Legislative Agenda: Coalition of Industry Groups Advocate for Paper Options to Remain
There are two ways to look at 2016 from a political standpoint. President Obama will be looking for a few crowning accomplishments in the final year of his two-term presidential saga, and what better way to go out on a high note than to sign off on some bipartisan legislation?
If you listen closely enough, you can actually hear Republican eyes rolling. The second path, espoused by pessimists (but ultimately more realistic) is that because a presidential election looms in November, not much is going to be accomplished. Campaigning will take the place of any actual legislation getting pushed through. There are a couple of items that are extremely likely to see activity post-election (more on this shortly) but, in the interim, the printing industry’s interests can be promoted on a couple of fronts.
As always, we turn to the printing industry’s leading legislative advocate/veteran lobbyist Lisbeth Lyons—the vice president of government affairs for Printing Industries of America (PIA)—for the lowdown on what hot button topics will be pursued during the weeks and months leading up to the presidential election. We will give you one agenda item per day—like a vitamin—to help (but not overtax) that heart of yours.
Paper Option Advocacy
This initiative is not so much an actionable item as it is a game of “Whack-A-Mole,” according to Lyons. The paper advocacy group Consumers for Paper Options is made up of paper and printing concerns like the PIA (and its affiliates), the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), the Envelope Manufacturers Association, RR Donnelley and Hallmark. Its goal is to ensure the federal government is held accountable for the cost benefit approach to transitioning from paper to Internet-only resources. Thus, whenever some agency cries out “Go paperless,” the Consumers for Paper Options is there to tamp down often needless and unfounded concerns.
One example was a response to the Internal Revenue Service, which eliminated the printing and mailing of tax preparation booklets to taxpayers. That left taxpayers who relied on the mailed materials in the past having to pay Uncle Sam in order to receive a copy from the Government Publishing Office (GPO).
The Consumers for Paper Options backed a bill, “The Personal Access to Paper Election Reform (PAPER) Act,” which amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mail paper forms and instructions to people who filed a paper return for the preceding tax year.
“This bill shows our common sense approach to the forms,” Lyons says. “We’re not saying the IRS has to print everything for everyone in perpetuity, but this bill covers taxpayers who previously filed by mail. They made a choice to interact with the government by mail and should be allowed to continue that without being penalized.”
Another case related to the elimination of paper documents cropped up with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is in the process of eliminating the mandate for mutual funds to mail shareholder reports and other financial info to investors. The new rule would allow them to satisfy SEC requirements by making shareholder reports and quarterly portfolio holdings available online.
In joint comments with the Consumer Action and the National Consumers League, the groups pointed to SEC research that concluded an overwhelming majority of American investors prefer to receive shareholder reports in paper form. Meanwhile, only a small percentage has opted into digital delivery.
The Consumers for Paper Options was also able to beat back an effort by the Food and Drug Administration, which sought to eliminate drug package inserts that are furnished to health care providers (doctors, pharmacies and hospitals). These efforts, in tandem with aid from the new paper and packaging caucuses in the House and Senate, will greatly augment the printing industry’s interests on Capitol Hill.
“With these paperless initiatives, most of these agencies are not…taking into account the impact on citizens and the downstream impact on the economy,” Lyons remarks.