FIRST Act is Setback for Public Access

March 13, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, the Subcommittee on Research and Technology of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology reported H.R.4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act. AALL strongly opposes the bill as written. Introduced this week by Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) (the chairmen of the full committee and subcommittee, respectively), the FIRST Act would impose significant barriers to the public’s ability to access the results of taxpayer-funded research.

The FIRST Act flies in the face of the White House Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research and seeks instead to significantly limit public access to government-sponsored scientific research in several ways: Section 303 of the bill would restrict public access to articles reporting on federally funded research for up to three years after initial publication, a length of the time that would surely slow the pace of scientific discovery.  The bill would also allow federal agencies to link to final copies of articles, rather than archive full text copies for public use and long-term accessibility. The bill further fails to support provisions that allow for shorter embargo periods to publicly funded research results.

The FIRST Act clearly aims to reverse the President’s strong mandate for expanded public access, which was recently affirmed in the FY 2014 omnibus. It is not the open access reform we need.

Tell your lawmakers you oppose the FIRST Act and urge them to instead co-sponsor FASTR, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (S. 350H.R. 708), which would strengthen the language in the omnibus bill by requiring that taxpayer funded articles be made available through a central database no later than six months after publication.


Happy Birthday, World Wide Web! Make a Wish for ECPA Reform

March 12, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

On March 12th, 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee put forth a proposal to make information sharing possible over computers. That proposal in turn would eventually became the World Wide Web, and today we celebrate its 25th birthday.

It’s a gross understatement to say a lot has changed in technology and the Internet since 1989, from the first website and search engines of the early ‘90s to the more recent rise and growth of cloud computing, However, there has been one constant over time:  the law that protects the privacy of your online communications from government intrusion, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), has not been updated since it was authored in 1986.

Yes, the rules governing your online privacy are older than the Web itself. While technology has advanced at a rapid pace, electronic privacy law has remained at a standstill. Without reform, the kind of electronic communications and records that are common today— think any email, Facebook posts, search history, cloud computing documents, cell phone location information, or text messages older than 180 days— can be freely seized without a warrant.

While two reform bills have been introduced, Congress remains slow to act. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the ECPA Amendments Act of 2013 (S. 607) in April 2013. It awaits consideration by the full Senate. The House proposal, the Email Privacy Act (HR. 1852) has a not-insignificant 184 co-sponsors, but has not yet been heard in committee. These reforms would establish a search warrant requirement for the government to obtain the content of Americans’ emails when those communications are stored with a third-party service provider. The bills eliminate the outdated “180-day” rule that calls for different legal standards for the government to obtain email content depending upon the age of an email and would also require the government to notify any individual whose electronic communications have been disclosed within 10 days of obtaining a search warrant.

As we celebrate the advances of the Web over the last 25 years, it’s long past time due to reform ECPA and bring electronic privacy law up to speed.


Sign up to Take Part in AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 27

March 7, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Help give law librarians a strong showing on Capitol Hill by participating in AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 27!

At the end of the month, nearly two dozen AALL members will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with their members of Congress to discuss AALL’s top priority issues as part of our 2014 Local Advocate Lobby Day. Their conversations will cover a range of important topics facing law librarianship, from proposed surveillance and privacy reforms, transparency and open government legislation, and funding for the Government Printing Office, Library of Congress, and related agencies.

From the comfort of your desk, you can help to magnify the impact of these meetings and expand AALL’s influence in Congress.  Sign up to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day and you will receive directions and tips about contacting your member of Congress on March 27 using our Legislative Action Center. The AALL Government Relations Office will provide background information on legislation, talking points, sample messages, and suggested tips to help maximize your influence.  Email me at eholland@aall.org with any questions.

Register for the Virtual Lobby Day by March 25 to receive in your inbox all the information you’ll need to make a difference for law libraries. Thanks for all that you do to raise the profile of AALL and law librarians everywhere.


March Washington E-Bulletin

March 3, 2014

The March issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET.

IN THIS ISSUE

Vol. 2014, Issue 03

A LOOK AHEAD

ACT NOW

AALL IN THE STATES

ROUNDUP AND REVIEW


House Unanimously Passes FOIA Reform

February 26, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Last night, the House of Representatives voted 410-0 to pass the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act (H.R. 1211) nearly a year after the bill was introduced. AALL joined a number of organizations earlier this week in a show of support for the bill, which would put into the law the “presumption of openness” established in President Barack Obama’s Open Government Memorandum, subsequent Open Government Directive, and Attorney General Eric Holder’s FOIA memorandum.

The FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act includes enhancements to the authority of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS); establishes a Chief FOIA Officers Council to review compliance with the act and to recommend improvements; encourages more proactive disclosure; and advances the creation of a central, online portal for making FOIA requests and checking on the status of those requests.

Following yesterday’s unanimous vote, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VI) tweeted about the “big win for #OpenGov.” He said in a statement, “Transparency in government is a critical part of restoring trust and the House will continue to work to make government more transparent and accessible to all Americans. By expanding the FOIA process online, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act creates greater transparency and continues our open government efforts in the House.”

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where a similar FOIA reform bill passed unanimously last Congress.


Guest Post: Why I Advocate

February 24, 2014

By Melanie Knapp, 2012-2013 Chair of AALL’s Government Relations Committee

On March 27, AALL’s Government Relations Office will host its second Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. As the former chair of AALL’s Government Relations Committee and a District of Columbia resident, I encourage you to attend this special event in our nation’s beautiful capital.

In our democracy, it is our right to visit our elected representatives and have them understand what is important to us. Members of Congress rely on many factors to help them make their decisions: their own knowledge of an issue; spirited debate with colleagues; the urging of party leadership; e-mails, letters, and telephone calls from constituents; and lobbyists on both sides of an issue. Obviously, no legislator can be an expert on every subject. Research shows, however, that nothing is more influential to a member of Congress than meetings with his or her constituents. Our legislators are grateful to be educated by their constituents in-the-know—that is, the people who elected them who are also experts on a particular issue. This kind of civic engagement leads to more efficient and effective decision-making.

In July 2009, I attended the AALL’s Day on The Hill event before the AALL Annual Meeting and Conference. The experience was incredibly valuable to me, both personally and professionally. Though I had done a lot of advocacy as an environmental attorney in Austin, Texas—I had spoken in court, at city council meetings, at meetings of federal and state agencies, and at many public gatherings and rallies—I had never visited the halls of Congress in Washington. I was intimidated!

The Day on the Hill taught me the skills and information I needed to boost my confidence and advocate successfully. Just as you will at the March 27 Lobby Day, I heard from experts about methods for communicating my positions effectively and practiced key talking points on the issues of the day. In the afternoon, I partnered with a fellow Ohioan (my home state at the time) to visit my members of Congress’s offices. We spoke with legislative aides about our personal experiences as law librarians and the policy issues affecting us. And, I found, it was actually a lot of fun. The key to feeling comfortable visiting your Congress member is practice, and that’s exactly what I did at the Day on the Hill. I’ve since visited the Hill again. With each meeting, advocacy becomes easier and I feel more comfortable.

On March 27, you’ll have the same opportunity to practice this vital part of the democratic process. You’ll learn all the tricks, tips, and talking points you’ll need to feel confident expressing your views. Walking through the same buildings as our lawmakers will give you a sense of pride and strength knowing you are there to make a difference for yourself, your patrons, and your law libraries.

I hope you’ll join me, the Government Relations Office staff, and other seasoned and budding AALL advocates on March 27 to practice advocacy. I guarantee it will be fun!

The AALL Lobby Day is open to all AALL and chapter members and registration is free of cost. For more information, visit http://aallnet.org/Home-page-contents/Events/lobbyday2014.html. To register, please email Elizabeth Holland at eholland@aall.org by March 1.


Progress Report: Checking in on Federal Legislative Priorities

February 21, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

The House and Senate were on recess this week, but there have been several updates to our 113th Congress Bill Tracking Chart recently. Here’s where we’ve seen progress on AALL’s federal legislative priorities:

  • As we reported in this month’s Washington E-Bulletin, legislation has been introduced to restore the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules. The Open Internet Preservation Act (H.R. 3982, S.1981) has gained 27 co-sponsors in the House and 6 co-sponsors in the Senate since its early February introduction. This week, Chairman Tom Wheeler said the FCC will propose new net neutrality rules in the late spring or early summer, after soliciting public comment.
  • With Sunshine Week just around the corner, open government advocates in Congress will use the coming weeks as an opportunity to highlight legislation on oversight and transparency. As such, AALL has renewed its push on ACMRA, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (H.R. 1380), joining a broad coalition of organizations on a letter calling on House leadership to consider the bipartisan bill at the earliest opportunity.
  • Thanks to the successful The Day We Fight Back campaign, the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 3361, S. 1599) has gained significant sponsorship in the House and Senate. Both chambers’ Judiciary Committees, which have jurisdiction over the bills, held hearings related to NSA surveillance reform this month, though the leadership of both committees appear to be waiting for a clear signal from the administration before moving forward.
  • Last but not least is a new addition to our chart: AALL supports the recently introduced Senate bill to rename the Government Printing Office to the Government Publishing Office, the Government Publishing Office Act of 2014 (S. 1947). The bill has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration.

As Congress returns to work, expect to see more updates to our bill tracking chart in the coming days and weeks. We also encourage you to check out the newly updated Congress.gov, which got some great new features and improvements this week.  An Advanced Search and Browse feature are now available and the Appropriations Table from THOMAS has returned.


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