Federal Advocacy: The Year in Review

December 17, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

The 113th Congress has come to a close, marking the end of a historically unproductive and largely dysfunctional term. While political and economic factors created new advocacy challenges in 2014, AALL members rose to the occasion and helped to achieve real progress on several of the Association’s Public Policy Positions. Here’s a roundup of action on our priorities in the past year—including several lame duck developments.

GPO Gets a New Name

The recently passed “CRomnibus” spending bill for Fiscal Year 2015 (H.R. 83) included slight increases in funding for the Government Printing Office and the Library of Congress, as well as one particularly noteworthy policy change: it re-names the Government Printing Office as the Government Publishing Office. Throughout the year, AALL members worked in support of the Government Publishing Office Act of 2014 (S. 1947) to provide GPO with a name that more accurately reflects the agency’s role as the “official, digital, secure” source of federal government information in the digital age. S. 1947 was reported by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration but never received floor time. Instead, the bill text— which also changes the titles of the public printer and deputy public printer to “director” and “deputy director” and replaces gender-specific terms with gender-neutral ones— was rolled into the spending bill and passed into law.

FOIA Reform Phased Out

Though both the House and Senate cleared their respective bills to improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2014, the FOIA Improvement Act (S. 2520) will not become law this year. After clearing a challenge from outgoing Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), the Senate bill moved to the House last Monday. Despite what appeared to be solid approval in the House, leaders in that chamber failed to put the measure on the calendar before their members adjourned for the year. The bill would have established a “presumption of openness” with government information, codifying President Obama’s 2009 directive to federal agencies. Congress is likely to revisit the issue next year.

Updates to Presidential and Federal Records Acts Enacted

This year, President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 1233, the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014. This set of amendments is the first statutory change to the Federal Records Act since it was passed in 1950 and implements the important modernization of the definition of a federal record to include electronic records. It also makes several updates to the Presidential Records Act to improve access. Among several key provisions, the new law codifies the procedures by which former and incumbent presidents review presidential records for constitutional privileges and establishes a reasonable standard for release of records.

Elimination of Indexes Avoided

When the House passed the Federal Register Modernization Act (H.R. 4195) in July, AALL advocates stepped up their advocacy efforts to defend the statutory requirement to print the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations and produce indexes for these resources, which would have been eliminated by the bill. Sharing anecdotes about the usefulness of these texts and their indexes in print helped the Government Relations Office to engage with Senate staff about our concerns. The bill died in the Senate.

Privacy Safeguards on Back Burner

Efforts to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and reform the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance practices were both stalled in 2014 amid contentious party divisions. The Senate blocked consideration of the USA FREEDOM Act  (S. 2685) in December, despite support from the White House, Director of National Intelligence, Senators from both parties, tech companies, and a wide coalition of organizations for the bill to curb domestic surveillance practices. Critics of the legislation said they preferred to use the June 2015 reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act to enact reforms. A similarly popular bill, the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 1852) to update ECPA, gained 272 co-sponsors this year but was never awarded floor time because one federal agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, worked to keep the bill from coming to fruition. While AALL is disappointed that both efforts fizzled out, we look forward to the renewed opportunity to advance important privacy protections for individuals and library patrons in the new 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.


“Making Sense of the Federal Budget Process” Online Training Feb. 27th

February 6, 2013

Does the federal budget process seem like an insiders’ game? You don’t have to be a policy wonk to understand the budget cycle and its impact on libraries! Join the Government Relations Office for a 30 minute advocacy training to learn about the budget process and how you can make a difference for libraries and your community.

“Making Sense of the Federal Budget Process”

February 27, 2013

12:00 – 12:30 pm EST

Register here.

Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren and Public Policy Associate Elizabeth Holland will walk you through the twists and turns of the federal budget process and help you understand where your voice is most needed.  We’ll help demystify the budget process by answering questions like: How does the budget process work? Is there a timeline for appropriations bills? What’s the difference between discretionary and mandatory spending?

This training is available at no additional cost for AALL members and chapter members. Register by February 25th.


Join the Team

October 9, 2012

By Elizabeth

Here’s a friendly reminder to complete our quick survey to become a member of AALL’s Advocacy Team if you haven’t already done so!

With Congress making cuts to Government Printing Office and Library of Congress funding, looming threats to eliminate crucial print legal resources, and important information policy issues competing for attention in the upcoming lame-duck session, now is the critical time to make your voice heard. Whether you’re new to our advocacy efforts or a seasoned veteran, the Government Relations Office would like to invite you to become a more effective, engaged member of AALL’s Advocacy Team by providing us with some brief information about yourself and your interests. The information you share with us will help us help you become your most effective advocate.

Take our brief Advocacy Team questionnaire today.

Whether you are an academic, private or public sector law librarian, joining the AALL Advocacy Team will provide a rewarding opportunity to participate in our Association and make a difference. You will help to implement public policies that ensure no-fee permanent public access to official, authentic legal resources, create an equitable balance in copyright laws, protect the privacy of library users, and impact other key information policy issues.

Our advocates have already racked up many successes at the federal level. For example, earlier this year, our members helped ensure adequate funding for the Library of Congress and Government Printing Office in this fiscal year. And, thanks to your help, the “We, the People” petition calling for open access to taxpayer-funded research surpassed the number of signatures required for review by the White House staff and is currently under consideration for action by the White House!

As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.”  Personal relationships and contacts are the most effective way to influence your legislators’ position on public policies. Once again, please fill out our questionnaire. Your responses will help us to identify how you can most effectively assist us with our advocacy efforts.

The Government Relations Office will call upon Advocacy Team members to influence the outcome on our important legislative priorities. We will only contact you when matters are urgent, so when you hear from us, you’ll know we really need your help. The information you provide will remain confidential.

Thank you for that you do! We look forward to working together.


Free AALL Webinar on Law Librarians and the Federal Depository Library Program

April 11, 2012

AALL members and chapter members are invited to participate in AALL’s free April 19 webinar, “Law Librarians and the Federal Depository Library Program: Working Together for a Successful Future.” Registration closes on April 12.

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The Government Printing Office (GPO) is conducting a study to assess the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and determine its direction. Law librarians are leaders in advocating for equitable, no-fee, permanent public access to authentic online legal information, so it is vital that you participate in building a robust FDLP for the future.

AALL and GPO invite you to join us to learn more about the FDLP Forecast Study and how you can contribute. Sally Holterhoff, former AALL president and a two-term member of the Depository Library Council, will introduce the program, and Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren will moderate. GPO project leaders Cherie Givens and David Walls will explain the goals of the study, its three major components, and how you can participate in your state and/or region. Peggy Roebuck Jarrett, Depository Library Council member and leader of state efforts in Washington, will then explain how she has been working with other Washington State federal depository libraries to create a state forecast and action plan. The webinar is geared toward law librarians at federal depository libraries, but all AALL and chapter members are welcome to attend.

This webinar is free for AALL members and chapter members.

Learning Objectives:

• Participants will be able to explain the parts and goals of the FDLP Forecast Study.
• Participants will understand how and why to get involved in the project in their own states.

Speakers:

Sally Holterhoff is government information/reference librarian and associate professor of law librarianship at Valparaiso University Law Library in Indiana. She has served two terms as a member of the Depository Library Council–from 1987 to 1990 and from 2008 to 2011. Her AALL activities through the years have included serving as chair of the Government Documents SIS and of the Government Relations Committee and serving as president in 2006-07. She is also a founding member of INDIGO, the Indiana government documents group.

Peggy Roebuck Jarrett is reference and documents librarian at the University of Washington Gallagher Law Library and is currently serving on the Depository Library Council. She is organizing the efforts of the Northwest Government Information Network to craft a forecast and action plan for Washington State depository libraries.

Cherie Givens is an assessment specialist librarian at the U.S. Government Printing Office. She is co-leading the FDLP Forecast Study, has lead curriculum planning for online training on GPO’s Federal Digital System, drafted the Legal Requirements and contributed to the Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program. She holds a Ph.D. in Library, Archival and Information Studies, and is also an attorney-at-law with a particular interest in First Amendment issues and laws affecting libraries and archives. She has written and presented on issues related to the First Amendment, intellectual freedom, social policy, and the publishing industry.

David Walls is the preservation librarian for the U.S. Government Printing Office, where he is responsible for developing preservation initiatives for tangible and digital government information. He is the co-chair of the FedLink Preservation Working Group and is currently leading an initiative for FDsys certification as a trustworthy digital repository. Before coming to GPO, he was the preservation librarian at Yale University for over a decade. He is currently serving with Cherie Givens as the co-lead on the FDLP Forecast Study.

Moderator:

Emily Feltren, AALL Government Relations Office


AALL’s Government Relations Office and Chapters: A Perfect Partnership

November 14, 2011

The Government Relations Office (GRO) relies on AALL’s chapters to track key legislation and trends at the state level. When an issue arises, chapter leaders are encouraged to contact the GRO so that we can offer advice, help draft letters or testimony, and reach out to stakeholder groups for support. In turn, AALL relies on our chapters to speak up when we need help influencing policy at the federal level.

As Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” The relationships that AALL and chapter members develop with their elected officials at the federal and state levels, and the expertise that they bring to those relationships, is the key to our success.

Our advocacy partnership works because it’s a two-way street. The GRO offers support when an issue arises at the state level. For example, earlier this year we coordinated efforts with the Dallas Association of Law Librarians (DALL), Houston Area Law Librarians (HALL) and Southwestern Association of Law Libraries (SWALL) on a letter to express concerns about a proposal  to eliminate funding for the Texas State Law Library. In addition, as our case study describes, AALL worked closely with the Southern New England Law Librarians Association (SNELLA) in 2009/2010 to oppose the closures of Connecticut’s courthouse libraries. Our coordinated effort helped gain more than 1,100 signatures on AALL’s petitions to oppose the closures and garnered the support of the state and local bar associations who helped us in our efforts to save the libraries.

The GRO also turns to chapters to apply pressure at the federal level where it is needed most. We draft letters for the chapter president to sign, send you action alerts to forward to your members, and ask you to speak up when an important issue arises. For example, we recently asked chapters to contact Members of Congress in support of funding for the Government Printing Office.

The partnership between the GRO and chapters is facilitated by Government Relations Committee “liaisons,” who are members of the Government Relations Committee that work with their assigned chapters to form personal relationships and establish a channel of communication between the Government Relations Office, Government Relations Committee, and all of our chapters. AALL also recently launched a new listserv for chapter leaders that will help us stay informed about what is happening at the state level and help chapter leaders connect with each other around shared concerns. This listserv includes Chapter Presidents, Vice Presidents, Government Relations/Legislative Committee Chairs and the Government Relations Office staff.

The GRO also offers resources to help chapters establish effective Government Relations Committees. AALL’s Advocacy Toolkit includes sections on creating effective Government Relations/Legislative Committeesexamples of letters chapters have sent to government officials, and case studies that describe — step-by-step — successful advocacy efforts at the state level. In addition, the GRO and Government Relations Committee participate in an annual Chapter Leadership Roundtable: Government Relations at AALL’s Annual Meeting to discuss the latest issues with chapter members.

To get more involved in your chapter’s advocacy efforts, contact your chapter’s Government Relations Committee Chair. To start a new committee, please email AALL’s Interim Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren. Your contributions will make a difference!


AALL Launches New Legislative Action Center

October 4, 2011

AALL is pleased to announce the launch of a new Legislative Action Center. Our new Action Center allows you to easily send messages to your Members of Congress, look up information about your elected representatives, and share our alerts with friends and colleagues.

Please use our Action Center to respond to our current alert on GPO funding. The alert allows you to send targeted messages to your Senators and House Representative and personalize your emails with stories and experiences related to FDsys and the Federal Depository Library Program. Your personal experiences and reasons why funding cuts would hurt your lawmakers’ constituents will be the hook that catches their attention. Thank you for taking action!


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