“Missouri Reps Just Voted to Completely Defund the State’s Public Libraries” – VICE
“The new budget sets funds for libraries to $0. Library groups say the move is retaliation for suing the state over its recent book ban law.”
Is it fair to deny families access to public libraries? Which libraries would be hurt? Who represents those Missouri districts? How much are the state legislators paid (with your tax payer dollars) to represent their constituents’ interests? How can you contact them easily to let them know how you feel about their plan to gut public libraries?
Start with this map with details on 390 Missouri Public Libraries overlaid with State House and State Senate districts along with a link for you to call your rep with just one click. Republican culture wars might be entertaining, till you and your family become the casualties.
Republican culture wars claim casualties
Republican House Budget Chairman Cody Smith proposed a $4.5 million cut to public libraries’ state aid citing a lawsuit filed against Missouri by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU-MO) as the reason for the cut. The Missouri House of Representatives voted for a state operating budget with a $0 line for public libraries. The budget still needs to work its way through the Senate and the governor’s office. – Abstracted from VICE article
ACLU-MO filed the suit on behalf of the Missouri Association of School Librarians and the Missouri Library Association (MLA) in an effort to overturn a state law passed in 2022 that bans sexually explicit material from schools. Since it was first enacted in August, librarians and other educators have faced misdemeanor charges punishable by up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine for giving students access to books the state has deemed sexually explicit. The lawsuit claims that school districts have been pulling books from their shelves.
“The house budget committee’s choice to retaliate against two private, volunteer-led organizations by punishing the patrons of Missouri’s public libraries is abhorrent,” Tom Bastian, deputy director for communications for ACLU-MO said in a statement to Motherboard. Like in all ACLU cases, the organization is not charging the two Missouri library groups for services. Both library organizations are also run by volunteers – every state has an equivalent of these two organizations that serve public and school libraries. In other words, a politician either lied or didn’t have his facts straight, and now 160 library districts risk losing state aid in June.” – VICE
Hold them accountable
Some legislation is passed quickly in the hope that the public won’t notice till it is too late. That’s why it’s important to track bills and how politicians are spending your tax payer dollars? Do their bills help you? Or advance their culture wars?
Maps make it easy to see how their bills will help or hurt you based on where you live. And interactive maps let you call your rep immediately with one click. Hold them accountable.
Rural libraries will suffer the most
“State Aid helps libraries provide relevant collections, literacy based programming, and technology resources to their communities,” Otter Bowman, president of the MLA told Motherboard in a statement. “Our rural libraries rely the most heavily on this funding to serve their communities, and they will be crippled by this drastic budget cut.”
Libraries have become a recurring battleground in the latest culture wars, as conservative groups across the US seek to remove books they consider objectionable. In other states where obscenity bills became laws last year, including Oklahoma and Tennessee, it’s become easier for one adult to challenge books with LGBTQ and diversity representation. Last week, the American Library Association released data showing that in 2022, the amount of book challenges issued nearly doubled, and 32 percent of all book challenges included multiple titles. EveryLibrary Institute has tracked more than two dozen new obscenity bills introduced this year alone, as of March 23, 2023.
Stop enacting laws they know do not meet constitutional muster
“If the members of the committee are concerned about preserving taxpayer funds, they should stop enacting laws they know do not meet constitutional muster, not burden local governments in a misguided effort to silence organizations who object to the legislature’s overreach,” Bastian added.
The ACLU of Missouri defends civil liberties and the principles of equality and justice in Missouri through its litigation, legislative and public education programs. The ACLU was founded in 1920 as the first public interest law firm of its kind, and is recognized as the country’s foremost advocate of individual rights. We base our work largely on the U.S. Constitution, which, along with state and federal laws, protects certain fundamental rights of individuals against the power of the government and will of the majority. Learn more.
TakeAway: Push back against Republican culture wars that use your tax payer dollars to pass bills that take away your benefits, like public libraries.
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Reposted from Democracy Labs with permission.
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