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Help AALL Build the Case for Print Legal Resources

June 29th, 2012 by

From the AALL Government Relations Office:

A recent query from the Office of the Law Revision Counsel in the U.S. House of Representatives about the importance of the printed General Index of the U.S. Code has made clear that the threat of elimination of print legal materials and reference publications continues to loom. As advocates for permanent public access to primary legal materials, AALL members know the value print resources provide. It is incumbent upon us to build evidence in support of the continued need for print and other tangible formats.

To that end, the Government Relations Office has created a print resource usage log that will aid in collecting more information about print use. We ask that you log each time you use, or help someone to use, a federal legal resource in print. Examples include the print Code of Federal Regulations, Congressional Record, and U.S. Code. The usage log is short and simple. Please provide answers to as many of the questions as you can and ask your colleagues to do the same. Your answers will only be recorded and viewed by the AALL Government Relations Office staff, though we will make public an overview of the responses.

Thank you.

Attacks on Census Funding – Claiming To Solve Our Economic Problems In The Dark ?

May 14th, 2012 by

With the  first spending bill of the year, The House Appropriations Committee’s bill  for Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations, slashes government’s data collection arm by 25 percent. The cuts in question target the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau . The U.S. House of Representatives voted  (232 – 190) to eliminate all funding for the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the traditional census long form starting with the 2010 Census. These cuts follow the Obama’s own proposed cuts to the bureau’s budget.

A U.S. Department Of Commerce, Office of Inspector General’s report, in June 2011,  raised questions re. the cost of conducting the ten-year census mandated by the constitution. However, the Census Bureau has been striving to cut administrative costs, re-engineer their survey processes to bring down its costs while maintaining the quality & accuracy of the statistics  gathered.

But for most of the congresspersons who want to gut the Census Bureau, it’s not only about costs.  “Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) famously declared she would not fill out her 2010 Census form, even though doing so is required by the Constitution and law. Bachmann even raised the specter of the World War II-eraJapanese interment camps to argue against the Census.”

And while the Economic Census is the foundation for the country’s most important measures of our economy,  House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) claims that  “This legislation roots out extraneous, duplicative and unnecessary programs while prioritizing some of the most critical aspects of government,” One wonders how having accurate & authoritative economic data, esp. in these times, can be seen as unnecessary !

The damage that these apparently ideologically motivated cuts will cause is significant. “The Census Bureau would have to terminate major statistical programs, cease critical data collection and vital benchmark reports on the nation’s economy, population and housing, as well as lay off off as many as 700 employees.”

As Census Director Robert M. Groves states, The ACS is our country’s only source of small area estimates on social and demographic  characteristics.”  Manufacturers, retail businesses , home builders, local communities all rely on its updated data. “There is no substitute from the private sector for ACS small area estimates.”

The cuts would prevent the continuing work on finalizing the results from the 2010 census. Also, not being able to test new methods will probably mean that the 2020 census will not be at a  lower cost per household than that of the 2010 Census. If saving taxpayer money is a real motive, the cuts don’t really further that objective.

Business interests do not support the proposed drastic cuts. “The Chamber of Commerce, for example, strongly advocates funding them, since its members rely so much on the information they provide on basic things such as household spending, per capita income, and population estimates. ” Andrew Reamer, a research professor at the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy states that “The loss of the American Community Survey will cause chaos and inefficiency in the operations of business and government in the U.S.,”

As  Phillip Swagel, an economist and nonresident scholar at American Enterprise Institute states, “Those agencies are essential,” “The data they provide really tell us what’s going on in the economy. This shouldn’t be a political issue.” Unfortunately, it appears, that is exactly what it has become.

Indiana Legislature Passes Public Access Bill

March 26th, 2012 by

The 2012 lndiana legislative session is now completed. The Republican majority in the legislature mainly focused on their hot agenda items, including successfully passing Right to Work legislation. However, they did pass a bill to improve access to information by putting some teeth into requests for access to public records.

HB1003 Public Access Issues attempts to assure access by the public to meetings conducted electronically, and also assesses a fine to public officials who deny requests for access to public records. Citizens will not be denied access to these records if:

  • They have contacted the state public access counselor
  • The public access counselor has issued an advisory opinion that instructs the agency to allow access to the public record.

This issue has been before the legislature in various forms for several years without passage. This is the first time that personal penalties will be imposed for breaking the law. Hopefully, this will strengthen open records and open meeting laws already on the books.

“Statistical Abstract” Resurrected By ProQuest & Bernan

March 26th, 2012 by

The U.S. Census Bureau, responsible for publishing the Statistical Abstract of the United States (Stats Abstract), announced in March 2011 that it would cease production of the Statistical Abstract after the 2012 edition, ( see Statistical Abstract of U.S. Going Away ? )

It had functioned as both  as an answer book and source guide. It had been used by librarians and public patrons for generations to help answer a myriad of statistical inquiries with both government and privately gathered data. Even with widespread lobbying by users and librarians, the Census Bureau said it would not continue the Stats Abstract  “due both to substantial budgetary constraints and the need to prioritize several new data gathering endeavors.” While  government budgets are indeed tight, one wonders why such a valuable information tool would not also be considered a priority.

Sometimes  private sector publishers have take over previously free government titles which they turn into commercial products that former users must then pay for access to. In the late 1990s several government publications became privatized including : “Significant Features of Fiscal Federalism”, “Handbook of Labor Statistics”, “Business Statistics of the United States”,  “Journal of the National Cancer Institute” and  “U.S. Industrial Outlook” . ( See Robert Oakley, Testimony Regarding S. 2288, The Wendell H. Ford Government Publications Reform Act Of 1998)

However, in this case, two private sector actors have come to the rescue of a valuable publication that the government has just chosen not to continue providing ! A fortuitous reversal of some past practices by private publishers.

ProQuest, Ann Arbor, Michigan-based electronic publisher and microfilm publisher and Bernan, leading distributor of essential government publications and publisher of reference works based on government data, have partnered to bring back the venerable “Statistical Abstract of the United States”, as a print and an online product. This partnership will ensure the continuation of a the premier reference source that was fist published in 1878.

The new commercial Stats Abstract volume will be an 8.5 x 11 in. hardcover and will contain approximately the same number of tables as previous government editions. Libraries around the country have a spot ready for the 2013 edition.

The considerable staff of statistical editors at ProQuest will handling the production of the online version of the Stats Abstract. According to the press release, “The digital version will include monthly updates to tables, deep searching at the line-item level, powerful facets for narrowing search results, image and spreadsheet versions of all current and historical tables, along with links to provider sites.” This is an advance over the format of the previous government online versions which are PDF reproductions of the print version.

Congratulations to ProQuest and Bernan for not only seizing a business opportunity but also serving the information needs of countless citizens who were left “high and dry” by the U.S. Census Bureau.

GPO Access Shuts Down on March 16, 2012

March 7th, 2012 by

On March 16, 2012 the FDLP will shut down GPO Access.  Users who visit GPO Access will be redirected to FDSys.  The e-CFR will continue to be available.

For full details, read the GPO Access to FDsys Transition from the FDLP.

“Regulation.gov” Improves Reviewing & Commenting On Proposed Federal Regs

February 29th, 2012 by

Rulemaking is the policy-making process for Executive and Independent agencies of the Federal government. Agencies use this process to develop and issue new regulations.

The recently redesigned ” regulations.gov ” website has made changes that facilitate the ability of any member of the public to comment on federal government regulations proposed by executive agencies. These changes are in furtherance of  the mandates contained in  presidential executive orders .

Executive Order 12866, “Regulatory Planning and Review,” issued by President Clinton on September 30, 1993,  instructs   “…each agency should afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment on any proposed regulation, which in most cases should include a comment period of not less than 60 days.”

Executive Order 13563, Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review , issued on January 18, 2011 by  President Obama,  directs agencies   “To promote that open exchange, each agency, consistent with Executive Order 12866 and other applicable legal requirements, shall endeavor to provide the public with an opportunity to participate in the regulatory process. To the extent feasible and permitted by law, each agency shall afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment through the Internet on any proposed regulation, with a comment period that should generally be at least 60 days ”

To further these requirements the new site attempts to :

• Enhance the ability of the public to submit and review comments on all supporting scientific and technical documents of the rulemaking docket

• Increase public participation in the regulatory process with easier navigation, improved search and social media links to share regulatory information with others

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It includes features to help users understand the regulatory process, under the “Learn Tab”. Easy access to searching by keyword and finding regulations with comments due soon and newly posted regulations are provided under the “Search Tab” . This tab also has  Improved layout of  search results, filters and  a document spotlight.  The New “‘Browse Tab”, features regulations grouped in 10 industry-related Categories and also provides for Browsing by hundreds of topics.

Integrated social media tools like “Regulations.gov Facebook” and a  revitalized Twitter page will help educate users and  allow the public to offer input on Regulations.gov features.

Seeking authors for Finding the Law guide

February 23rd, 2012 by

The Government Relations Committee is working on creating a “Finding the Law” guide for non-law librarians and non-lawyers.  We have an outline for the guide and are currently seeking authors who would like to contribute a chapter.  If you are interested in contributing, please contact Jamie Sommer or Tom Gaylord.

ABA Supports UELMA

February 6th, 2012 by

The ABA House of Delegates voted today to approve Resolution 102B supporting the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act.  AALL worked with the Uniform Law Commission (ULC, formerly the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws) in passing the final version of UELMA last fall.   AALL is now working with the Uniform Law Commission and local chapters to promote UELMA in the states. The organization is currently targeting the following states for passage:  California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

To learn more about UELMA and AALL’s efforts visit the Digital Authentication issue page in the Government Relations section of aallnet.org. 

HR 3699 Research Works Act

January 26th, 2012 by

In a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, AALL joined 9 other national and regional library, publishing, and advocacy organizations in expressing their opposition to H.R. 3699, the Research Works Act.   As the letter states, the  “proposed legislation would unfairly and unnecessarily prohibit federal agencies from conditioning research grants to ensure that all members of the public receive timely, equitable, online access to articles that report the results of federally funded research that their tax dollars directly support.”

AALL has issued an action alert in opposition to H.R. 3699.    Visit the AALL Legislative Action Center where you can use their template to write to your House Representative and ask him or her to oppose H.R. 3699.

Library Of Congress & Government Printing Office Create Congressional Record App

January 23rd, 2012 by

At the request of the House Administration Committee,U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has collaborated with the Library of Congress to created an iPad app. The new app  provides access to the daily edition of the Congressional Record dating from January 4, 1995. The app uses CR files and associated metadata provided by GPO.

Data presented by the app has been provided by the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, and the Government Printing Office.

The app allows users to:

*  Browse editions of the Congressional Record by date.
*  Perform keyword searches within individual documents or sections within documents.
*  Identify the latest bills and resolutions considered daily on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
*  Identify the latest bills, resolutions, treaties, and nominations considered daily on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
*  Save documents to your preferred iPad PDF reader.
*  Share documents via email.

link for the new app  or  you can search in the iPad  App Store for “The Congressional Record.”