ARCHIVED: Legislative and Regulatory Update - September 1996

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September 1996

Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
Georgetown University Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
202/662-9200 *FAX:202/662-9202

A title change for the Washington Affairs Office's monthly column seems entirely appropriate as we welcome the inaugural issue of the AALL Spectrum. This page will regularly highlight the most important news while occasional feature articles will provide more in-depth coverage of a particular issue. First, though, Bob and I would like to thank all of you who took the time to express support for our efforts during the Annual Meeting in Indianapolis. It was very gratifying to have such a wonderful turnout for the GRC's annual update, and we are especially grateful to all of you who joined us for the first ever Washington Affairs Liaisons Meeting. The success of that informal gathering can be measured by the two dozen new volunteers who were captivated by the enthusiasm of panelists Donna Bausch, Judy Janes and Dorothy Cordo in describing Chapter initiatives at the state level. Our grassroots program is getting off the ground, thanks to all of you, and plans are already underway for a more intensive advocacy training program during next year's annual meeting in Baltimore.

Senate Rules Hearings on Public Access

This four-part series of hearings held in June and July appear to have accomplished their intended goal of laying the groundwork for next year's revision of Title 44. The many challenges ahead come not just from the growing pains of a developing cybergovernment but from a power struggle among the three branches of government to control their own printing procurement and electronic dissemination. The first hearing affirmed strong support for the FDLP by the Superintendent of Documents and representatives of the library community and the Depository Library Council. The second hearing consisted of a "futurist" panel who stressed that it's next to impossible to forecast technological change; that only an elite group of Americans have ready access to the Internet from their homes; that librarians will play a critical role as intermediaries in a more electronic environment; and that Congress must accept the fact that a cybergovernment will cost sizeable sums of money. The third hearing included witnesses from the printing industry and the private sector. While maintaining general support for the FDLP, a recurrent theme was that current printing by executive branch agencies and GPO should be carried out by the private sector. Also expressed was the private sector's underlying concern that in an electronic environment, agencies do in fact become their own publishers.

The final hearing was far and away the most intriguing, consisting of three government panels: Judge Royce C. Lamberth (Judicial Conference of the United States); Sally Katzen (OMB), Christopher Schroeder (DOJ), and Don Johnson (NTIS); Michael DiMario (GPO) and Roy Francis (Interagency Council on Printing and Publications Services). Judge Lamberth noted that the judiciary recognizes its responsibility for disseminating government information and is using appropriate technologies, such as PACER, to expand access. Ms. Katzen's testimony envisioned a change from the current centralized printing and dissemination model to one devolving the responsibility for the executive branch to agencies and the President. While affirming the role of the Superintendent of Documents, she noted that GPO's control over executive branch printing could not be supported for the long-term. GPO's role might become that of a value-added service provider for those agencies needing assistance in information management and dissemination. In my last column, I described the Department of Justice opinion issued in May which stated that GPO, as a legislative branch entity under the control of the Joint Committee on Printing, violates the separation of powers doctrine through its control over executive branch printing. In his statement, Mr. Schroeder reaffirmed the appropriateness of this finding under current law but added that executive agencies are voluntarily procuring printing through GPO pursuant to an April directive from Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. NTIS Director Don Johnson described the pilot project, scheduled to begin this fall, through which depository libraries will gain access to electronic NTIS materials although they will be restricted from making these available electronically outside the library. Public Printer Michael DiMario noted his disagreement with the DOJ opinion, stating that GPO performs an administrative function over Government printing rather than "extensive control." He also remarked that the principal structure of Title 44 is valid even in the electronic environment and that GPO has drafted some necessary changes to Chapter 19 to incorporate the FDLP's transition to a more electronic program. Mr. Francis generally supported GPO's centralized role in printing procurement and emphasized its importance to ensuring public access of government information.

GPO and LC FY 1997 Appropriations

The good news is that H.R. 3754, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act for FY 1997, recognizes the need to continue adequate funding for LC's digital initiatives, including the National Digital Library, THOMAS and GLIN, as well as for GPO ACCESS. The House also reluctantly agreed to a more realistic 5-7 year time frame for the transition to a more electronic FDLP. However, the bad news is that funding has been cut for the U.S. Congressional Serial Set and the bound Congressional Record; as of January 1997, these will be published on CD-ROM. During its meetings in Indianapolis, the AALL Executive Board endorsed a resolution urging Congress to continue print dissemination of both titles as the official, authoritative records of Congressional activities. We affirmed our support for continued print distribution of these important titles in a recent letter to members of the appropriate Congressional committees.

House Database Management System

Moving towards the vision of a cybergovernment, the House recently issued a 3-year strategic plan to develop a document management program that would encompass the life cycle of House documents, from creation to archiving, in an authoritative electronic version. Goals of the program are to become less dependent on GPO, reduce costs, retain House control of the final official electronic documents, and improve the efficiency and speed of making them available to House staff and to the public. These documents would include House bills and resolutions, amendments, committee reports and hearings, and other publications. In a related matter, Rep. Rick White (R-WA) just introduced House Resolution 478 to provide public access to House committee documents through the Internet.

New Washington Affairs Office Home Page

Although it is still under construction, we are very pleased to announce the creation of our new home page that will provide you with ready access to many of our activities. It includes AALL's mission and Government Relations Policy, directories of GRC members and our new Washington Affairs liaisons, current important issues, letters and testimony, and our monthly columns and annual updates. Please visit us here.

1996, American Association of Law Libraries