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MLA Advocacy

The Michigan Library Association leads, educates and advocates for the advancement of the Michigan library community. MLA is dedicated to protecting library services and funding. We advocate for libraries through statewide publicity, grassroots advocacy and lobbying. As a united community, MLA is the collective voice for Michigan libraries. We advocate for and protect library funding and monitor and respond to anything that impacts our libraries’ ability to serve our communities.

Legislative Advocacy

MLA is the voice of the library community advocating at the state level on behalf of libraries with the Governor and state legislature. We work with Governmental Consultant Services Inc. - GCSI to monitor all legislation that affects library funding or a library’s ability to seek funding, from blocking legislation that would limit millage campaigns to the November ballot only to ensuring librarians are able to communicate with their patrons about upcoming elections. Our efforts have ensured personal property tax reimbursement for libraries, safeguarded free speech with the SB 571 “library gag order” debacle, secured annual increases in state aid to libraries, defeated multiple attempts to siphon penal fines and finally successfully eliminated tax capture for our libraries.

Over the years, the lobbying done by MLA, lobby firm Governmental Consultant Services Inc. (GCSI), MLA Legislative Committee and numerous engaged librarians has resulted in increased state aid to libraries (this year with a $1M boost), relief from tax captures, continuing availability of the May, August or November ballot for library millage questions and the ability to communicate freely with your community. As part of our advocacy prior to the November 2018 elections, MLA distributed an email survey to all house and senate candidates throughout Michigan and their responses were gathered and distributed to all members. The November 2018 elections were something MLA watched very closely. We watched for assaults on penal fines, millage elections, and free speech like SB571 which would have prevented libraries and others from communicating with their patrons for 60 days prior to an election.

MLA also provided support for a package of bills aimed at addressing the state’s ongoing literacy crisis by requiring credentialled libraries in every public school in the state. The three-bill package would ensure every student access not only to a school library, but to a certified librarian or media specialist trained to improve literacy, foster a love of learning, and help identify and correct problems before they become significant obstacles to reading. We will continue to monitor into the next fiscal year and report out any movement. MLA monitored changes to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. Effective December 28, 2018, the Legislature approved two important amendments to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. Public Act 523 added a new requirement to Section 3 regarding the information that must be included in a FOIA request. In addition, Act 523 amended Section 4 to address what happens when a requester does not pay a deposit in a timely manner.

MLA staff, board and other statewide partners have worked for the past two years with our legislators to make sure that libraries were provided liability protection when providing the life-saving opioid antidote naloxone, common brand name Narcan, to an overdosing patron. We are still celebrating the huge victory for our libraries and librarians with the passage of the Narcan bill package this past June and signed into law by Governor Whitmer.

MLA will continue to work on behalf of libraries to advocate daily. Local and state elected officials and community leaders need to be educated and reminded of the importance and value of libraries and MLA stands ready to help tell that story.

2019-2020 MLA Legislative Agenda

The MLA legislative agenda is developed by the MLA Legislative Committee to guide the direction of legislative advocacy for the member year.

Major Issues

  • 2019 Appropriations:
    • Request increase of state aid to libraries
  • Prepare for testimony at budget hearing
  • Encourage continued support for Michigan eLibrary.
  • Maintain ability to hold millage elections in key months of August and November.
  • Secure legislation to hold libraries harmless in the event of Narcan administration.
  • Tax Tribunal and Big Box Stores
    • Continue work on a solution to the problems caused by Michigan Tax Tribunals reducing tax obligations that allow thriving big box stores to be taxed at the same rate as closed-down, abandoned stores.
    • Legislative changes to nonprofit status and tax exemption for medical and other businesses.
      • Monitor and reverse efforts to implement tax exemptions for medical and other businesses.
  • Penal Fines
    • Monitor and reverse any efforts to provide legislation for county parallel ordinances and other methods to siphon this funding.
  • Tax Increment Financing Authorities, Brownfields, etc.
    • Monitor legislation to ensure elimination of automatic tax captures

Opportunities

  • Look for options to secure funding for libraries’ participation in early childhood education.
  • Develop and administer political candidate questionnaire and encourage libraries to engage with candidates.
  • Watch for opportunities to partner with ALA or others on moving open access legislation forward.

Member Advocacy Development

Continue to motivate, mentor and assist library directors and trustees to build relationships with legislators on an ongoing basis. Educate members about best practices for working with a legislator to change laws and things that should be taken into conversation.

  • Encourage every library director to contact his/her legislators, offer to host office hours
  • Encourage directors to contact their legislators in support of appropriations goals.
  • Include a legislative update at the MLA Executive Summit
  • Thank legislators when they vote favorable for issues/appropriations affecting libraries.
  • Actively motivate, mentor and assist library directors and trustees to build relationships with legislators on an ongoing basis, e.g.:
    • Ask every library director to contact his/her legislators, with a special focus on those who are newly elected
    • Ask to complete a survey form so we can track who has and has not been contacted.
    • Invite legislators to participate in an April National Library Week event in their home district
    • Encourage all public library directors to invite legislators to summer reading kickoff programs
    • Consider some type of legislative connection for Annual Conference this year since it will be held in Lansing.