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House passes 18 percent cut to state library operations budget

When the Alabama House of Representatives approved an $11 billion education budget package on Tuesday, it also gave its stamp of approval to an 18 percent cut to the operating budget for the Alabama Public Library Service.

House Education Budget Chair Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, said he “redirected” $750,000 of the agency’s budget, adding $250,000 toward the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program and sending $500,000 to Better Basics, a program providing intervention in reading and math primarily in Central Alabama.

John Wahl, APLS board member and ALGOP chair, said that Garrett had concerns about the recent controversy over library books, and that he was considering cutting APLS funding for failure to respond.

“As a member of the APLS board and someone who cares deeply about our library systems, I strongly support the full funding of the APLS budget,” Wahl told APR. “There has been a lot of controversy surrounding some local libraries this year, as well as concerns about social agendas being pushed by the American Library Association. I share many of those concerns, and I believe it is extremely important that the APLS board and our local libraries make sure we protect children from inappropriate sexual content.

“That being said, I believe we can address these issues best by having a strong and fully funded APLS program.”

The budget also circumvents the ongoing public comment policy process on proposed changes to the APLS administrative code by making state aid conditional on compliance with Ivey’s proposal.

Read Freely Alabama, the primary group pushing back against book challenges in the state, called on lawmakers to amend the bill to remove that language.

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“Alabama lawmakers want to punish those of us who dared to defend our libraries and our First Amendment rights,” sent in an email to followers, calling on them to demand lawmakers amend the bill. “This is morally wrong and is government tyranny. They want to punish American citizens for using their constitutional right to criticize the government and protect their basic constitutional freedoms. We cannot let this stand.”

No lawmakers pushed back against the budget cut on the floor Tuesday, nor attempt to amend the bill.

The budget must still go through the Senate for final approval.

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