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FY 2019 appropriations bills move forward, just in time for National Library Legislative Day

Progress on the FY 2019 appropriations bills moves forward towards the October 1 deadline. ALA members participating in next week’s National Library Legislative Day (NLLD), or Virtual Library Legislative Day, are weighing in on library funding at a critical time as House and Senate Appropriations Committees are still crafting their spending bills.

Late last week, ALA filed comments with the House Appropriations Committee calling for full funding for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program (at least $189.3 million for LSTA and $27 million for IAL). In this an annual opportunity for ALA to present the case for how important library funding is for communities and schools in every corner of the country, ALA cited several examples of how libraries are meeting the needs of patrons of all ages.

Our comments follow closely after the conclusion of the successful Dear Appropriator letter campaign. As you know, the Dear Appropriator letters have become an important marker in demonstrating the wide support for library funding in Congress. This year, the Senate LSTA letter, led by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME), was signed by 46 senators. The House LSTA letter, led by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), was signed by 136 representatives. In addition, several representatives submitted separate letters in support of LSTA funding. The tremendous gains we made last year were not an aberration: wide bi-partisan support for LSTA continues this year, despite being targeted for elimination by the White House.

Support for the FY 2019 IAL letter in the Senate nearly matches last year’s high-water mark as 35 senators signed the Reed-Stabenow (D-MI) letter. The House IAL letter, led by Reps. Johnson (D-TX), Young (R-AK), McGovern (D-MA) and MacArthur (R-NJ), was signed by 98 representatives.

Visits to Congress next week during NLLD are well-timed for maximum impact on the federal appropriations process. Not only is Congress starting the work of passing 12 appropriations bills, soon the White House is expected to submit to Congress a rescission package of programs targeted for elimination. The list of programs the administration is recommending for defunding may be announced soon, but it would not surprise the Washington office if LSTA and IAL were targeted. However, the odds of a rescission package passing congressional muster is low.

On the reauthorization front, we are making progress. As you know, the Museum and Library Services Act (S. 2271) was introduced in December 2017 by Senator Jack Reed (D-R), joined by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Since then, 11 senators have joined as cosponsors. We are anticipating the House companion bill to be introduced soon by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). Next week, ALA members will be urging their representatives to cosponsor these bills.

We look forward to seeing ALA members next week. If you cannot make it, you can still participate virtually and make your voice heard!

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Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the deputy director of government relations at the American Library Association’s Washington Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before coming to the ALA in 2014, Kevin was the vice president of government affairs for the American Hotel and Lodging Association for 20 years.

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