In the Winter 2016 issue of the CALL Bulletin, Tom Gaylord provided us with information on AALL and ALA advocacy tools. If you are looking for a way to put those advocacy tools to use, Emily Feltren, the Director of AALL’s Government Relations Office (GRO), gave an online advocacy training session on March 9 which highlighted some of the GRO’s legislative priorities for the remainder of the 114th Congress. While election year politics and the limited time remaining in the current Congress make passing any legislation a tricky matter, Emily focused on the following pending bills which the GRO has identified as particularly worthy of our legislative advocacy efforts.
- Passing the Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016, (H.R. 4702/S. 2639). This bill, co-sponsored in the House by Leonard Lance (R-New Jersey) and Chicago’s Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and in the Senate by Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), would require the Government Publishing Office to provide free online access to CRS reports. Reports would be required to be searchable and downloadable, while the bill also requires that any confidential information must be redacted.
- Opposing the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act (CODE Act) (H.R. 4241). If enacted, this legislation would establish the Copyright Office as an independent agency outside of the Library of Congress, where it is currently a department. The GRO believes that the Copyright Office is “well served by its home in the Library of Congress,” and that moving the Copyright Office would weaken it in terms of funding and appropriations while also having a negative effect on public participation in the copyright process.
- FOIA updates. Thanks in part to AALL legislative advocacy efforts, the Senate passed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2015 ( S. 337) unanimously on March 15. The House had already passed its FOIA reform bill, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015 (H.R. 653) in January. This legislation will provide for greater transparency and oversight of FOIA and the way it is administered.
- Amending electronic privacy laws. The Email Privacy Act(H.R. 699) and Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments of 2015 (S. 356), would amend the ECPA to provide greater protection of sensitive personal information from intrusive government surveillance by requiring a warrant based on probable cause before obtaining the content of emails and other electronic communications. As it stands now, these electronic communications and records can be freely seized by law enforcement without a warrant.
While these issues aren’t necessarily headline grabbers, they are of great importance to librarians and the work we do. In past years, AALL legislative advocates have assisted in helping to fund the GPO and FDsys and adding co-sponsors to an Open Access for Scientific Research bill, so your voice can make a difference. If you want to become a legislative advocate for any (or all) of these issues, visit AALL’s Legislative Action Center, where you can find more detailed information on these bills, information on how to contact your legislators, and tips on how to present your argument in the most effective way possible. And if you’re interested in additional opportunities to sharpen your advocacy skills, you can attend the Legislative Advocacy Training workshop during the AALL Annual Meeting.