American Society of Magazine Editors

Postal Reform Fast and Furious in the Senate

February 14, 2014

Also happening on the postal front is “reform” legislation in the Senate.  After several unsuccessful tries in the last quarter of 2013, on January  29th  Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, convened a “markup” of the postal reform legislation (S. 1486) he introduced with Ranking Member Coburn (R-OK) in August.

The legislation contains a section on rates and governance that is so pernicious and flawed, that the entire mailing industry, led by MPA, stands united in total opposition to the bill.  Among the litany of objectionable provisions are: (1) embedding into permanent law the temporary “exigent” rate hike approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) on 12/24; (2) raising current law’s “cap” on annual rate increases from CPI to CPI + 2 in many cases (including periodicals); (3) a potential elimination of the cap altogether in 2017, and; (4) a usurpation of the Court of Appeals’ ongoing review of the PRC’s decision by permanently “baking in” the 4.3% exigent rate increase.

Making our objections known far and wide, the mailing industry found a champion in Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who stood firm behind an amendment to strike out the provisions we opposed.  At the markup on the 29th, after considerable debate on the bill and several amendments – including the Baldwin Amendment – the markup was adjourned to allow for further negotiations.

Two weeks later, on February 6th,  after some half-hearted efforts by the bill’s proponents to find agreement with Senator Baldwin, the markup resumed.  Despite a valiant effort by Senator Baldwin to remedy the flaws of the bill with amendments of her own, she was unable to overcome the intransigence of the proponents.  Though the final bill, as reported by the Committee, contains some cosmetic changes intended to appease mailers, our original objections to the bill remain intact.  We will work to fix these provisions as the legislative session unfolds during the coming months.  If the sponsors remain unwilling to amend their bill, we will work relentlessly to see that the bill does not pass in the Senate – and certainly never sees the light of day in the House of Representatives.