How to spend your summer vacation

July 6, 2015

The hot days of late July and early August are when members of Congress visit home base to test the temperature of the political climate and hear constituents’ concerns. This first year in a congressional session is the best time to discuss serious issues. Next year, elections will be running at full throttle.

The community newspaper industry faces several serious threats from Congress this year. Take a minute to bone up on the issues and find your representatives and senators at town hall meetings and community events. A little side chat will go a long way.

 

1. Tell Congress no to an advertising tax. The House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees are looking for a way to lower corporate taxes for multinational corporations that might consider relocating their headquarters to the U.S. Good idea? But one of the ways to pay for it is to raise taxes on Main Street businesses that advertise in community newspapers, on TV, radio, direct mail and the Internet. By denying the full deduction of advertising costs and forcing half the spending to be amortized over 5-10 years, the tax would discourage advertising, hurt local economies and decrease spending on products and services. It would also cost local jobs. For every dollar of advertising spent, $22 of economic activity is generated.

 

2. Tell Congress yes to hurrying up with postal reform. The National Newspaper Association is now in the third biennial Congress where action to cut U.S. Postal Service losses is needed. While Congress dithers, USPS is hurting newspapers by cutting back service and raising rates. Congress can help by passing a bill that lets USPS workers use Medicare benefits that are already being paid for, puts USPS on the same track as other federal agencies for prefunding retirement benefits and allows postal financial experts to conservatively invest existing funds the way the federal Thrift Savings Plan does.

 

3. While you are at it, tell them how bad rural mail service is. Service cuts have hit rural America harder than the cities. That is because the mail processing plants are now almost exclusively urban. Small-town mail has to travel further. Problems with delivery from newspaper Periodicals to Priority Mail are being reported across the country. NNA has asked the Postal Regulatory Commission to do a separate evaluation of on-time rural mail—separate from big cities.

 

4. Support the Freedom of Information Act. This law gives journalists tools to retrieve federal records. It has never worked well enough. The Associated Press found unanswered records requests had grown 55 percent since 2013. One solution is to strengthen the federal ombudsman, the Office of Government Information Services. Today, it cannot force an agency into mediation. You have to go to court to get a truculent agency to respond. Congress should act on on S. 337, which NNA supports, to strengthen this office. Even if your newspaper does not directly use FOIA, remember that it sets the tone for state and local open records. Open government is important.

When you talk with a member of Congress on behalf of your industry, you are doing important work. NNA needs to know what responses you receive. E-mail NNA Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel Tonda Rush (tonda@americanpressworks.com) or Government Relations Chair Deb McCaslin (dmcaslin@kdsi.net) any time for help or to provide feedback.

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