Congress Delves Into DM Issues As Second Session Begins

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Congress expects to dig into the U.S. Postal Service, spam and several other issues affecting direct marketers during the second session of the 106th Congress, which reconvened this week. Here's a look at some of the major hearings:


House


The House subcommittee on the postal service, led by Rep. John M. McHugh, R-NY, will have an international mail hearing on March 9, which insiders said will examine the State Department's role in representing the USPS at Universal Postal Union meetings or in any international negotiations.


In August, the State Department attended the UPU's 22nd Congress in Beijing, but USPS officials said the State Department was trying to accommodate USPS' competitors - such as United Parcel Service and Federal Express - which aren't UPU members but they still attended the meeting. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress that helps both chambers oversee federal programs and operations, is interviewing attendees and is expected to release its findings at the hearing.


The House subcommittee on the postal service also may have a hearing on the USPS' revenue assurance program, which many mailers said is being handled unfairly ("USPS Suggests Easing of Revenue-Deficiency Stance," page 41). Insiders said, however, that McHugh will probably investigate the issue at greater length before he schedules a hearing.


There are no scheduled hearings on H.R. 22, McHugh's Postal Modernization Act, which is stuck in the House Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Dan Burton, R-IN. Some support has shifted to H.R. 235, which was introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, last summer. Direct mailers would like H.R. 22 to move forward - especially given the proposed rate increase they may face next year.


Richard Barton, senior vice president of congressional relations at the Direct Marketing Association, said hearings on spam and telemarketing may be held this session by the House subcommittee on telecommunications, trade and consumer protection, which is led by Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin, R-LA. However, no one from Tauzin's office could confirm that or offer any specific dates.


Senate


The Senate subcommittee on international security, proliferation and federal services is planning a hearing on e-commerce and the USPS this spring, said Deborah Kendall, manager, government relations at the USPS. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-MS, leads the subcommittee.


"[The subcommittee] has asked for a GAO report on the programs we've announced, and we've taken people from our organization up to the subcommittee to meet them," she said.


The postal service's Mailing Online and PC Postage programs will be examined at the hearing, Kendall said. It also may examine the USPS' plans to give every U.S. household an Internet address to match up with their physical address, an Internet auction site to help retailers dispose of surplus goods, and its e-billing and e-payment plans.


No hearing has been scheduled in the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee, led by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL. Shelby introduced an amendment last year that updates the 1994 Driver's Privacy Protection Act requiring drivers to give specific permission before their information can be given to marketers. Barton, however, said, "We want to encourage that to happen, but we don't have any indication if there will be a hearing or not."
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