ARCHIVED: Legislative and Regulatory Update -July 18, 1995

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Annual Meeting

July 18, 1995

Legislative and Regulatory Update by Mary Alice Baish,
AALL Washington Affairs Representative

Good morning. I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to update you on some of the very important legislative issues currently under discussion in Washington and throughout the country. These changes will impact how our libraries and the American public will access government information in the future.

Most of the issues which I address today have one underlying and important theme: the transition of government information from a printbased to an electronic environment.

The most critical of our current efforts in Washington is to make sure that our legislators provide for a careful and thoughtful transition to the "cyber government" which they envision. We must ensure that the most fundamental principles of access to government information will not be just "maintained" in the electronic environment, but that they will be strengthened and enhanced.

I will focus this morning on five key issues:

 

  • Legislative efforts of the 104th Congress, including the appropriations process, to dramatically downsize and restructure the Government Printing Office.

     

  • Our efforts with members of other library associations to develop a framework to assist policymakers in planning for the electronic future.

     

  • Other federal information access efforts, including the GPO ACCESS System, LC's THOMAS System, NTIS (the National Technical and Information Service), and OTA (the Office of Technology Assessment).

     

  • Some corresponding state issues and our initiatives there.

     

  • Lastly, plans of the Washington Office to develop a grassroots lobbying network within our association.

     

1)First of all, let's look at current legislative activity to restructure the Government Printing Office. Last year when Susan Tulis gave this legislative update, she spoke of the administration's National Performance Review and how federal government agencies, including the GPO, were to be "reinvented." Little did we know then that with the monumental changes in Congress following the November election, the 104th Congress would take over "reinventing" the government and would move with speed and determination.

We learned way back in February that members of the 104th Congress intended to dramatically downsize and privatize their own support agencies and that GPO and the Joint Committee on Printing which provides its oversight were clearly targets for dramatic restructuring. Other early messages from the Hill were that Congress is increasingly infatuated with the use of electronic information, particularly if it results in cost savings to the government. Congress also announced its intent to carefully scrutinize agencies which are perceived to duplicate efforts (such as GPO ACCESS and the LC THOMAS system). So, the early buzzwords became: downsize, privatize, go electronic, and eliminate duplication.

Two bills were introduced in the early days of the 104th to restructure GPO. The first, House Resolution 24, was introduced by Rep. Scott Klug of Wisconsin. It would:

 

  • move all executive branch printing to the General Services Administration;

     

  • transfer the functions of the Superintendent of Documents to the Library of Congress;

     

  • abolish both the Joint Committee on Printing and the Joint Committee on the Library;

     

  • reduce the inhouse printing capability of GPO and privatize many of its functions;

     

  • finally, H. Res. 24 would reduce the GPO workforce from some 3900 positions down to 800.

     

The second bill to restructure GPO is H.R. 1024 introduced by Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Washington State. H.R. 1024 would eliminate the inhouse printing functions of the Government Printing Office and downsize it considerably, but would require agencies to procure printing through GPO. So, as a positive note according to Rep. Dunn, H.R. 1024 would bring agency publications now produced through desktop publishing and other means into the depository program. H.R. 1024 would keep the Superintendent of Documents at GPO thus preserving the important link between procurement and dissemination. The bill would also abolish the Joint Committee on Printing within nine months of enactment. In its place, oversight would be divided between the House Oversight Committee and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. All administrative functions of the JCP would be transferred to the Public Printer.

We held discussions with Dunn's staff to try to get some answers to our many concerns about this bill and were pleased when GPO provided a section-by-section analysis of the Dunn bill for the Congressional Budget Office in May. Among its comments,

that the elimination of the JCP could "gravely damage the effectiveness of Government printing and documents distribution policy." As Public Printer Mike DiMario testified at hearings earlier this year, the GPO/JCP relationship has worked well in the past in providing some oversight and enforcement mechanism;

that the way "Government publication" is defined in H.R. 1024 includes electronic resources which contradicts Dunn's statement that the bill is printbased only and does not include electronic information. The library community has worked very hard to have the term "government publication" include all formats. And accepting that definition, under H.R. 1024, agencies would have to procure both print and electronic information through GPO.

Lastly, while the Dunn bill seeks to privatize Congressional printing, GPO contends that the potential difficulties involved in Congressional printing are such that it is "highly unlikely" that the private sector could perform the same functions as GPO more efficiently and at a cost savings. (-pp2

In addition to House Resolution 24 and H.R. 1024 which would restructure the GPO, we are seeing the appropriations process this year turn into a downsizing frenzy, but one that appears to be wellplanned, focused and to some degree coordinated between members of the House and the Senate.

Following several hearings during the spring, the House appropriations bill (H.R. 1854) passed on June 22, a mere two weeks following markup. The bill, in an effort to force members and their staff to begin using the electronic version of Congressional documents, would cut funding for copies of the daily Congressional Record which are distributed on the Hill and would eliminate constituent copies sent mostly to libraries and schools throughout the country. H.R. 1854 would cut by half the number of print copies of hearings which go to committees and would eliminate print copies of Congressional documents which have been available through the documents rooms. Depository libraries will also be affected by the reduction in the CP&B fund in that the Serial Set and the bound Congressional Record would be produced and distributed to depository libraries on CDROM only as of October 1st.

But the changes coming out of House Appropriations didn't stop there. A much more serious development is that H.R. 1854 would cut by 50% the appropriations for GPO's Salaries and Expenses (S&E) from the requested $30.3 million down to $16.3 million. The S&E account funds the Federal Depository Library Program. This proposal came as unexpected and very alarming news. The bill would require Executive Branch agencies to reimburse GPO for all costs associated with the printing and distribution of paper and microfiche products for depository libraries. Agencies, on the other hand, would not have to reimburse GPO for the production or dissemination of online or CDROM products. Intended by the Subcommittee as an incentive for agencies to quickly move from a print to an electronic environment, it would have drastic consequences for depository libraries and probably decimate the microfiche program. It is an unfunded mandate, both for Executive branch agencies and the GPO. And what about libraries?

To quote Rep. Bill Thomas, chair of both the JCP and the House Oversight Committee, during the June 22nd floor debate on H.R. 1854: "What we want to do is get up to speed in sending that same data electronically, and by CD ROM. If taxpayers want a hard copy at the depository library, the library will produce it there." The intent of this push to a full electronic environment for government information is clearly to shift costs to libraries and end users.

I'd like to make just one more point to illustrate the current budgetcrunching mood in the House. Among amendments to H.R. 1854 offered on the House floor, one proposed by Rep. Bill Orton of Utah would have restored $7 million to the depository program. It was defeated by a vote of 104321. Another offered by Rep. Scott Klug would cut an additional 10% FTE from GPO, amounting to a total cut of some 550 positions from GPO. The Klug amendment passed by a vote of 293129.

H.R. 1854 passed the House by a vote of 33787 despite our many efforts through letters, visits to the Hill, and some valuable grassroots support from AALL members. We now expect to see some degree of funding restored by the Senate. Sen. Connie Mack of Florida chairs the Senate Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee and markup on the Senate bill is taking place today. Also, proposed Senate report language will provide for a study of the functions and services of the depository program and the transition period to a fuller electronic environment before such drastic policy changes are made. We are also asking for broad public hearings. But, the bottom line is that Congress has determined to cut its own appropriations by some $200 million.

Now let's move onto how the library community is developing a more effective voice in influencing current information policy debate. By March, we realized that GPO and the depository program were under intense scrutiny if not outright attack. So, we initiated meetings held at Georgetown Law Library in April and May for about two dozen librarians representing AALL as well as ARL, SLA and ALA. We wanted to build on earlier efforts by the Dupont Circle Group and the Chicago Conference to reinvent the depository program. The premise for our first meeting was the realization that there already exists within the federal government multiple channels of dissemination (GPO, NTIS, LC). These meetings accomplished the following four goals:

 

  • We identified the core, essential elements of an effective federal information policy program.
  • We acknowledged the growth in the electronic dissemination of government information all the while recognizing the viability of print.
  • We prepared criteria by which to measure legislative proposals regarding the FDLP, taking into account the possibility of new models.
  • And very importantly, we built some consensus among our library associations regarding these criteria.
We also drafted a twopage framework document envisioning an enhanced access and dissemination program for federal government information. We defined partner responsibilities in the life cycle of government information, the partners being producing government agencies, a central operational authority, participating libraries, and end users. We also began discussion of what role a centralized authority for oversight and enforcement of the program should assume. Copies of the framework document are available in the back of the room and our Executive Board has now joined ARL, SLA and ALA in endorsing the framework document.

We learned just last week that the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Thomas of California has scheduled a hearing on amendments to Title 44, including the Klug and Dunn proposals, on August 1st. In response to this news, ALA President Betty Turock is convening a Forum on Government Information Policy to be held this Thursday and Friday in Washington. About thirty individuals from the national library associations, including two AALL representatives, will meet to develop recommendations on these critical policy issues. The goals are to develop models for reorganized federal dissemination responsibilities and for a reinvented depository program.

3) Now, for a very quick update on federal access systems.

GPO ACCESS vs. LC'S THOMAS SYSTEM
(URLs are thomas.loc.gov and www.access.gpo.gov)

GPO unveiled their new homepage at the ALA Annual Meeting last month in Chicago. They intend to develop their website to serve as a pointer to other government electronic resources and to provide abstracts about these sites. GPO has now set up 17 ACCESS gateways throughout the country. As of April 1st, GAO reports have been made available fulltext the day after their release through GPO ACCESS. Future development of the ACCESS system is in jeopardy, however, if the House S&E appropriations cuts are enacted since GPO is required by law to fund the ACCESS system through costs savings from the distribution of print publications.

I'm sure everyone in this room is aware that House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Librarian of Congress James Billington introduced LC's THOMAS website on January 5th with great fanfare. THOMAS provides much of the same data available through GPO ACCESS since GPO, as the production agency, transmits data each day to the THOMAS system. At a February appropriations hearing, both Public Printer Mike DiMario and Librarian of Congress James Billington were questioned about duplicative efforts between the systems although THOMAS clearly is intended to be limited to Legislative Branch information.

NTIS (S. 929 and H.R. 1756)

Two bills have been introduced to eliminate the Department of Commerce and privatize the National Technical Information Service/NTIS. Secretary Ron Brown in testimony tomorrow before the Senate Commerce Appropriations Committee will propose that NTIS become a government corporation similar to the Postal Service. Thus NTIS would maintain its agency status and its legal mandate from the 1991 American Technology Preeminence Act. During the past few years, GPO and NTIS have made various (though unsuccessful)h)0*0*0*attempts to develop an interagency agreement to bring scientific and technical information into the depository program. NTIS, as a selfsupporting agency, has been much more successful in developing partnerships with the private sector. I recently learned from NTIS Director Don Johnson of plans to partner with the Kinko copy centers located, as you know, on most college and university campuses. Soon you will be able to stop by your neighborhood Kinkos, search through FEDWORLD and request a print copy of a technical report from the 3year backfile of NTIS holdings.

OTA

The Office of Technology Assessment was on the House Appropriations Committee hit list for elimination as part of H.R. 1854 but managed to survive when the bill reached the House floor. The $16.5 million appropriations to maintain OTA were shifted from LC's Salaries & Expenses fund and it appears that OTA will be placed under the umbrella of the Congressional Research Service although it have independent oversight. Early this spring we had sent a letter supporting continued funding for OTA although as the budget cuts became more drastic for GPO, we felt the need to step back as we did not want to see funding stripped from GPO appropriations to maintain OTA.

USPS KIOSK
(URL is www.wings.usps.gov)
[link no longer valid]

The Interagency Kiosk Committee's report, The Kiosk Network Solution, was published in April and the new "Web Interactive Network of Government Services" (WINGS) homepage was unveiled in Washington last month by the U.S. Postal Service. WINGS is a joint Federal, state and local government prototype project to develop public 24hour "onestop shopping" access to a variety of government services ranging from the sale of stamps to tax forms. The USPS is actively seeking both federal agency and state government partners and has designed WINGS to "revolutionize" the way the public does business with the government. It is aimed at filling consumer needs: current prototype applications revolve around moving, jobs, and benefits and services.

4)While much of the focus of our Washington efforts has of necessity been on federal issues, we have been involved in some state initiatives and hope to increase this support. Three areas of particular concern to us are:

 

  • state efforts supporting electronic access to state government information (we have supported passage of legislation in the state of Illinois to provide Internet access to state executive and legislative information);
  • issues related to funding of law libraries (we have supported Nevada county law libraries in getting free copies of Nevada state documents for their libraries and with less success, unfortunately, in a funding increase for Texas county law libraries;

    and

  • issues which develop at both the federal and state levels such as state antiobscenity bills which have been enacted in some six states during the past year.
These are very critical times as lawmakers are formulating policy issues which will lead us into the next century. Input from AALL is crucial and we are working very to become a Washington presence for the association. However, we also recognize that constituent communication makes a significant difference in how legislators vote. So during the coming year, we will working to develop a network of AALL members willing to become key contacts with their federal and/or state legislators to promote AALL policies. A secondary benefit from this improved communication between association members and the Washington Office is that it will provide timely informationsharing and support on federal, state and local legislative initiatives.

The current Appropriations process is so critical that we will be using select mailings to activate grassroots support once we know how the Senate intends to proceed with the FY 1996 Legislative Branch Appropriations. Also we will publicize our efforts in the hopes of increase contacts so that the association will have a fuller voice in these important issues. It is a commitment to become involved in these efforts but one which we hope some of will seriously consider.

CONCLUSION

The 104th Congress has moved very quickly and with determination to create a "cyber government." To summarize our Washington efforts since January, we are working hard to protect access to federal government information and to preserve the necessary funding for the depository program. We initiated efforts to build consensus with other library associations on how the Program must be strengthened in this broader electronic environment. We recognize the need to become better informed about issues developing at the state level so that we can lend the support of our association to these initiatives. And finally, we hope to develop during the coming year a AALL network to better influence our legislators. Thank you very much.

 

 1996, American Association of Law Libraries