Battle Not Over for Revised H.R. 22

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Two controversial amendments are expected to throw the revised version of the Postal Modernization Act of 1999 - passed by a voice vote of the House postal subcommittee late last month - back into the battlefield. The amendments are expected to be introduced at the House Government Reform Committee markup May 19.

The revised H.R. 22 offers many provisions, including permitting the USPS to divide its products and services into noncompetitive and competitive categories overseen by a private law corporation; permitting the use of a price cap formula - CPI minus productivity - by the Postal Regulatory Commission to define and set rates every five years; allowing negotiated service contracts with mail consolidators, not just large high-volume mailers; and expanding the postal service's authority in negotiating mail transportation contracts.

The two amendments - one from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking minority member of the full committee on government reform, and the other from Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) - oppose the provision that allows the USPS to form a private law corporation to oversee its competitive products and services.

Waxman said that he opposes the idea of price caps on noncompetitive mail and believes that this is a possible obstacle to collective bargaining. Reportedly, he is planning to introduce his own postal reform bill that gives the USPS slightly more flexibility in pricing and increases the Postal Rate Commission's authority over the postal service, but without the private law provisions, which many mailing groups are vehemently against.

For example, a letter from the American Bankers Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America and The Bankers Roundtable sent to John McHugh (R-NY), chairman of the subcommittee on the postal service, said that the provision, if passed, will create an unfair competitive advantage by allowing the postal service to engage in businesses - such as electronic benefit transfer - with "implied government backing."

McHugh, however, defended his bill and its private law corporation provision. He said it makes it "entirely clear that this corporation is strictly a private corporation that obtains no advantages from its relationship with the USPS; and yet unlike a private corporation, will be subject to oversight and remedy violations of a multitude of restrictions through PRC review and annually on complaint."

According to postal insiders, McHugh worked hard to make sure that the controversial amendments were withheld so that the bill could finally move to the full committee for consideration.

If it is passed, H.R. 22 would update the nations' postal laws for the first time since the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970. n

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