View from The Hill

Newt may be gone, but as far as catalogers are concerned, little else has changed on Capitol Hill. “There wasn’t much turnover in terms of faces in Congress,” says Richard Barton, senior vice president of government relations for industry organization the Direct Marketing Association. “The key leaders addressing direct marketing issues, such as Rep. John McHugh [chair of the House Subcommittee on the Postal Service], are still in place.”

The chairs of the 106th Congress’s committees of most importance to catalogers will remain the same as the previous session’s, except for the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA) had headed this group, which has jurisdiction over the USPS, among other agencies. Now that Livingston is replacing Newt Gingrich as House Speaker, Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young (R-FL) will chair the committee. What effect, if any, the change will have on cataloging issues is unknown.

Good news, bad news In the Senate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), whom the DMA describes as a supporter of direct marketing issues, replaces Sen. John Glenn (D-OH) as the ranking Democrat of the Government Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over postal legislation. And catalogers have lost a vocal foe with the retirement of Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-AR), who repeatedly tried (and failed) to implement legislation requiring catalogers to collect use tax on sales to customers in states where the catalogers did not have a physical presence.

At the same time, direct marketers have lost two advocates: Sen. Al D’Amato (R-NY), who was replaced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-NC), unseated by Sen. John Edwards (D-NC). “D’Amato was very supportive of our issues,” Barton says. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to work with Schumer. We’ve worked with him before on privacy issues.”

When the newly elected Congress convenes on Jan. 6, postal reform will likely be the catalog-related issue taking center stage. Rep. McHugh (R-NY) intends to reintroduce his Postal Reform Act (H.R. 22), which calls for, among other things, greater flexibility in establishing postal rates within noncompetitive mail classes and capped annual rate increases for all mail classes. The House Postal Subcommittee had approved the bill in September and passed it to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee for review.

“There’s a better chance the law will pass [this session] because Congress seems to have shifted from conservative to moderate,” says Gene Del Polito, president of the Advertising Mail Marketing Association. “In the past, radicals on both sides pushed for reform but couldn’t agree on how. McHugh’s bill is the only viably tested bill that seems to please all sides.”

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