Tea Party Case Against Kentucky Libraries Overturned Today

State of KentuckyUPDATED 10 December 2015:  We are relieved to report that the final appeal by the plaintiffs has been declined to be heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court today, formally ending this matter.

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20 March 2015 original post:

EveryLibrary is relieved that the Kentucky Court of Appeals held with reason and the law to overturn the Tea Party’s case against Kentucky libraries today. It is a significant loss for anti-library forces in the state, and around the country, affirming that the libraries followed the law when setting tax rates. It will hopefully clear the way for library leaders across the state who have been facing real uncertainty to again focus clearly on supporting education, business development and jobs skills, and community outcomes. In making its ruling, the Appeals Court was clear:

While appellees/taxpayers argue that these provisions should only apply to library districts created by ballot and not petition, that interpretation defies logic and common sense given the circumstances that existed when the statute was originally passed in 1965.

This wasn’t a false alarm. Lawsuits like this are a tried and true way for anti-tax groups to advance their agenda. We must remember that the reason this got to the Appeals Court in the first place is that the libraries lost in the Circuit Court. Libraries will be a target of anti-tax lawsuits across the country again. The national advocacy ecosystem for libraries needs to be ready for the next one.

The library leadership in Campbell and Kenton Counties deserves our respect and admiration. They stood on principle and with the law in defending their communities from this spurious attack against the basics of library services. We’d also like to acknowledge the leadership that Wanye Onkst, Director of the Kentucky Department for Library and Archives, provided as consistent channel of good information about how the case would affect libraries in the Commonwealth. With 99 out of 104 Kentucky libraries in peril, the implications of that information were clear to us.

EveryLibrary sincerely hopes that the earlier threat made by the plaintiffs that they would appeal to the Supreme Court won’t be followed through on. There is a 90 day window for them to again file an appeal.  So we agree with the Justices when they wrote today that:

“Finally, in the absence of any legislative action over the past thirty plus years that would alter our opinion today, we are reminded by former Chief Justice Palmore that “[w]hen all else is said and done, common sense must not be a stranger in the house of the law.”

EveryLibrary is ready to help library communities in Kentucky and around the country to talk about opposition to libraries and librarians. It is a conversation we need to have with each other because, in the same way that people love libraries, some other folks hate taxes.  It is a belief.  And beliefs drive behavior.  Libraries should not be a victim of special interests that believe in smaller government. Libraries already do ‘more with less’. It’s time we change the conversation about the library from being in the ‘any tax is a bad tax’ frame to showing that ‘the library tax is important to community outcomes’.

Resources:

EveryLibrary Webinar Series about Voter Engagement

EveryLibrary Posts About the Case

Library Journal Coverage About the Case

American Libraries Coverage About the Case

Text of: KY Appeals Court Ruling 20 March 15 (PDF)

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