Good News For Fans Of Public Libraries In Arizona

According to its Legiscan page, Arizona HB 2379 has been in the House Rules Committee since February 17. I’ve been told that this means that the bill is effectively dead and that it’s too late in the legislative session for this to be passed.

It certainly looks like the bill’s legs have been cut out from underneath it. If you look at the Legiscan page in depth, you can see how fast things were moving on the bill from January to February. And then it hit a wall and promptly stopped moving, likely due to the massive public response that supporters of the library raised in opposition of this legislation.

There are a few ways for bills to die. They can die dramatically from a governor’s veto, which is what happened with SB 1062. They can also die quietly, buried in committee until the world has forgotten that they ever existed. HB 2379 seems to have died that quiet death.

It’s unfortunate when such a destructive bill dies quietly because for those whom the bill would have harmed, it’s hard to say when the battle is really over. There’s no moment to take a victory lap and celebrate the fact that we won. There’s just a vague feeling of unease that slowly lifts as we look at one another and ask “is it over?”

But we did win and our public libraries are safe, at least for another year. This cynical blogger has a cynical feeling that we’ll be seeing another version of this bill come January 2015. There was an incarnation of HB 2379 that was vetoed by the governor back in 2011. If a veto wasn’t enough to keep this revenant piece of legislation down, I can’t imagine that a quiet death in committee will either.

But that doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that we won. And we couldn’t have won if the people our libraries serve hadn’t stood up and spoken out against this bill.

Well done, Arizona. Thanks for standing up for your libraries.

 

Arizona HB 2379

HB 2379 sounds innocuous on the surface: Special Districts; secondary levy limits. Where’s the harm in that? The average person likely doesn’t even know what that’s referring to. Even if you look at it more closely, it doesn’t sound that bad: “HB 2379 limits secondary property taxes levied by county free library, county jail, and public health services districts.”

Well, shit, those librarians don’t need their own secondary property tax, right? Do people even need libraries? We all have computers, right? This won’t be so bad.

Here’s what happens if this bill passes.

Long story short: ten libraries get closed while the rest get gutted. If you’re curious, yeah, I’m biased, since my library is one of the ones on the chopping block. So that’s awesome.

I’ve seen several comments on the various newspaper articles mention something to the extent of “they’re not cutting funding, just limiting funding, it’s not the same thing, so shut up.”

Here’s the thing; the current budget is unsustainable long-term. It’s kind of like how when your personal budget is tight so you hold off going to the doctor or the dentist or getting some work done on your car? It’s a short-term solution. Eventually, your transmission will explode or your teeth will rot or you’ll get sick and then you have to address those things.

Well, yes, we’re operating on a cut down budget for this year because that is what you do when money is tight. You buckle down and cut what you can, knowing that it won’t be permanent and that when money starts flowing again, you can address some of the things you let slide during the hard times.

If the budget gets cut down right now, when it’s already been set as something unsustainable in order to practice fiscal discipline, it’s a death sentence.

If you’re in Arizona, contact to your representatives and oppose this bill. Because even if you think that libraries are archaic now that we all have computers, even if you think that books are a waste of time, please keep in mind that for some people who are not as privileged as you to own your own computer and have Internet access, the public library is the only place they can go to get this vital access.

And there are some people who actually read books. Made from dead trees and everything! Imagine that.