H.R. 22 Substitute Offers Milder Solution

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Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), ranking member of the Postal Service Subcommittee, July 15 introduced a competing bill to Rep. John McHugh's (R-NY) Postal Modernization Act of 1999, H.R. 22.


The bill was rumored to be introduced in late June.


H.R. 2535 is a union-friendly substitute to H.R. 22, which proposes a controversial price cap and the establishment of the Private Law Corp. The new bill provides the following:


* Rate-making flexibility to the USPS.


* A nonbinding study called the "National Commission on Postal Efficiency and Enhancement," to examine postal efficiency and methods for improving operations.


* Negotiated Service Agreements between mailers and the USPS


* Enhanced authority to the Postal Rate Commission, including a provision granting the agency subpoena power over the USPS.


Moe Biller, president of the American Postal Workers Union, who has been against H.R. 22 since its inception, supports H.R. 2535 and said the substitute "favorably addresses each of the areas for which APWU has expressed concern, while providing pricing flexibility for the Postal Service."


He added, "we believe the Waxman-Fattah language fairly addresses the concerns of the U.S. Postal Service, its customers, competitors and employees."


He said the APWU's objections include the fact that the price cap formula in H.R. 22 -- Consumer Price Index minus an adjustment factor -- is essentially a wage cap and interferes with APWU members' collective-bargaining rights. In addition, he disagrees with the Private Law Corp., which would allow the agency to hire nonunion contract employees.


Not surprisingly, House Postal Subcommittee chairman John M. McHugh (R-NY) opposes the bill, stating that it would derail current efforts to modernize the postal system.


"Congressman Waxman's so-called postal reform proposal reflects an unfortunate abandonment of our nation's responsibility to the U.S. Postal Service, its 850,000 employees, and the 272 million American citizens who depend on universal service at uniform rates. This minimalist approach would represent a death sentence for the nation's postal and delivery system. Indeed, there is no reform in Congressman Waxman's proposal. Rather, it would only impede the efforts of those who are concerned about the future of our nation's postal system. Sadly, this legislation would obstruct any substantive proposal -- regardless of its merits -- from advancing from the Government Reform Committee to the House floor," said McHugh in a statement.


He said the Waxman proposal does nothing to provide the postal service the pricing and managerial tools required to confront the serious decline in revenue caused by electronic diversion from the Internet and e-commerce, as well as the serious constraints it faces from 30-year-old postal laws. In addition, he said the proposal fails to substantively address the concerns of the American mailing consumer who demands assurances on rate stability and service quality.


"The bill utterly ignores the concerns of small business and private sector competitors who demand strong rules to protect the public interest from unfair competition," he said.


No date has been scheduled for mark-up, as the committee appears divided among supporters of McHugh, Waxman-Fattah, and also Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), who also is circulating a proposal that has been advanced with the support of the United Parcel Service. This amendment calls for a review of the rate-making process in both domestic and international mail, and gives the PRC the final determination over postal rates and classes of mail.
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