04.14.11 Call to Action
Budget, the Outsourcing Bill, and the eBook Privacy Bill
Mike Dillon and Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyists
I. BUDGET PICTURE STILL FUZZY
The State Budget and the related negotiations, continues to remain fuzzy. Governor Brown’s efforts to get a ballot measure on the June ballot to extend the existing “temporary” sales, vehicle, and income taxes for another five years, was met with resistance and will now not be realized for June. Additionally, threats of an “all cuts” Budget in the amount of $26 billion, is unacceptable to Democrats. However, as Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg pointed out in a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee today, “Given the problems we would have with external borrowing, etc…we either gain revenue or we make the cuts.”
In recent days a couple of Senate Republicans have indicated privately the possibility of providing the two votes necessary to extend the tax measures for a couple of months, in exchange for some important Republican policy and spending reforms. If there was an agreement to proceed in this manner, the taxes could be extended until a month certain, such as September, wherein the voters would be able to vote in a special election on a package that would extend the taxes for five years on the condition that it was tied to companion measures, also placed before the voters, to place a cap on state spending and to reform the current pension system.
In the meantime, with the exception of the Senate Budget Committee, which held a lengthy hearing on the Budget’s effects on K-12 and Higher Education, the rest of the Legislature adjourned this morning for the Easter Recess. They will not return to the Capitol until Monday, April 25th.
II. ASSEMBLY LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE DISCUSSES LIBRARY “OUTSOURCING” LEGISLATION
AB 438 by Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) would require voter approval for the withdrawal of a library district from the county free library system, if that withdrawing entity will be operated by a private contractor. As you can imagine, the issue has drawn interest within the library community and various cities, and the hearing yesterday in the Assembly Local Government Committee helped to capture some of that principled debate. AB 438 is largely sponsored by the Ventura Readers’ Book Group and the SEIU.
Specifically the bill: (source: Assembly Local Government analysis)
- “Requires, if the board of trustees, common council, or other legislative body of a city or the board of trustees of a library district (hereafter referred to as ‘legislative body’) intends to operate the city’s or the district’s library or libraries, with the help of a private contractor, that will employ library staff the following would apply:
a) At least once a week for two consecutive weeks prior to taking any action, the legislative body shall publish, in a newspaper designated by it and circulated throughout the city or library district, notice of the contemplated action, giving the date and place of the meeting at which the contemplated action is proposed to be taken.
b) Upon approval of the intent to withdraw by the legislative body, the question of the decision to withdraw from the county free library system and to use a private contractor that will employ library staff to operate the city’s library or libraries, shall be submitted for voter approval at a regularly scheduled election; and,
c) If a majority of voters approve the withdrawal, the legislative body shall notify the county board of supervisors of approval by the voters to withdraw from the county free library system.
- States that the notice to withdraw shall not be effective until the succeeding year.”
The committee analysis cites the author’s letter to the committee, which argues that “some public entities have opted to turn the administration and operation of their libraries over to private, for-profit companies, and in certain instances taxpayers have opposed the idea but did not have adequate ability to have their voices heard or to have their will as taxpayers impact the decision of their elected officials. Additionally, the author notes that experiences with private library service providers in other states have shown diminished library services and new fees on taxpayers.”
Supporting the measure were Cindy Singer and Gina Quissenberry, two librarians, who stressed the importance of maintaining quality libraries – particularly in a down economy, as well as the SEIU, California Teachers Association, Laborers’ International Union of North America 777 and 792 and the California Labor Federation.
The lobbyist for the League of California Cities, Kyra Ross, appeared before the committee in opposition to the bill. Ms. Ross called libraries “the centerpiece of our communities” and said that “in times of fiscal constraints it is important to look at all options.” She stated that AB 438 “sets a poor precedent with mandating a vote [of the people] because it handcuffs the city. What is the point of having a city council if basic administrative decisions are left to voters?” Former Assemblyman Dick Dickerson, the current Vice Mayor of the City of Redding and the President of the Library Board of Trustees stated, “We sought professional management for the day-to-day operations of the library. It was not a push to privatize, it was a push to keep libraries open. There was a great deal of public comment but the city was in the better position to take responsibility for the newly constructed library instead of the county. I applaud the author for saying how important libraries are to the citizens of the state – he’s absolutely right. With the management from LSSI, Shasta County enjoys a first class library. Most employees are LSSI employees. The City Council appointed an advisory committee that reviews the work of the library, gets input from the community and then LSSI implements that.” Additional groups in opposition were the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, various cities such as Livermore, Covina, Whittier, Camarillo, Torrance, Lakewood, and lobbyists representing LSSI.
Assembly Local Government Committee member, Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-Chula Vista), said that he had some discussions with the bill’s author and said that he would like to work with him on crafting different language. He noted that while he was supportive of what Assemblyman Williams was trying to do, he didn’t “agree with the method in the bill,” as, among other things, the cities would have to incur significant local costs to run an election. He added, “This would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to do this in San Diego at the cost to other services such as police and fire. I have some ideas of how we can do this.” Assemblyman Williams said, “I have seen some language but I haven’t been able to analyze it fully. I am happy to look at that but I need to move forward today.” Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), a former library commissioner, indicated his strong support for libraries and their impacts on the community and said he would also like to work with stakeholders. The Chair, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth said, “The Ventura County library was going to close. The League said that they couldn’t wait 18 months for an election. The city needs that flexibility so that the library doesn’t close.” The bill passed out of committee and the author indicated his willingness to work with several members of the Local Government Committee in the coming weeks.
III. BILL TO PROTECT E-BOOK READER PRIVACY PASSES COMMITTEE
Senator Leland Yee has introduced SB 602, which seeks to protect the private reading records and personal information of an individual using a commercial book service provider. The bill, which is jointly sponsored by the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was heard this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specifically, a book services provider would be prohibited from knowing disclosing to any government entity, or be compelled to disclose to any person or entity, the personal information of a user related to the use of a book, except pursuant to a search warrant, court order, or with the user’s affirmative consent, as specified. The bill is in response to the large level of interest in eBooks and digital readers, and the fact that “digital book services have the ability to collect an retain very detailed information about readers…Digital book providers can easily track what books an individual considers, how often a given book is read, how long a given page is viewed, and even what notes are written in the ‘margins.’” (source: Senate Judiciary Committee analysis). In addition to the sponsors, the bill was also supported in committee by CLA, Privacy Rights Clearing House, and others. The bill passed out of committee with little debate. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Noreen Evans called SB 602 “a good bill in an ongoing series of legislation in this area to keep up with technology.” (Two weeks prior, SB 445-Simitian – library circulation records – was also passed by the committee.)
CLA Legislative Day is Wednesday, May 18th.
Please plan on joining your colleagues and friends in Sacramento to rally
in support of public library funding, and important library legislation such as SB 445.