NNA members bring newspaper issues to Capitol Hill

Apr 12, 2017

By Tonda F. Rush
NNA General Counsel and Public Policy Director

WASHINGTON—More than 100 newspaper executives and college journalists descended upon Washington in March during a cold snap that froze the budding cherry trees that kept publishers inside, addressing members of Congress on key industry issues.

The top three issues on the National Newspaper Association Community Newspaper Leadership Summit’s list were: postal reform, revisions of the federal tax code in ways that might tax advertising and a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act. After gathering insights from visits around Capitol Hill, members advised the NNA board of directors on the next steps.

NNA President Matthew Paxton IV, publisher of The News-Gazette in Lexington, VA, said the 115th Congress had propelled sweeping changes in several laws into the active legislation channels.

“We are facing some serious challenges, as well as opportunities,” Paxton said. “First, it is imperative that we get a postal reform bill through this Congress before it tackles the big ticket items on its agenda this year. Second, the changes in health care coverage through the proposed American Health Care Act are set to go through this year, and we are monitoring for impact upon small newspaper companies. Third, the Better Way Blueprint for tax reform under discussion in the House of Representatives will lead the nation through the most fundamental changes in business taxes that we will see in our lifetimes. We really had to roll up our sleeves this year.”

NNA Government Relations Chair R. Michael Fishman, publisher of the Citizen-Tribune in Morristown, TN, said his committee was tasked by the NNA board with promoting availability of association health plans during the health care rewrite.

“All of us in this industry have faced the daunting challenge of health insurance. Some of our employees are on the health care exchanges; some are in increasingly expensive employer plans and still others are trying to buy individual policies, which are now through the roof in cost. Our member surveys told us a big concern was to preserve coverage of pre-existing conditions in required health plans. We were encouraged that legislative leaders told us that every proposal they are considering would preserve that mandate. We are not taking positions on many of the other issues, as our members are affected in different ways. But one thing we agreed: if we could form our own risk pool as a newspaper association, we could shop for better insurance. We’ll be asking this Congress to bring back this idea from a decade ago and maybe pass it this time,” he said.

The federal tax code rewrite is expected to come after the health care debate in Congress.

Fishman said his committee would monitor several aspects of the proposal.

“Our primary concern is that the search for new federal revenues to pay for corporate tax cuts could lead the House Ways and Means Committee to look at advertising taxes in the form of eliminating deductibility,” he said. “That issue has been on the table for some years. Our visits to Capitol Hill gave us some assurance that the ad tax is not yet an option, but also grave concern that it also has not really gone away.”