Legislative Update -- January 6, 2022January 6, 2022
Illinois General Assembly Schedule
The ILGA's shortened, front-loaded spring 2022 session began yesterday. After having been scheduled to open Tuesday, January 4, Tuesday and Thursday of this week were both canceled, and we have just learned that next week's three scheduled days will be canceled as well. We will see how this affects the ability to advance legislation; legislators are also focusing on the election, as the petition circulation period opens on January 13 with concerns about the ability to collect in-person signatures amidst the Omicron wave of COVID-19.
E-Book Access for Libraries of All Types
One of ILA's legislative priorities this year is to seek a law requiring "reasonable" access for "electronic literary products" to libraries. We are closely following other states' similar endeavors; Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island among them. Maryland's legislation passed and became law, and is now the focus of a lawsuit from the Association of American Publishers. New York's legislation passed, but was vetoed by the governor. Read ALA's press release about the veto. Massachusetts' and Rhode Island's bills are still pending in their general assemblies. Illinois' bill, titled "Equitable Access to Electronic Literature Act," was drafted by a subcommittee of the Public Policy Committee and Legislative Consultant Derek Blaida, and has been submitted for introduction. Key tenets include requiring publishers that sell e-books or digital audiobooks to the public to also sell them to libraries, on the same date, and on "reasonable" terms.
Broadband Access for Public Libraries
The other major legislative focus in the association this year is securing state-sponsored high-speed broadband for public libraries in the state, as is currently offered to K-12 buildings via the Connect Illinois program. ILA is working collaboratively with the Office of Broadband (a component of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) and the Illinois State Library on an approach to Governor Pritzker's office, starting with the budget process prior to seeking any legislation. ILA has sent a letter to the Governor positioning public libraries as "a key piece of the broadband solution puzzle" and pointing out that efforts to date have focused either on device access, which puts a strain on existing broadband, and on one-time build-out projects; when what's needed is a comprehensive, ongoing solution. We also point out in the letter that grant-based programs exacerbate the digital divide by favoring institutions that have grant writing ability in the form of staff time and expertise, disadvantageous to those libraries most in need of the support. We are cautiously optimistic as there seems to be opportunity now, thanks to available federal funding and a renewed focus: