Saturday, July 12

Senate Legislative Branch Funding for Talking Books-Action Needed

Greetings. Those who use the NLS digital download service for reading books on the Stream or other players will find this message of particular interest. Below is a note I received on an NFB email list about actions you can take to ensure the appropriations of the full $34.5 million for the conversion of talking books from casette to digital form. Please consider taking action on this important issue.


Fellow Federationists:

As many of you know, on June 23, 2008, the Federation achieved a great victory when the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch held its markup of the fiscal year 2009 Legislative Branch bill. We had worked tirelessly to increase funding in this bill for the Talking Books program conversion from analog cassette technology to the new digital format. When the President's budget was originally presented to Congress in February, only $12.5 million was included for this transition; this was the same amount provided in the fiscal year 2008 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. Funding this conversion program at $12.5 million per year would mean that it would take six years to complete. We learned that a six-year plan would cause a drastic reduction in service, and together, we Federationists worked to educate members of the House of Representatives on the dangers of a six-year plan. Because of the work of the National Federation of the Blind, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch included an appropriation of $34.5 million. Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Ranking Member Tom Latham of Iowa pledged to complete the funding for the digital conversion in three years, rather than the original four-year plan or the devastating six-year plan proposed at the beginning of this year. While this was a great victory, there is still a great deal of work to do.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch will markup their version of this bill in the next week or two. This subcommittee is chaired by Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and is the Senate counterpart of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's subcommittee in the House. All of us need to contact Senator Landrieu's office at (202) 224-5824, and ask her to retain the $34.5 million for the digital Talking Book program that is in the House bill. Tell her how important the Talking Book program is to you and to all blind Americans. Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Dick Durban of Illinois, and Wayne Allard of Colorado are also members of this subcommittee, so those of you who live in their states should call their offices with the same request. Their telephone numbers are listed below. You can, of course, always call the Capital switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to any senate office.

I am asking that all NFB members contact Senator Landrieu's office and that the members in Illinois, Tennessee, Colorado, and Nebraska contact their respective senators serving on the subcommittee, by noon on Tuesday, July 15. Be sure to ask the senator to "maintain the $34.5 million funding level included in the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill for the digital Talking Book conversion in the Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill." Please let me know if you have any questions about this critically important matter. I know that if we all work together, we will secure funding for the digital Talking Book program in the Senate and insure that an appropriation in the amount of $34.5 million goes to the President.

Thank you for all of your outstanding work so far and for your continued assistance in securing the future of the Talking Book program.


Jesse M. Hartle
Government Programs Specialist

Democratic Subcommittee Members:

Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) (Chair)
Phone: (202) 224-5824

Senator Richard Durbin (IL)
Phone: (202) 224-2152

Senator Ben Nelson (NE)
Phone: (202) 224-6551

Republican Subcommittee Members:

Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) (Ranking Member)
Phone: (202) 224-4944

Senator Wayne Allard (CO)
Phone: (202) 224-5941

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