Hill eyes reform of federal printing

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, expects to issue a report at the end of the year that will result in legislation to reform government printing and improve public access to public government documents.

At a committee hearing last week on public access to government information and changes to Title 44, the law that authorizes the Government Printing Office, witnesses discussed how the public accesses documents, who prints them, the effects of electronic filing and how the Federal Depository Library Program is evolving.

"The buck stops here," Warner said. "We've got to solve this thing. Taxpayers [who] are entitled to this information aren't getting it."

The hearing comes on the heels of a recent Justice Department memorandum issued at the end of May that opened the door for agencies to buy printing from sources other than GPO. The memo, which made changes to Title 44, said GPO's "extensive control over executive branch printing and duplicating violates the constitutional principle of separation of powers." It added that "executive branch departments and agencies are not obligated to procure printing by or through the GPO."

Not surprisingly, GPO is critical of the opinion.

"I do not agree with [it]," Michael DiMario, public printer at GPO, told those at the hearing. "GPO does not have extensive control over executive branch printing. We perform an administrative function to ensure that executive branch printing is performed economically and in the interests of the taxpayer, and to ensure that the publications are made available to the public on a comprehensive and equitable basis."

DiMario said the memorandum sends the message that there is "no need for economy in public printing and that providing effective public access is a secondary concern." He added that improvements to the government printing process already have been made.

"Within the structure of the current law, we completely converted GPO's pre-press proc-esses to electronics. None of the proposals for change that have been offered to date are the kind of benefits that Title 44 and GPO currently provide," DiMario said.

Some of those proposals include a House Document Management Plan that would transfer GPO printing functions that support the House of Representatives to the House itself.

Judicial, Executive Have Say

Royce Lamberth, a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia, said that, as the judiciary implements initiatives such as electronic filing proj-ects, it will want to review any proposed changes to Title 44 that may affect it. The judiciary initiates more than 30,000 printing jobs a year, more than half of which go to GPO, Lamberth said.

The Clinton administration, meanwhile, supports an overhaul of Title 44 that includes giving the president the responsibility for making printing policy for the executive branch, devolving printing procurement responsibility to the agencies and allowing GPO to bid for agency printing work.

Also at issue during the hearing was the number of fugitive documents, which DiMario said is increasing by "leaps and bounds." Warner suggested forming a bipartisan commission to study this and other issues.


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