Other Legal Issues
A. Impact of Deferred Statutory Changes
The Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) has the potential to profoundly transform the way in which software is licensed and to limit the copyright protections consumers now enjoy when purchasing software. The law was passed in July 1999 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and referred to the states for possible enactment by state legislatures. Passage of the Act by a majority of states would alter the relationship between software vendors and consumers. UCITA is intended to govern all contracts for the development, sale, licensing, maintenance, and support of computer software, including contracts for information in digital form, such as electronic books.
For the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and other Texas libraries, UCITA would mean higher costs and greater restrictions on information purchased in digital form. If the legislature invites the agency to submit a Fiscal Note on proposed legislation in the next session, staff will identify the anticipated cost increases.
At the same conference, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws also passed the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). UETA is designed to facilitate e-commerce not only in the private sector but in government as well. Passage of UETA by the Texas Legislature will significantly increase the volume of government records maintained in electronic format. Management of electronic records poses difficult challenges to state agencies, and with the passage of the Act in Texas, the Library and Archives Commission will see an increase in the use of its records management consulting services.
B. Impact of Current and Outstanding Court Cases
At this time, no court cases have been identified that could have a potential impact on the agency.
C. Impact of Local Government Requirements
The trend in public libraries has been to restrict service to residents and to operate libraries as revenue-generating entities. There have been a few major milestones in sharing service with non-residents. The largest library in Texas, the Houston Public Library, extended service to all residents of the contiguous counties at no charge. The Austin Public Library has extended services to area school children living outside the city limits. However, a few city libraries lost or refused county funding in 1998, and have stopped serving county residents. Although the percentage of Texans without a public library decreased, the number of Texans without service remains at 1.3 million.
Local governments continue to be more aggressive in their attempts to recover indirect costs from state and federal grants, resulting in higher administrative costs in grant programs. This also reduces available funds for improving local library services. Additionally, an increasing number of cities and counties are questioning the value of applying for grants due to the perceived increase in staff time to apply for, implement, and report on grants.
The 76th Legislature (1999) amended the law related to the formation of library sales tax districts. This law authorized local entities to approve local taxes to establish library service. Nine library tax districts have been established in Texas: Westbank (Austin-West Lake Hills), Salado, Wells Branch (Austin), Benbrook, Dripping Springs, Wimberley, Canyon Lake, Forest Hills, and Bulverde. More communities are exploring the possibilities of establishing library tax districts and call on Library and Archives Commission staff for assistance in understanding the laws and the establishment process.