victoria cobb, executive director

wednesday, january 31, 2006

information alert: shell game politics with internet filters

today, the senate finance committee had the opportunity to require local libraries to install internet filters as a prerequisite to receiving state funding yet chose not to do so. sb 334 , patroned by senator mark obenshain (r-26, harrisonburg) was reported out of the general laws committee earlier this session, but instead of going directly to the senate floor, the bill was sent to finance where it met its demise for the third straight year.

in past years, the bill has been defeated because senators claimed that it would cost the state too much money. in fact, sb 334 will cost the state nothing and could result in a savings because any library that installs filtering software will receive federal money otherwise unavailable to them. congress has determined that in order to receive grants, libraries must install protective software. in virginia, 51 libraries or library systems have installed filters and are receiving federal funds in the amount of $850,000 in federal technology funds.

however, the senate finance committee completely disregarded these arguments despite the best efforts of the bill's patron.

in a move that shows the unwillingness of some senate members to stand and be held accountable to the constituency for their vote, the committee killed this bill without taking an official vote on the measure. the family foundation thanks one committee member, senator emmett hanger (r, 24, mount solon) for asking for a vote on sb 334. this bold motion did not receive a second, and thus was unsuccessful.

the finance committee then made a move characteristic of the senate. instead of insisting localities accept money offered from the federal government, this committee passed sb 176 , a bill that creates a new state fund of $500,000 to reimburse libraries for filters that they have already purchased or choose to purchase in the future. this money comes in addition to the $17 million the state already gives to local libraries.

although the family foundation supports any incentive that might be given to a library to encourage filters, the incentive already exists in the form of thousands of dollars available from the federal government. because sb 176 does not require filters be installed and offers fewer dollars than the federal grants, it is unlikely to serve as an incentive since libraries have already turned down the federal funds.

during debate on this fund, senator dick saslaw (d-35, springfield) stated that local government bodies should be able to choose to install filters and if they do not, voters can respond by ousting local board of supervisor members. in essence, senator saslaw challenged the grassroots system of the family foundation and parents across virginia. it is now up to us to demand that our loval governing bodies require their libraries to install filtering.

after session, this will become a priority project of the family foundation. we will identify the 40 libraries that still need filters and constituents willing to take action. please be prepared to take this issue to your local government body when the time comes! let's turn an apparent defeat into victory!

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