Legislative Committee – National Update
September 22, 2016
Submitted by: Karla J. Trout, MSLS, Adams County Library System
· The FY 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill in both chambers includes funding for several programs of significant importance to the library community: LSTA, IAL, and Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). While the House Committee bill provides increased support for two of our priorities, it also eliminates funding for another.
o First, the good news…
§ Both the House and Senate funding bills include increased funding for LSTA and its Grants to States program, rejecting the President’s proposal to cut funding. LSTA Grants to States would receive $155.9 million in the House bill: a slight increase over FY 2016 ($155.7 million), though $240,000 less than what the Senate requested in May ($156.1 million). The President had requested only $154.8 million. Overall LSTA funding would be boosted in the House bill to $183.0 million. That compares with $183.3 in the Senate, $182.4 in the President’s request, and $182.9 ultimately approved by Congress in FY 2016).
§ New this year is a block grant created with bipartisan support under Title IV of ESSA The “Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants” (SSAEG will provide supplemental funding to help states and school districts underwrite a “well-rounded” educational experience for students, including STEM and arts programs. Best of all, libraries are expressly authorized to receive SSAEG funds. Although SSAEG was originally authorized in the ESSA at $1.65 billion, the President requested only $500 million while the Senate approved less at $300 million. The House approved a higher level of $1 billion but still below authorized levels for FY2017.
o Next, the bad news is that House appropriators have proposed to eliminate all funding for school libraries through the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. According to the House Committee’s Report, “The Committee has chosen to focus resources on core formula-based education programs instead of narrowly-focused competitive grants such as this one.” IAL received $27 million in FY2016, which was also the funding level requested by the President and supported in the Senate bill. One half of IAL funding is reserved for school libraries with the remaining open to any national non-profit by application.
· Congress returned from its recess on September 6, leaving them only a few weeks to adopt funding measures to keep the government open beyond the October 1 start of the Fiscal Year. Congress probably will be forced to enact a “Continuing Resolution,” (CR), to fund the Government. Under CR rules the previous year’s level of funding is maintained for most programs. Vigorous discussions on the Hill already have begun as to what the length of the CR can and should be. If a CR that extends into the new calendar year is adopted, the new President will be forced to negotiate government-wide spending levels with Congress soon after being sworn in, possibly even before key Cabinet and other budget-related positions are filled.
· Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – FOIA Improvement Act was signed into law on July 3, 2016 and: (more info at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/337)
o Codifies the “presumption of openness” for government documents for future administrations;
o Harnesses technology to improve the FOIA process;
o Limits, to a period of 25 years, the period of time that agencies may keep records of their internal deliberations confidential; and
o Increases the effectiveness of the FOIA by strengthening the Office of Government Information Services (created in the last FOIA reform bill, the OPEN Government Act of 2007)
· Librarians and library supporters are encouraged to write to the US Senators who voted YEA to the nomination of Dr. Carla Hayden as our new Librarian of Congress to say thank you. Both Senators Casey and Toomey voted YEA to Dr. Hayden’s nomination.
ALA LIBRARY LEGISLATIVE DAY 2017
· It’s not too early to mark your calendars for May 1-2, 2017, to plan to join us in Washington, DC, to continue our advocacy efforts with our US Senators and Congress Representatives.