Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SAA Government Affairs Working Group

In August of this year, SAA Council created a new Government Affairs Working Group and outlined its official charge:
"Government affairs" issues encompass areas of legislation and rule-making by federal and state government that have direct impact on archives and manuscript repositories, from the taxation of authors' works to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, from protection and preservation of Executive Office of the President email messages to declassification, from treatment of state and local executive office records as public to libel in oral histories. Government affairs issues are complex, and understanding, analyzing, and reacting appropriately to them requires a special expertise. They often demand a quick response, as, for example, when SAA is asked to join in litigation or respond to draft legislation.

The Working Group's purpose is to provide timely expertise and advice to the SAA Council. The Working Group responds to requests for assistance from the President (acting on behalf of the Council) or the Executive Director, tracks government affairs issues of concern (or potential concern) to archivists, and drafts for the Council approval responses or position statements as needed. Although the Working Group's purview is broad, its overarching priority is issues relating to the preservation of and access to government records. This priority takes precedence when there are competing issues demanding attention, and it should be pursued persistently when other issues do not demand immediate attention.
Specifically, the Government Affairs Working Group will:
  • Develop an advocacy agenda for Council approval.
  • Respond in a timely fashion to requests from the President (acting on behalf of Council) or the Executive Director for background information and recommendations on matters relating to government affairs.
  • Track legislative and regulatory issues that could be of concern to archivists in order that the Society may respond in a knowledgeable manner.
  • Prepare drafts, for Executive Committee or the Council's approval, of position papers, statements, and other documents relating to government affairs issues that may benefit archives and archivists.
  • Contribute to the education of SAA members and staff in relation to government affairs issues.
  • Bring to the Council's attention areas in which collaboration with other organizations may advance the Society's government affairs interests and, under Council direction or with its approval, cooperate with such organizations in furthering SAA's interests.
Earlier today, SAA included the group's member roster in its e-mail news update to members:
Council is absolutely correct in that politics and the law can profoundly affect our work and that we as a profession sometimes have to respond to emerging situations quickly and authoritatively. I'm looking forward to seeing this group in action.

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