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Senate Begins Stimulus Debate

Dear Library Supporters,

As you can tell from news reports, there is vigorous debate right now in the Senate on President Obama’s stimulus package.  During these first days of the Senate debate, ALA is watching closely and targeting key Senate offices as we work to get libraries included in appropriate sections of the bill.  The environment is certainly unique — and extremely fluid.

The Senate began debate on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act today with the consideration of three amendments. The first, which sought to increase transportation funding, was defeated. An amendment to create a tax deduction for car buyers passed. An amendment to delete a tax deduction for movie studios passed as well.  The passage of these three amendments brings the total of the Senate bill to $895.2 billion. The Senate will be considering several more amendments throughout the week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he wants to pass the bill this week so the House and Senate can resolve differences and send the bill to the President by February 13.

Through this blog, we will attempt to keep you up to date on the Senate debate and how the most important issues to libraries are reflected in the stimulus package.  Our staff in ALA’s Office of Government Relations (OGR) will be posting regular updates as we learn more about what’s “in” and what’s “out” of the Senate package.  Remember, once the Senate passes a stimulus bill, there will be a conference between the House and Senate to reconcile their different bills.  It appears that there could be some pretty big differences between the two bills so there is a long way to go before we have a final bill for the President’s signature.

As of this evening, here are a couple of highlights in the broadband proposals:

  • For broadband funding, the House offered $6 billion while the Senate is considering $9 billion.
  • Open access (some observers refer to this as “network neutrality lite”) — is required in the House version  – but not in the Senate bill, at least thus far.

ALA has proposed a number of recommendations related to libraries and broadband deployment.  One recommendation included using stimulus funding to create within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in the Department of Commerce, grants to libraries, state libraries, library consortia and other non-profit entities to support new partnerships and fund appropriate equipment or other resources to utilize advanced broadband for e-government services and support for employment and job skill development.

ALA also proposed stimulus funding for a new title in the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) in the Institute of Museum and Library Services for innovation and capacity planning targeting libraries as sources for employment information and online learning related to career and job skills.  Hopefully, if passed, this could also support IMLS/LSTA funding to promote and support libraries of all types providing economic and small business information.

Kristin Murphy, Government Relations Specialist
ALAWashington Office

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