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Update on FY2001 Legislative Branch Appropriations (7-18-00)

**For most recent update see the AGI website for the 107th Congress**

The Legislative Branch Appropriations bill funds congressional activities, including congressional salaries and support programs -- the Library of Congress, the General Accounting Office, Capitol Police, Government Printing Office, Congressional Budget Office, and Architect of the Capitol.  The Senate Appropriations Committee allocated $2.5 billion in 302(b), or discretionary, funding for the Legislative Branch bill, and the House Appropriations Committee allocated $2.4 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2001.  Of interest to the earth science community within this bill is funding for the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office (GPO).  The GPO is responsible for printing, cataloguing, and distributing federal publications and information, including key publications from the U.S. Geological Survey, to participating libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program.

Most Recent Action
The House passed H.R. 4516, the FY 2001 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, on June 22nd in a 373-50 vote.  Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) along with Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ) -- the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Appropriations Legislative Subcommittee -- introduced an amendment to add $95.8 million to the bill.  The amendment would provide an additional $18.2 million to the Government Printing Office.  In his floor speech, Taylor stated that even with these additional funds, "the bill will still be $9.8 million below the fiscal year 2000 level, including pending supplementals [allocations included in the Military Construction Appropriations bill]."  On May 23rd, the Senate began floor debate on their version of the FY 2001 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, S. 2603, but tabled the bill for consideration at a later date.

Congressional Action
On May 9th, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year (FY) 2001 Legislative Branch Appropriations (H.R. 4516).  Normally, the Legislative Branch Appropriations is not a very contentious topic and certainly not a major topic for the earth sciences.  But this year, the House Appropriations Committee has moved to drastically cut the informational services from GPO, GAO, and the Library of Congress.  After lively debate, the Committee voted on party lines to cut GPO's printing functions and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), which provides materials to the 1,337 depository libraries around the country.  According to the American Library Association (ALA), "GPO is slated to suffer a 25.3% cut if the House FY2001 appropriations numbers prevail.  This translates into a 60% cut for the FDLP and would eliminate printed and other tangible formats, forcing federal governmental information at depository libraries to be only available electronically."  The committee released a summary of very general numbers for the different sections of the Legislative Branch Appropriations that indicates an overall decrease of 5.5% across the entire bill.

Under the House version, the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) would have to eliminate tangible documents and function as a totally electronic program, despite the fact that many of the publications are not suitable for electronic format.  FDLP libraries are located around the country (nearly every congressional district has at least one federal depository library) and provide free public access to federal government information.  Information published by the government ranges from highly technical documents to information manuals for the general public.  According to ALA, "it has been a long-standing tenet of our government that an informed citizenry is absolutely necessary to assure a democratic, participatory government.  The Federal Depository Library Program is the most important source providing public access to government information.  This includes ongoing permanent public access to government documents and information products, something online access cannot assure at this time."  If anything, the latest computer viruses have reminded us of how vulnerable our databases and access is to these attacks.

Having passed the House Appropriations Committee, the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill (H.R. 4516) will be debated on the House floor.  Hope is that these proposed cuts will be reversed during the floor debate that is expected in the first week of June.

For the earth sciences community, the shift from hard copies of publications to electronic versions would make access to key US Geological Survey (USGS) publications much more difficult.  USGS publications are the backbone of most earth science libraries, which receive roughly 1035 USGS publications each year, not including topographic maps.  Charlotte Derksen from Stanford University's Branner Earth Science Library & Map Collections report that open-file reports, professional papers, and water supply papers are some of the most heavily used USGS publications but relatively few of these documents are available in electronic version.  Also, many of these documents would be very large files that can take a long time to download and do not print well.  There is also the fear that electronic publications would not be catalogued in the same manner as tangible publications.  Under the current FDLP system, local libraries rely on the GPO catalog records to load into the local library catalog.

More information on general issues surrounding the proposed cuts is available from the American Library Association website.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations marked up their version of the fiscal year (FY) 2001 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, S. 2603, on May 18th.  In a reversal from House action (H.R. 4516), the Senate committee provided small increases for the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office (GPO).  The Library of Congress, slated for a $4.3 million (1.1%) cut from the House, received a $4.6 million (1.2%) increase from the Senate committee.  GPO would receive a marginal increase of $0.4 billion (0.4%) from the Senate version.  The House Appropriations Committee had cut the GPO budget by 25.3%, or $26.1 billion, virtually ending the distribution of printed documents for the Federal Depository Library Program.


Sources: American Library Association website, USBudget.com, House Appropriations Committee website, and the Geoscience Information Society.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs

Posted May 22, 2000; Last Updated on July 18, 2000.


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