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Spending bill a win for library funding, loss on cybersecurity

Library Funding: Libraries Receive Welcome Funding Increases:

Congress moved quickly, and surprisingly easily, to pass the $1.1 trillion “omnibus” spending package Friday, which the President is expected to sign promptly. As reported earlier this week, libraries received welcome funding increases for both Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL). The House passed the measure in a 316-113 vote while, a few hours later, the Senate voted 65-33 to send the bill to the President.

Library Services and Technology Act:

Funding for LSTA will be increased in FY16 to $183 million, an increase over the FY15 level of $181

A Judge's gavel on a white background.

NY – http://nyphotographic.com/

million. Grants to States will receive an FY16 boost to $155.8 million ($154.8 million in FY15). Funding for Native American Library Services has been raised slightly to $4.1 million ($3.9 million in FY15). National Leadership Grants for Libraries grows to $13.1 million ($12.2 million in FY15). Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian funding will stay level at $10 million. Overall funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services will bump to $230 million, up slightly from $227.8 million in FY15.

Innovative Approaches to Literacy:

Funding for school libraries received an increase of $2 million, raising total IAL program funding in FY16 to $27 million. At least half of such funding is dedicated to school libraries.

Much of the overarching appropriations discussions around the omnibus bill focused less on funding levels and more on policy “riders” addressing controversial issues such as abortion, refugees, energy, and gun control and research. Among the policy issues followed by ALA were:

  • Net Neutrality: A threatened policy rider – opposed strongly by ALA – that would have prohibited the FCC from implementing its Open Internet Order, failed to overcome strong opposition and was not included in the final spending package.
  • E-Rate: Once again, funding for E-rate will not be delayed as Congress extended the Anti-Deficiency Act exemption through 2017. ALA urged Congress to include this exemption.
  • Cybersecurity: In a far less auspicious development, the omnibus also included the Cybersecurity Act of 2015: language secretly negotiated by the leadership of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees (with belated input from the House Committee on Homeland Security) and inserted by Speaker Ryan into the 2000+ page omnibus on the eve of its final approval. Passage of the Act, which is hostile to personal privacy in many fundamental ways, ends (at least for now) a fight conducted by ALA and many coalition partners in industry and the civil liberties community across multiple Congresses for many years. Most recently, ALA President Sari Feldman spoke out publicly against the bill on December 16, and the Washington Office mounted a spirited letter and Twitter grassroots campaign against inserting cybersecurity legislation of any kind into the omnibus. ALA also joined its coalition partners in calling in writing for the Speaker to strip the bill from the omnibus before bringing it to a vote.  More details about the Cybersecurity Act and its impact from our allies at the ACLU are available here.
  • Privacy: More positively, the omnibus also contains language authored by privacy champion Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS3) reaffirming that federal financial services agencies, like the Securities and Exchange Commission, must get a judicially approved search warrant based on probable cause in order to compel the release of the content of any individuals’ electronic communications of any kind. While that language doesn’t change current law, it does strengthen the hand of Rep. Yoder and the more than 300 other Members of the House who have cosponsored the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699) which would change the dangerously antiquated Electronic Communications Privacy Act to make “warrant for content” the law for all electronic communications from the moment that they are created. As recently reported in District Dispatch, progress may well have been made toward that end at a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing, but much more work – helped along by the symbolic omnibus action – remains to be done.

About Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the Assistant Director of the American Library Association's Office of Government Relations (OGR).