Advocacy Report: June 2014 from Mike Neppl, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy
The 2014 legislative session is drawing to a close here in Albany, with the final day of legislative activity scheduled for June 19th. Following several victories during the budget process, including reversing Governor Cuomo’s proposed $4M cut to library aid, and securing the largest legislative add ($5M) since 2007, we turned to getting several key pieces of legislation passed.
Extension of the matching provisions in the Library Construction Aid program
Current law permits a 75% state match for library construction projects or acquisition of vacant land undertaken in an “economically disadvantaged community.” These provisions were set to sunset and revert back to the 50% state match in March 2015. Working with Senator Hugh Farley and Assemblyman Fred Thiele, the chairs of the library committees in their respective houses, we introduced a bill (S.6329/A.8732) that would extend the 75% match provisions until March 2020. This bill passed the Senate on NYLA’s Library Advocacy Day, February 26th, and passed the Assembly on April 30th. When this bill is delivered to the Governor, we expect it will be signed into law.
Maintenance of Effort Waivers
Current law provides that in the event a local municipality does not continue adequate funding levels for local library systems, state aid to the system will be reduced by 25% unless the funding reduction was due to an “extraordinary change” in local economic conditions, loss of state aid to the municipality, or as a result of a natural disaster. If one of those conditions is demonstrated, the Commissioner of the State Education Department may grant a waiver once every five years, for up to two years, so libraries are not subject to a reduction in state library aid because of extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of a municipality. We introduced a bill (S.2857 Farley/A. 8852 Thiele) to extend the waiver period to three years, and provide the Commissioner increased discretion by removing the frequency constraints. This bill passed the Senate on May 9th, and passed the Assembly on June 2nd. We have been trying to get this bill through both houses for three years, so this is a great initial victory. This bill will be delivered to the Governor with the support of our state’s twenty-three public library systems.
Require a school librarian in all elementary and secondary schools
After working with Assemblyman Thiele, we introduced a bill requiring access to a school librarian for all students; this is the first time since 2007 that such a bill has been submitted. This bill was passed out of the Assembly Committee on Libraries and Education Technology on May 28th. Though not a perfect bill by any measure, it has allowed us to re-start the conversation heading into next session, when we will work to introduce a bill we will write in conjunction with SLSA, SSL and other stakeholders in education policy. Once we have that bill submitted, NYLA will spearhead what will certainly be a hard-fought, and possibly lengthy, advocacy campaign to ensure this bill’s passage. It is critically important the library community speaks with one, clear voice on this issue and that we have a communications and advocacy campaign to which we all adhere.