Controversial dissemination bill comes up short

A bill criticized for creating a new bureaucracy for publishing government information
died as Congress adjourned last month.

There were last-minute attempts to attach the Wendell H. Ford Government Publications
Reform Act, S 2288, to the fiscal 1999 omnibus spending bill. The efforts failed after
facing strong opposition from Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who said he was concerned the
bill would negate provisions of the Information Technology Management Reform Act.

The Ford bill would have given the renamed Government Printing Office authority to
guarantee that government information is accessible regardless of the format in which it
is published. The bill, which would have renamed GPO the Government Publications Office,
also would have given GPO an enforcement mechanism for collecting materials by letting it
charge agencies the cost of publishing documents not made available.

IT groups and vendors complained that the bill centralized printing with GPO just as
the government has been moving to decentralize many functions.

Critics also argued that IT is making more information available.

Obviously, the bill had the possibility of affecting procurement reform, said Larry
Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement of Washington.
“It was done by a very few individuals who had their own agenda they wanted to
advance without any consideration” of procurement or management reforms, he said.

The bill centralized a lot of power within GPO, Allen said. “Even in its
scaled-down version, it wasn’t all that scaled down,” he said.

Olga Grkavac, senior vice president for systems integration at the Information
Technology Association of America, said many people wanted to reform Title 44 of the U.S.
Code, the century-old laws governing federal printing.

The bill was widely supported by library groups and by OMB Watch, a Washington watchdog

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