TLA TEXLINE NO. 258
Posted: March 4, 2010 • LEGISLATIVE ISSUES NETWORK


In this issue:
State and Federal Legislative Update
 

  1. State Issues
    1. Budget Matters
    2. Telecommunications Issues
    3. Broadband
  2. Federal Issues
    1. Budget Matters
    2. PATRIOT ACT Reauthorization
    3. National Library Advocacy Day
  3. Call to Action and Texas Library Snapshot Day

STATE ISSUES

Budget Matters

Earlier this year, the Legislative Budget Board and the Office of the Governor requested each state agency and state institution of higher education to submit plans for reducing current biennium spending by 5% of the state’s general revenue funding.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) proposed budget can be accessed online. The total proposed cut equals $135,247,589 over the biennium, of which $32,972,433 would be taken from the 2010 fiscal year, and $102,575,823 would be taken from fiscal year 2011. The cuts are spread across 30 programs, including textbook and reading materials, the science lab grant program, TEA administration, the Texas high school initiative-counselor training program for college preparation, and middle school physical education and fitness (among others). None of the proposed cuts are directed towards statewide school library resources.

For the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, this 5% reduction represents just over $2 million over the biennium, with most of the funds being taken from the 2011 budget as grant funds for 2010 have already been distributed. Most of the proposed reductions are targeted toward the areas where the agency received funding increases in the most recent biennium. The proposed reductions include: $100,000 from the operating budgets of the divisions; $4,432 from the Texas Reads Grant Program; $1.4 million from the Loan Star Libraries Grant Program in FY2011; $75,000 from the newly appropriated funding for the Talking Book Program; and $350,750 from the newly-appropriated funds for the System Negotiated Grant Program (SyNG) in FY2011. The agency will add $100,000 in new federal funds to the SyNG program to partially offset this loss of General Revenue funding. The full plan is available on the TSLAC site.

At this time, no direction has been forthcoming to state agencies to implement the proposed cuts. While stakeholders are hoping that the cuts will not be implemented, the budget situation is very tight. Current state projections calculate the deficit for the next biennium to range from $10 to $20 billion. We are urging lawmakers to consider that, while even if all of the agencies implement the proposed cuts, only about $1 billion will be saved; but, the negative impact on the people of Texas will be damaging and long lasting.

Telecommunications Issues

The Public Utilities Commission is undergoing Sunset Review. The Texas Library Association has filed comments in this process underscoring the ongoing need for the state’s telecommunication discount program for libraries, schools, institutions of higher education, and hospitals.

Along with this process, the library community should note that current statute guarantees that state telecommunications discounts (under Chapters 58 and 59 of the Utilities Code) be continued through January 1, 2012. The education community must start planning now to ensure that school and libraries are able to continue affording advanced telecommunications services beyond that date.

We ask that librarians contact their IT departments to find out how much the library’s telecommunications services are discounted through the state’s current discount program. It is critical for local decision-makers to understand the fiscal impact on current operations if these discounts are no longer available after January 1, 2012.

Broadband

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is working on a grant application to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) under the Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) to support public computing centers throughout the state. TSLAC is working with public libraries throughout the state that want to be a part of the broad application packet.

The grant application is to be submitted in the second round of grants to be funded through the federal broadband initiative created under the stimulus program created last year. Texas received limited funding in the first round of funding, although the state submitted many proposals. Library supporters have urged NTIA to focus the grant programs to assist public centers of information and technology.

FEDERAL ISSUES

Budget Matters

The President’s proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2011 would severely endanger library funding. The proposed budget calls for a consolidation of federal funds which would remove directed funding for school library programs through the Improving Literacy through School Libraries Act (a grant program for school libraries). The President’s budget also calls for a freeze of federal library funding under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the primary source of federal funding for public libraries.

The American Library Association (ALA) has issued a press release urging that federal funding for libraries be restored. We expect these proposed budget cuts will form a major component of ALA’s agenda for National Library Legislative Day (see below).

These federal cuts compound state and local cuts, and could not come at a worse possible time. As our schools are struggling to keep staff, public libraries are fighting to keep from cutting additional library hours, materials, and personnel.

B. PATRIOT ACT Reauthorization
The U.S. Senate voted to continue key provisions of the PATRIOT ACT for another year. The extended requirements include those provisions the library community rallied against. Press reports cite the staunch position of Republican lawmakers and the need by Democratic lawmakers to continue the legislation given the political climate in the wake of recent averted terrorist threats.

According to the Digital Journal, “The approval has upset many liberals in the US, such as the American Library Association. The group’s chief, Lynne Bradley, said her faction understands the Democratic Leadership had to reauthorize the bill ‘but that doesn't take away the disappointment we have.’”

C. National Library Legislative Day
For this year only, Library Advocacy Day will replace National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). On June 29, 2010, library advocates from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. will meet at Upper Senate Park on the U.S. Capitol grounds. The event, which will begin at 11 a.m., will feature guest speakers, photo ops, and a chance to cheer on libraries! After the rally, participants will meet with their elected officials and their staffs.

Rhoda Goldberg is the coordinator for Texas. Please contact her is you are planning to participate in National Library Legislative Day. You will need to register and receive materials and training for visiting with elected officials. The Texas Coordinator will make all of the appointments for visiting with U.S. Representatives and Senators from Texas. She may be reached at rgoldber@hcpl.net.

For more information, go to: http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/libraryadvocacyday/index.cfm.

For details on other federal legislation, including net neutrality proposals, go to http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/wo/index.cfm.

Call to Action and Texas Library Snapshot Day

With all of the devastating budget cuts being proposed on the state and federal level, we urge all library supporters to take the time to contact their state and U.S. elected officials to urge them to support library programs. We need funding restored for school and public libraries.

An important tool to help in this process will take April 26 – May 7, 2010. The Texas library community will join many other states in conducting a Library Snapshot Day. During this time period, libraries will select one day to take a “snapshot” of activities. Data from this event can be invaluable as we contact elected officials to urge the reinstatement of funding for critical library programs. Additional information will be posted shortly on the TLA website.

To contact your elected officials, go to: http://capwiz.com/ala/tx/state/main/?state=TX&view=congress#4 <http://capwiz.com/ala/tx/state/main/?state=TX&amp;view=congress#4> .

Our message is simple: Don’t cut funding for our library programs. Library services are needed more than ever!