California Already Has Its State Dinosaur

California already has its state dinosaur.  Help California county public law libraries avoid becoming the next generation of government dinosaurs.

Stephanie Abromowicz / Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

As of January 1, 2018, California designated an official state dinosaur – the Augustynolophus morrisi.  (Government Code Section 425.7(a))  And unless the state re-thinks how it is going to fund county public law libraries, it may have a lot more “official” dinosaurs all across the state.  2018 is turning out to be an important year for action in Sacramento for a real dinosaur and other don’t-want-to-be extinct historic government institutions.

Short story.

The California State Senate Budget Subcommittee has just moved forward with the county law libraries’ 2018 request for an appropriation.  A giant step down the budget process road.

The California State Senate Budget Subcommittee has just moved forward with the county law libraries’ 2018 request for an appropriation to try to help balance the revenue shortfalls from the past years.  The current need for library funding is dire, as civil filing fee revenue – the legislatively and historically established method for supporting county law library – has dropped 40% since 2009.   Publishing costs have risen over the same time frame.  Libraries are being squeezed.

We can use your voice.  Now.

Please consider letting Governor Brown and other elected officials know how much you support adequate funding for Alameda County Law Library and other state public law libraries.

Here is a sample letter.  Dear Governor Brown

Here is information on how to deliver your letters of support:

Due to the time sensitive nature of this request, we recommend fax.  Please send your letters to the Governor and any of the other people or entities at the fax numbers below.  If over the next few days, you drop your letters of support off at the Reference Desk, we will fax them for you.

Governor Brown – 916-558-3160

Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee – 916-668-7004

Holly Mitchell, Chair  – 916-651-4930    Jim Nielsen, Vice Chair – 916-651-4904

Assembly Budget Committee 916-319-2199

Philip Ting, Chair 916-319-2119     Jay Obernolte, Vice Chair 916-319-2133

 Assembly Budget Subcommittee 5

Shirley Weber, Chair 916-319-2179    Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer 916-319-2159    Tom Lackey 916-319-2136    Melissa Melendez 916-319-2167    Mark Stone 916-319-2129

If you do not have access to a fax, you may send emails to the following addresses.  Note, however, that the recipients will not receive attachments, so place your text within the email itself.  Also, from what we know, there is a long delay in such emails actually being read, which is why we are recommending fax instead.

 Gov. Brown

governor@governor.ca.gov

(or send a message here: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/)

 Senate member emails use the following format:

Senator.[Lastname]@senate.ca.gov 

(ex. Senator.Portantino@senate.ca.gov)

 Assembly member emails use the following format:

Assemblymember.[Lastname]@assembly.ca.gov 

(ex. Assemblymember.Cunningham@assembly.ca.gov

Long story.

Funding for county law libraries has been tentative for many years now.  We in California can no longer consider filing fees a workable funding method to sustain this important service.  Branches have already closed and others may close soon without further support.  California county law libraries are public libraries.  These public libraries provide legal information assistance to under-served, under-represented, and vulnerable populations.  County law libraries are in danger of becoming extinct, especially in rural communities, without sufficient appropriation in the state’s budget.  The demand for legal information services by self-represented individuals has never been greater, and county law libraries remain one of the few, if only, places where these individuals can get free help navigating the legal system.  The need for permanent state funding of county law libraries could not be more critical.

In Alameda County, over 50% of litigants appearing in Family Court and 25% involved in Civil Litigation represent themselves.  Many of these individuals rely entirely on the Law Library to research the law, draft legal forms, and prepare for court. County law libraries offer the general public free access to high-quality legal research materials, expert law librarians, and a variety of law-related clinics and workshops. The need for county law libraries has never been greater.

The Alameda County Law Library can no longer rely exclusively on court filing fees to adequately meet expenses, and must seek alternative sources of funding to sustain essential collections and services.

The Alameda County Law Library empowers Bay Area residents by providing them with the tools needed to successfully participate in the legal system. PLEASE ACT NOW to ensure the Law Library receives adequate funding to sustain operations by including a $16.5 million appropriation for California county law libraries in the State Budget, and establishing a Task Force to develop a sustainable funding model for California’s county law libraries.

How the budget process works.

The budget process for California defies a simple concise definition.  It is a process rather than a product. It is not the development of the Governor’s Budget, the Legislature’s enactment of a budget nor the executive branch’s administration of the budget.  Rather, it is the combination of all of these phases with all the ramifications and influences of political interactions, relationships with federal and local governments, public input, natural events, legal issues, the economy, initiatives and legislation, etc.

Here is an official, simplified description:

Late May – June 15  (Hence, the “NOW” above.)

The budget committee of each house considers the subcommittees’ reports and sends a revised budget bill to the floor for evaluation by the full body.  Each house discusses and then votes on its version of the budget bill.  The differences between the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget bill are worked out in a conference committee made up of three members from each house.  Upon completion of its review, the conference committee submits a single version of the budget bill to both houses.  The Senate and Assembly each vote on this final version before it is sent to the Governor.

The houses also vote on trailer bills if statutory changes are necessary to implement provisions of the budget bill.

 

Thank you for your support from the California county public law libraries who are trying to extricate themselves from the California tar pits of under-funding.

 

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