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Needs Work: Congressional Record Printing Savings Act of 2011

As part of the search to save federal dollars, Senator Tom Coburn has introduced S 674, the Congressional Record Printing Savings Act of 2011.

This act may save up to $8 million a year by reducing “unnecessary” printing of the Congressional Record. You can find the text through Open Congress.

We at FGI are not opposed in principle to printing fewer copies of government publications as long as permanant public access and preservation issues are adequately addressed.

We don’t believe this particular bill does so. We see three main problems with the “Congressional Record Printing Savings Act of 2011”:

  1. The bill only gives gpo 45 days to determine the appropriate number of printed archival copies. – There is little published research on the appropriate number of printed copies for preservation purposes, and most of the available research deals with periodicals. Some original research needs to be done specifically for government publications and this couldn’t be completed in 45 days.
  2. The bill is silent on where these copies should be stored. – This legislation directs GPO to determine a number of preservation copies, but doesn’t state where these copies would be stored. Will the copies provided to Congress count? Will geographic distribution be taken into account? Will some be mandated to be stored in libraries? We the public don’t know and we should before accepting a diminished number of copies.
  3. It misses an opportunity to deposit the electronic CR to depository libraries as an additional anti-tampering safeguard. – If the printed copy of the Congressional Record is going to be diminished, then assuring the authencity and permanent public access to the electronic Congressional Record will gain in importance. Keeping multiple electronic copies in non-federal hands would be an important safeguard against future alterations of the Congressional Record and ought to be considered by Congress.

If the Congressional Record is an interest of yours and you agree with our concerns, consider contacting your Members of Congress.

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