Senate Marks Up Postal Reform Bill

The Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs on June 2 unanimously agreed on a markup of its postal reform bill, S.2468, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, to the full Senate.

The bill includes three noteworthy amendments, according to Neal Denton, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. One amendment, proposed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), the Ranking Democrat on the committee, seeks to set four-year time limit for postal discounts that exceed the savings achieved by the U.S. Postal Service, which “matches the Senate version closer to language passed by the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight on May 12 (H.R.4341),” Denton says.

The two other amendments approved were written by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), seeking a study on potential postal rate incentives for mailers using recycled paper, and Sen. John Sununu (R-NH), calling for the U.S. Treasury to take a greater role in setting accounting standards for postal rate-setting.

“Most nonprofit mailers and consumers won’t read all 114 pages of this bill — or the 120 plus pages in the House bill. Most won’t have an opinion on some of the finer points of technical rate setting or terms of office for postal officials. However, all mailers will applaud provisions in these bills that aim to prevent a multi-billion dollar stamp tax to pay costs unrelated to postal services and provide postal rate stability in the years to come,” Denton says.

Among the bill’s other highlights:

*-to simplify the rate-setting process by applying rate caps to “market-dominant” classes of mail

*-to give the USPS Board of Governors the authority to set rates for “competitive products,” such as Express Mail and Parcel Post

*-to give the Postal Regulatory Commission (a reorganized Postal Rate Commission) the power to institute emergency price increases due to “unexpected and extraordinary circumstances,” such as the anthrax attacks

*-to guarantee a higher degree of transparency of USPS finances

*-to authorize the USPS to enter into negotiated service agreements with mailers

*-to repeal the Civil Service Retirement Service escrow fund provision and transfer the military retiree pension obligation back to the Department of Treasury

*-to adjust some USPS worker compensation rules

*-to set new standards and requirements for future Governors of the USPS

*-and to require the USPS to report to Congress and the General Accounting Office with a strategy for restructuring infrastructure to reduce excess processing capacity and space.

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