Publication Date

September 1, 1998

Humanities on the Hill

In Maya coalition of nine humanities organizations, spearheaded by the Federation of State Humanities Councils, hosted "Humanities on the Hill," which featured three events: a "Congressional Briefing" that featured remarks by several legislative aides for key supporters of the NEH in the House and Senate; a reception to honor Rep. Sidney Yates (D-Ill.) upon his retirement from Congress; and a breakfast event to celebrate the humanities.

At the well-attended breakfast celebration, author Richard Brookhiser spoke about his two recent books, Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington and Rules of Civility, and several members of Congress made short statements. Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for the NEH budget, spoke of the great importance of all citizens having an understanding of our heritage. Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) said that it was crucial that all citizens understand the meaning of the ideas of equality and rights that are in our historic documents. Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) spoke of the important role the NEH plays in providing opportunities for reflection. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) focused on the role of the NEH in educating children.

The evening reception to honor Rep. Yates was a very spirited occasion as several hundred people gathered to celebrate Yates's 48 years in the House of Representatives, where for many years he chaired the appropriations subcommittee with responsibility for funding the arts and humanities endowments. As a great tribute to Yates, many of his colleagues attended to wish him well in retirement, to applaud his "gentlemanly" leadership, and to thank him for teaching them about the importance of the endowments. Rep', Regula was the first to pay tribute to Yates. Others included Sen. Claiborne Pell, retired senator from Rhode Island, and Reps. Bob Livingston (R-La.), the chair of the House Appropriations Committee; Norman Dicks (D-Wash.); Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.); Jim Moran (D-Va.); Joseph McDade (R-Pa.); and David Obey (D-Wis.). The spirit of the evening was best captured when Yates quipped to Regula that he wondered if he could exchange some of the accolades he had received that evening from conservative Republicans for some votes.

Update on Digital Copyright Legislation

After postponing four announced meetings, the House Commerce Committee met on July 17 to consider H.R. 2281, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which the Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection endorsed on June 17. This bill, as amended, is quite different from the version adopted by the House Judiciary Committee and is instead similar to S.2037, which the Senate passed 99 to 0 on May 14. In addition to implementing the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties on copyright and providing limits to the copyright infringement liability of online Internet service providers, the House Commerce Committee and the Senate bills address issues of distance education and digital preservation for libraries and archives.

The House Commerce Committee adopted by unanimous agreement several amendments designed to further refine the bill. In the final vote on the amended bill, there were no negative votes. The amendments included provisions to increase the protection of privacy on the Internet, foster encryption research, affirm the principle of "fair use" in the digital environment, ensure that nothing in the bill would have a negative impact on first amendment rights, and conduct a study on the ability of electronic commerce to flourish on the Internet. The committee spent the most time discussing the amendment put forward by Rep. Scott Klug (R-Wis.) to address concerns of "fair use." The amendment strikes from the bill a section prohibiting an individual's circumvention of technological protection measures, such as encryption used to prevent access to copyrighted material, and calls on the Secretary of Commerce to conduct a two-year review of this section, taking into consideration the "public interest," before issuing formal regulations on its implementation. The amendment also has a provision requiring a review every two years thereafter of this section to ensure that "balance" is achieved between creators and users in the implementation of the law. Klug stressed that this balance is necessary to insure that "copyright owners cannot lock up information." Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) noted that the compromise gives creators protection and provides for information sharing by libraries and schools.

In light of the strong support for the amended bill, including a statement by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) that he would support the bill on the House floor, it appears that some of the stumbling blocks have been removed and that the bill may now be on a fast track toward passage.

Library of Congress Commemorative Coin Legislation

On May 5 Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chair of the Joint House-Senate Committee on the Library, introduced H.R. 3790, a bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the bicentennial of the Library of Congress, which will take place in 2000. Proceeds from the sale of the coins will be used in large part to create an endowment at the library to enrich America's youth in the 21st century, primarily through the National Digital Library. There appears to be considerable support in Congress for this measure; however, House rules require that two-thirds of the representatives—290 members—must cosponsor the bill before the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services will consider it. Library and scholarly groups are urging their members to contact their congressional representatives to request that they become cosponsors of H.R. 3790. Many legislators will not cosponsor a bill unless constituents contact them and make a formal request.

Budget Increases for the National Archives and the NHPRC?

On June 17 the House Appropriations Committee approved the House Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee recommendation of $216.70 million for the National Archives' operating budget, an increase over the current level of $205 million. They also provided $10.45 million for facility repairs and restoration and $5.40 million from a special fund for work converting computer programs to handle the change to the year 2000. The full committee also approved the subcommittee's recommendation of $6 million in fiscal 1999—the president's request—for the grants program of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This is an increase of about 9 percent over the current level of $5.50 million. On July 14 the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $221 million for the Archives' operating expenses, an increase over the House amount, and $10.45 million for building repairs, the same amount as the House bill. For NHPRC grants the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $6 million for the regular competitive grants program and $5 million for a Center for Jewish History. Both the House and the Senate bills now face floor consideration.

Update on Interior Appropriations Bill

On June 25 the Senate Appropriations Committees met to consider the fiscal 1999 Interior Appropriations Bill, S. 2237. On June 26 the committee published Senate Report 105-227, which accompanies S. 2237 and provides details regarding the budget recommendations. The full committee adopted the recommendations of the Senate Interior Subcommittee in setting the following funding levels for 1999: level funding of $110.70 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities; $100.06 million—a slight increase—for the National Endowment for the Arts; current funding level of $23.28 million for the museum component of the Institute of Museum and Library Services; level funding of $5.84 million for the Woodrow Wilson Center; $352.30 million—an increase over the current level of $333.40 million—for operating expenses of the Smithsonian; level funding of $32 million for the Smithsonian for building repairs and restoration; $16 million for construction for the Smithsonian, which provides for the building of the American Indian Museum on the Mall; $10 million, instead of the requested $50 million, for the president's New Millennium Program for historic preservation projects of national importance; $35.39 million-a $6 million increase-for the state historic preservation programs; and level funding of $2.80 million for the Advisory Council On Historic Preservation. The Senate provided no funding for the administration's request of $2.70 million for National Historic Landmarks.

The Senate report language regarding the funding by the NEH of regional centers is of special interest to scholars. The report notes that the administration had requested $5 million to initiate a program for the development of regional humanities centers across the United States, and then states: "Given the fiscal constraints under which this committee and the agencies funded by it continue to labor, new dollars cannot be committed at this time to begin an initiative of this magnitude. Further, the committee is concerned that state council funding, preservation efforts, teacher institutes, and other programmatic activities supported by the Endowment are not reduced to accommodate this initiative." Finally on this matter the report concludes: "If the endowment chooses to move forward with a program of awards for establishment of regional centers, the committee provides it with authority to use up to $5 million in challenge grant funds for that purpose."

The House Appropriations Committee also met on June 25; although the report has not been finalized, the indications are that the House will recommend current level funding for the NEH, the state historic preservation programs, and the Wilson Center. The House provides a very slight increase for the museum component of the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The big news from the House Appropriations Committee was the passage of an amendment to provide $98.50 million, current level funding for the NEA, instead of the zero funding recommended by the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior. Five Republicans—Reps. John Porter (R-Ill.), James Walsh (R-N.Y.), Michael Forbes (R-N.Y.), Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), joined Democrats in supporting this funding amendment for the NEA. The House bill includes only $5 million, compared with the Senate's $10 million, for the president's millennium project to promote historic preservation. There are indications that the House report will also have a section dealing with reservations about funding by the NEH for regional centers and will probably state that matching grants should not be used as a funding mechanism for the NEH's proposed new initiative for starting regional humanities centers. If this proves to be the final language, then the House and Senate will have different positions on this issue.

There are still many hurdles—including House and Senate floor votes, a conference report, and the president's signature—to be crossed before this appropriations bill becomes law.

Secrecy Reform Act

On June 17 the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee met to consider a substitute bill for S.712, the Government Secrecy Reform Act of 1998, which was introduced by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and grew out of the recommendations of the Moynihan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Secrecy. By voice vote, with no negative votes heard, the committee passed the substitute bill proposed by Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), the chair of the committee, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). The original bill had provided a framework for reform but had lacked the specifics that this bill provides.

The substitute bill makes four major changes. First, this bill eliminates the section calling for the establishment of a national declassification center in an existing agency—which many had thought could be the National Archives—and instead expands the functions and oversight responsibilities of the existing Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) and moves that office from the National Archives to the Executive Office of the president. Second, the bill states that information must be declassified after 25 years unless, as the bill summary states, "extraordinary circumstances" require that it remain classified. The original bill had a 30-year time limit for most information to remain classified. Third, the substitute bill retains the balancing test of the original bill; however, the revised bill establishes criteria to guide agency classification decisions for weighing the concerns of national security and the public interest in disclosure. The national security criteria are taken directly from President Clinton's E.O. 12958 and the public interest criteria are newly developed for the substitute bill. Fourth, the substitute bill establishes a Classification and Declassification Review Board composed of five public members to hear agency and individual appeals regarding classification and declassification decisions.

Once the report for the amended S. 712 is filed, which is expected to happen in mid-July, then the substitute bill will be referred to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for 30 days for their consideration. It is anticipated that the Intelligence Committee may hold hearings and may have objections to the balancing test provision of the bill. Because there appears to be little attention in the House to this legislation and because there are not many legislative days remaining before adjournment, it is doubtful that this legislation will pass in the 105th Congress.

Legislation to Commemorate the Underground Railroad

On June 9 the House passed H.R. 1635, a bill to establish within the National Park Service the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program. In 1990, Congress passed legislation directing the Park Service to study how best to interpret and commemorate the Underground Railroad. The National Park Service's study identified 380 sites and structures in 29 states that merited preservation and interpretation. This bill does not create any new units to the National Park System, but it relies on the expertise of the National Park Service staff to coordinate, produce, and distribute appropriate educational materials and to enter into cooperative agreements to provide technical assistance to state and local governments and the private sector. The bill authorizes appropriations of $500,000 a year to staff and coordinate the program. On June 10 the bill was received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

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