Friday, December 7, 2012

Legislative News

State Capitol Building In Austin, Texas. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 7 Dec 2012.

The upcoming legislative session is important for libraries and education. We all need to work to have funding restored. The following is from a recent TLA newsletter:

The 83rd Legislative Session is approaching quickly.  With higher than expected sales tax growth, lawmakers this session will have a "surplus" of state revenue in the state budget, about $10 billion more than last session, for state expenditures, including education.  Additionally, the Rainy Day Fund is expected to balloon to $8.1 billion by August 2013 due to high oil and gas taxes.  The increased revenue in the state's coffers will be key since lawmakers must still pay the $4.8 billion owed to Medicaid from last session. More state revenue could mean there will not be any more cuts for the 2013-2014 biennium.   Nevertheless, achieving funding increases to programs will remain a challenge.

When the new session begins, there will be many new faces in the Texas Legislature.  The incoming class of the House of Representatives will have 44 new members.  In total, at least 50% of the House members will have one session or less experience. The Senate will have five fresh members in its 31-member chamber.  Overall, both chambers remain in conservative hands, as Republicans outnumber Democrats 95-55 and 19-12 in the House and Senate, respectively.

Now is the time for library supporters to take charge of advocacy efforts. We need everyone to participate in and lead grassroots activities. State elected officials must hear from constituents back home about the need to support libraries.

Ask your state senator and representative to actively support funding for libraries by voting for library initiatives in the State Library budget and by talking with colleagues who serve on the House Appropriations or Senate Finance Committees.

What We Want
Support of the State Library legislative appropriations request, especially the exceptional items requests (i.e., request for additional funds) for library programs.
1.      Shared Digital Content – $9.25 million over the biennium for digital (electronic) materials for all types of libraries. Resources include online homework help, college preparation, research, job searching, career and test preparation, and other assistance in helping people reach their economic goals.
2.      Innovation Partnership Grants – $3.4 million/ biennium for training and programming built on local partnerships and innovative practices to advance educational attainment, workforce development, and written and digital literacy.

Why we need this funding
Texas libraries are struggling since the loss of statewide funding. The partial restoration of state funds will help deploy the workforce and educational resources Texans have come to rely upon.

Additionally, without an influx of state funds, the State Library may be unable to make a successful petition to the federal government for a continuation of crucial needed state dollars for Texas libraries.  Last session, state cuts to library programs totaled near $30 million. Texas may lose up to $9 million more in federal funds in 2015. These cuts will affect every community, school, and institution of higher education in the state.

This year, TLA is asking supporters to conduct a virtual campaign in support of libraries on February 12, 2013. Rather than hosting a traditional Legislative Day, this year we want to emphasize grassroots action.

While some library supporters may opt to come to Austin for in-person visits, the focus on Legislative Virtual Action Day will be to have statewide virtual advocacy occurring within your own community.

It is critical this session to focus on grassroots activities and have advocates make strategic visits at home districts prior to and throughout the session. So, while we will not have Legislative Day with statewide library delegations in Austin on one day in February, TLA will offer many opportunities for advocacy and visiting with legislators during strategic times throughout the session.

Participating in Virtual Action Day: Take the time to call your state senator and representative. Tell them about the incredible services your library provides.
Make a commitment to get people writing and communicating about critical statewide issues. Organize a letter-writing campaign, tweet-up, and other virtual campaigns and activities to get people talking about libraries.

Recruit friends groups, students, faculty, and supporters to join the effort. It is particularly important to have administrators, city or county officials, and parents contact elected officials on behalf of libraries and library users.

This trick is to get as many people as possible in your local community to call, email, write, or post to legislative offices. The purpose of all of these activities is to create communication traffic at legislative offices. Your state senator and representative needs to hear from you and hundreds of other local constituents about your desire for them to proactively support library funding initiatives at the State Library!

·        Handout of TLA Platform
·        Video of library activities and need for funding (can be used in presentations to boards, community groups, and elected officials)
·        PowerPoint Presentation on library funding and the need to support library initiatives
·        Template resolution that library supporters can ask city councils, county commissioners, school boards, parent groups, student unions, faculty groups, and other to pass and send to their state senators, representatives, and candidates for office
·        Sample letter that can be sent to elected officials

D. Do You Know of a Champion for Libraries?
Great grassroots advocacy begins by having passionate people speaking on behalf of libraries. As librarians and library supporters, you know of many people in your community who support libraries.

Having influential local people in your community willing to talk to decision-makers about the value of your library is at the heart of developing a solid and broad base of support.

Who do you know in your community who is influential and is willing to speak for libraries?

TLA would like to help you reach these individuals. With your assistance identifying library champions, we can work together to provide them the support to speak out for libraries.

If you personally know of a library champion, let us know! Go to and fill in the information.  Together, we  can create a strong statewide network of library champions.

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