April 13, 2016
Today, the House Judiciary Committee approved a version of the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699) to bring the Electronic Communications Privacy Act into the 21st century.
The Email Privacy Act would require a warrant for law enforcement to obtain the content of emails, online documents, and other private electronic communications. The Manager’s Substitute Amendment, introduced by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), creates no special carve-outs for federal civil agencies, as had been the subject of some debate.
Support for ECPA reform was one of AALL’s top priorities during our recent Virtual Lobby Day. We commend the Judiciary Committee for unanimously approving the Email Privacy Act and urge the House to act quickly to pass the bill.
March 15, 2016
Today, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (S.337), to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act by codifying the presumption in favor of disclosure (often referred to as the presumption of openness) outlined in President Obama’s Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act; harnessing technology to improve the FOIA process, including requiring the creation of a consolidated online request portal; ending secrecy for 25-year-old drafts and other internal deliberations not otherwise exempt from disclosure; and increasing the independence of the Office of Government Information Services. The House passed its own FOIA improvement bill, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015 (H.R. 653), in January 2016.
AALL commends Congress for recognizing the importance of a strong FOIA law. It is especially meaningful that the Senate took this step during Sunshine Week 2016 (March 13-19), a nationwide initiative to highlight the importance of open government, and just months before the 50th anniversary of the FOIA on July 4th, 2016. We encourage the House and Senate to join together to work out the differences and send the FOIA reform bill to the President’s desk.
December 2, 2015
After a short hiatus, the Washington E-Bulletin has resumed publication. The December issue is available now on AALLNET.
IN THIS ISSUE
Vol. 2015, Issue 10
A LOOK AHEAD
- Congress Sprints toward Finish Line
- White House Proposes Weak Update to Info Policy Circular
- Take Action Before December 11 in Support of GPO and LC
AALL IN THE STATES
- A Victory for California County Law Libraries
- UELMA 2016: Get Ready to Advocate in Your State!
ROUNDUP AND REVIEW
- New Regional Discard Policy
- Implementation of the USA Freedom Act
- House Judiciary Holds ECPA Hearing
August 24, 2015
By Elizabeth Holland
Today, AALL joined a coalition of 40 organizations and 90+ individuals to call on Congress to expand public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. In a letter sent to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, House Committee on House Administration, and Joint Committee on the Library, which share jurisdiction over CRS, we urge the implementation of systematic public access to non-confidential CRS reports. Many individual law librarians also signed the letter.
American taxpayers spend more than $100 million annually to fund the CRS, yet current distribution of these reports is uneven and often expensive. CRS reports are only distributed directly to members of Congress, who can then decide whether or not to distribute them publicly. Those Capitol Hill insiders who know to ask their lawmakers for specific reports by name or who can afford to pay for them in a secondary market are able to access these useful reports, while many students, researchers, and other members of the public are not.
CRS reports play an important role in the legislative process by serving as an authoritative and unbiased source of information for legislators and staff. Over the past 10 years, CRS reports have been cited in 190 federal court opinions, more than 100 articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and are often published in the record of legislative proceedings. The public deserves a consistent and official way to access the non-classified, non-biased information CRS provides. The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Law Library of Congress, and 85 percent of G-20 countries with similar parliamentary research offices already make their reports available to the public. We urge Congress to see to it that CRS follow suit.
May 18, 2015
By Elizabeth Holland
The House of Representatives will vote tomorrow on H.R. 2250, the Fiscal Year 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. If passed in its current form, H.R. 2250 will eliminate funding for the Government Publishing Office’s (GPO) Revolving Fund. AALL opposes these cuts because without this funding, GPO may be unable to develop new digital content collections, increase accessibility of content, or improve discoverability of government information through its Federal Digital System (FDsys.gov). As the only source of no-fee public access to official digital government information from all three branches of the federal government, FDsys plays an essential role in supporting a healthy democracy.
We urge AALL members to contact your Representative today to ask him/her to oppose the cuts to GPO’s Revolving Fund in H.R. 2250. Please express your support for full funding of GPO and, in particular, the need to fund the continued development of FDsys through the Revolving Fund. We’ve set up a new action alert in AALL’s Legislative Action Center so that you can easily contact your Representative in advance of the vote, even if you’ve already taken action on this issue this year.
Be sure to customize your email to your Representative for maximum impact. For example, if you are a regular FDsys user, tell your member of Congress why it is a valuable resource to you and your patrons. Personalized constituent contacts are critical to our success in ensuring GPO can continue to fulfill it vital mission. Your personal stories will help our efforts to restore full funding for GPO when the appropriations bill moves to the Senate.
Thank you for taking action!
May 14, 2015
By Elizabeth Holland
The House of Representatives voted 338 to 88 to pass the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 2048) on Wednesday, taking an important step forward to restrict overbroad government surveillance in advance of the June 1 expiration of USA PATRIOT Act provisions. AALL urges the Senate to follow suit and act quickly to approve the USA FREEDOM Act without any weakening amendments.
The USA FREEDOM Act would reform Section 215, the “library records” provision, of the USA PATRIOT Act to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records. Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the program is illegal, making it much more difficult for the bulk collection program to continue. The White House also issued a Statement of Administration Policy in support of the USA FREEDOM Act.
Though AALL was disappointed that amendments to strengthen the bill were blocked in the committee process, we believe the USA FREEDOM Act is a critical to ending the bulk collection program and protecting the privacy of all Americans. We are pleased that H.R. 2048 contains important privacy and transparency provisions, including a requirement that significant constructions or interpretations of law by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court be made public.
AALL opposes an effort by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, S. 1035, to renew the expiring USA PATRIOT Act authorities for another five years without reform. While that measure would likely fail, Senators opposed to the USA FREEDOM Act have suggested bringing a short-term reauthorization to the floor in the face of a potential filibuster. With the clock ticking toward expiration, the Senate should feel pressure to act.
While the USA FREEDOM Act is far from perfect, this legislation offers a path for effective and meaningful reform to restore privacy. With the courts, White House, House of Representatives, and American people clearly in favor of reform, AALL urges the Senate to approve this sensible compromise legislation.