exciting new tool to help AALL members and chapters become effective advocates for law libraries. The Advocacy Toolkit is designed to be the one-stop-shop for you to learn to become effective an advocate for law libraries at the federal and state levels.

The Toolkit provides resources for individuals to learn more about AALL’s top information policy issues and why we need you to join our Advocacy Team. In the Toolkit, you’ll find information about AALL’s policy priorities, see what bills we’re tracking, and take action on current alerts.

In addition, a large part of the Advocacy Toolkit is dedicated to helping AALL chapters form effective legislative committees. The Toolkit provides resources to help chapters influence policy at the federal and state levels by tracking bills, working with coalition partners, and communicating with their members of Congress or their state legislature to achieve the chapter’s legislative goals.

The Advocacy Toolkit is available as a live document and as a PDF on our Web site. We also offer an RSS feed to help you keep track of the latest action alerts, bills, and other updates. We hope that you find the Advocacy Toolkit to be a useful resource to help you become an effective advocate for law libraries.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


President Obama Issues New Memo on Presidential Signing Statements

March 12, 2009

Earlier this week, President Obama issued a Memorandum on Presidential Signing Statements. Signing statements are used to raise constitutional objections to statutory provisions, and as documented by OpenTheGovernment.org’s Secrecy Report Card 2008, President Bush frequently used signing statements  to broadly challenge a wide variety of provisions of law.

The new memo outlines President Obama’s intentions to “take appropriate and timely steps, whenever practicable, to inform the Congress of its constitutional concerns about pending legislation” and  “ensure that signing statements identify my constitutional concerns about a statutory provision with sufficient specificity to make clear the nature and basis of the constitutional objection. “

We commend President Obama for taking this important step to promote additional transparency and accountability in the Executive Branch.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


February Edition of the E-Bulletin

March 5, 2009

Late last week, we posted the February Edition of the Washington E-Bulletin on our Web site.  The February edition includes a federal bill tracking guide for the 111th Congress, which we hope you find to be a useful compilation of the bills AALL supports and opposes. The E-Bulletin also includes a summary of a new report from the Government Accountability Office Report on the Government Printing Office’s plans for a new facility, and an update from VALL on legislation to remove the link between courthouse construction and public law library assessments. As always, we include links to news and reports that you may have missed this month. We hope you enjoy reading this month’s edition!

Here is the Table of Contents from the February Edition:

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

-Reminder: Sign Up for the 2009 Day on the Hill Advocacy Training

UPDATES FROM THE HILL AND THE GOVERNMENT RELATIONS OFFICE

-111th Legislative Round Up: February’s Federal Bill Tracking Guide
-Government Accountability Office Report on New Facility for Government Printing Office

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: CHAPTER NEWS

-VALL Monitoring Bill Removing Link between Courthouse Construction and Public Law Library Assessments

FREE TIME WELL SPENT: Further Reading for the Information Policy Junkie

-Foreign Relations of the United States in Danger
-Law Library of Congress Collection Offers Lincoln Era Documents
-Reporters Committee Releases New Federal Open Government Guide
-Help Choose the Top Most Wanted Federal Government Documents
-OMB Watch Examines Bush’s Regulatory Record

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


Sen. Lieberman Requests Answers from the Judicial Conference on Compliance with Court Provisions of the E-Government Act of 2002

March 2, 2009

On January 27, 2009, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, Chair of the Judicial Conference of the United States Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. The letter raises important questions about how the Federal courts have complied with the transparency and privacy requirements of the E-Government Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-347).

Before beginning to even draft his 2002 bill, Sen. Lieberman and his Committee held a yearlong online survey asking the American people what they wanted to see in e-government. Improved access to information from the courts, including no-fee access to the PACER system, was a frequent response.

I was privileged to work with Sen. Lieberman’s staff at the time and AALL was a strong supporter of the 2002 Act. We were especially pleased with the following important provision on public access to PACER.

Section 205(e) of the Act changed a provision of the Judicial Appropriation Act of 2002 (28 U.S.C. 1913 note) so that courts “may, to the extent necessary” instead of “shall” charge fees “for access to information available through automatic data processing equipment.”

This important change made it possible for the Government Printing Office and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to initiate a pilot project (now on temporary hold) allowing no-fee public access to PACER at 17 federal depository libraries. AALL’s Executive Board requested that the two organizations work together by endorsing the 2006 “AALL Resolution on No-Fee FDLP Access to PACER” and we applauded the beta-test.

Regarding PACER fees, Chairman Lieberman notes in his recent letter that,

“Seven years after the passage of the E-Government Act, it appears that little has been done to make these records freely available – with PACER charging a higher rate than 2002. Furthermore, the funds generated by these fees are still well higher than the cost of dissemination, as the Judiciary Information Technology Fund had a surplus of approximately $150 million in FY2006. Please explain whether the Judicial Conference is complying with Section 205(e) of the E-Government Act, how PACER fees are determined, and whether the Judicial Conference is only charging “to the extent necessary” for records using the PACER system.”

Privacy issues are also of concern to Chairman Lieberman, particularly regarding identity theft and the lack of redaction of personal data in some court records. His letter requests that the Court review its procedures to protect personal information in publicly available court records, as required by another provision of the 2002 Act. We are very pleased that Chairman Lieberman has requested a report to the Committee on both important issues.

AALL strongly supports no-fee public access to PACER as one of our top policy goals for the coming year. For more information on our position, please see page 3 of our “Statement to The Obama-Biden Transition Team: Public Policy Positions of The American Association of Law Libraries.”

The Government Relations Office has already begun to secure allies to assist our efforts toward making PACER available to the public at no cost. We are very grateful to Chairman Lieberman for his letter and request for information. We look forward to working with the Chairman and his staff on the E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2009.

We encourage our Blawg readers to forward this posting to other interested stakeholders.

[Posted by Mary Alice Baish]


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