Archive for May, 2011

USA PATRIOT Act reauthorized for 4 years with no amendments

On Thursday, Congress passed the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act and President Obama signed it electronically, just prior to the sunset date of May 27th.  The reauthorization included no reforms to three sections of concern to libraries—Section 215 known as the library provision, lone wolf and wire tap.  The new sunset date for the PATRIOT Act is four years from now on June 1, 2015.  Several amendments were considered, which is encouraging, but they all failed.  Thank you for all of your advocacy efforts.  The votes in both the Senate and the House did not fall strictly along party lines.  Further analysis of the votes will come from the American Library Association (ALA) at a later time.

Several Senators, including Senator Cardin, have introduced a new bill, S 1125, the USA PATRIOT ACT Improvements Act of 2011, to attempt to make some needed changes.  ALA will release more information about this bill after further review.

For more information, please see the District Dispatch posting.

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Action Alert! Ask Senate to amend PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill, S 1038

S 1038, the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011, may be voted on soon, before the May 27th sunset date.  The bill sets the new expiration date of 2015 for three provisions—Section 215 known as the “library provision,” the roving wire taps and the lone wolf.  The American Library Association (ALA) opposes this bill without amendment.

ALA does support the following amendments:

  • Senator Rand Paul’s amendment to return Section 215 to its pre-2001 form and protect the privacy of library users is ideal.
  • Senator Patrick Leahy and Rand Paul’s amendment to add reforms from Senator Leahy’s bill, S 193, is good because it includes improved reader privacy protections.
  •  If nothing else, amend the bill to include a sunset in 2013, rather than 2015, to allow for meaningful debate on these issues to occur sooner.

For more details on these amendments and ALA’s endorsement, please see the District Dispatch posting for details on why ALA supports this change.

Please contact Senators Mikulski and Cardin asking for their support of these amendments.  Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide.

LSTA & Local Advocacy Works

Below is a message that the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office asked for me to pass along to my colleagues in Maryland.  It highlights the recent advocacy success of the libraries in Montgomery County and how the same model can be used at the federal level with Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) funding.

The Dear Colleague letters in support of LSTA and the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (ILTSL) program were recently delivered to the leadership of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee.  Of the Maryland Representatives, Congressman Van Hollen signed onto the ILTSL letter and Congressman Ruppersberger signed onto both the LSTA and ILTSL letters.  (See the District Dispatch posting for details.)  Thank you for all of your advocacy efforts and I encourage you to thank Congressman Van Hollen and Ruppersberger for their support.

It is not too late to try and gain additional support for LSTA and ILTSL.  You can still contact members of the House to ask for their support and a Dear Colleague letter will soon be available for the Senate.  Phone numbers are listed in the message below and a Capwiz Action Alert, including a pre-written letter, is available.

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From the ALA Washington Office:

As many of you know, the Montgomery County Council recently pushed for a $2.8 million cut to the library budget, but – thanks to a little creative advocacy – $2.3 of the of the proposed cut was restored.

On the day of the final vote, citizens showed up wearing orange T-shirts that said, “Libraries Matter.  No more cuts.” Their show of support for their local libraries persuaded the council to change its mind. Read the full story here.

This local approach can also work on the federal level, as “all politics is local.” Your advocacy is urgently needed now, as Congress delves into the FY2012 Appropriations process.

The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) is the primary source of federal funding for libraries. Currently, neither the House nor the Senate has marked up the appropriations legislation that funds the LSTA, but we know we have a fight ahead of us. The President’s FY2012 budget request called for a 10 percent cut to this program. 

Libraries fill in the gaps when other government services are cut, and now is the time to give Congress same message the citizens of Montgomery County took to their council members: Libraries Matter.  No more cuts.

Please call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and contact Senators Mikulski and Cardin as well as your representatives and ask them to restore LSTA funding.  For background information on LSTA, click here.

School Libraries’ funding at risk for FY 2012

The House Education & Workforce Committee is scheduled to markup HR 1891 on Wednesday.   This bill would repeal a number of Department of Education programs that have been called “ineffective or unnecessary.”  This would include the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (ILTSL) program, a source of federal funding exclusively for school libraries, despite the fact that it has been labeled successful in two separate evaluations.

Thank you for any advocacy efforts to get members of the House to sign on to the Dear Colleague letter in support of ILTSL.  Maryland has no members on the House Education & Workforce Committee, so there is no further action to take at this time.  For more information, see the District Dispatch posting.

Action Alert! Contact House to sign Dear Colleague Letters for LSTA & ILTSL

Please contact your representative in the House asking them to sign onto two Dear Colleague Letters—one for Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) and the other for Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (ILTSL)—to support their funding in FY 2012.  For background information, as well as a pre-written letter, see the Capwiz Action Alert.  (The Action Alert also includes information about including an effective school library program in the reauthorization of Elementary & Secondary Education).

Congressman Ruppersberger has already signed on to these letters, so feel free to contact him to say “thank you.”

Dept of Education eliminates funding for school libraries in FY 2011

The Department of Education had 30 days to finalize their budget allocation.  The report released on May 16th indicates that funding for the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (ILTSL) program was zeroed out for the rest of FY 2011.  This eliminates the sole source of federal funding for school libraries and a means to provide students with up-to-date books and technology, as well as certified school librarians.  For more information, please see the District Dispatch posting.

Action Alert! Ask Congress to support PATRIOT Act reforms; House & Senate bills pass out of committee

HR 1800, which was just introduced last Friday, passed out of the Judiciary Committee today with no amendments.  This bill would reauthorize the “John Doe” wiretap and Section 215, or “library provision,” until 2017, as well as make the “lone wolf” provision permanent.  It would allow for very little oversight of government authority in these areas for the next six years.  For more information on HR 1800, see the District Dispatch posting.

S 193 is the Senate bill which is more favorable for libraries and public privacy.  It passed out of committee in early March, but has not been voted on yet by the full Senate.  For more information on this bill, see the District Dispatch posting.

The USA PATRIOT Act is set to expire on May 27th.  It is not clear if and when HR 1800 or S 193 may make it to the floor for a vote.  Regardless, it is important to contact members of the House and Senate now to support PATRIOT Act reforms.  A Capwiz Action Alert has been set up, with a pre-written letter, to facilitate contact with Congress.

Thank you in advance for any advocacy assistance you can provide!



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