DMers Pleased With H.R. 22 Revisions

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A revised version of H.R. 22, the Postal Modernization Act, is being circulated by Rep. John McHugh, R-NY, chairman of the House Postal Service Subcommittee. Direct mailers said this week that they like the revised version and think the changes made will help to move the bill forward.

The bill, which is designed to give the U.S. Postal Service more freedom to manage its business and to establish rules to ensure fair competition, no longer contains several controversial provisions. These provisions were taken out in part to move the bill forward. It is now stalled in the House Government Reform Committee.

Most notably, the bill no longer contains the Private Law Corporation provision, which would have given the postal service far-reaching authority to enter into private-sector businesses.

Another new element of the bill is the revised legislative language surrounding how negotiated service agreements will be applied. NSAs enable the postal service to make special arrangements with major mailers to perform mail preparation at a negotiated rate based on this additional work.

McHugh has not formally introduced the legislation. Reportedly, when there is enough support to move the bill out of committee, he will introduce it by way of a substitute.

H.R. 22's chief opponents are Republicans who support an amendment by Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-OH, which would essentially kill the bill, and Democrats who favor an alternative to H.R. 22, which was introduced last July by Rep. Henry Waxman, R-CA.

Direct marketers are hoping the bill moves forward and believe that ultimately it will lead to a reformed postal service with increased flexibility in the pricing of its competitive products, thereby allowing it to compete in the marketplace.

"From our perspective, we are particularly happy that the Private Law Corporation provision has been removed from H.R. 22 because there was significant opposition to it," said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association, Washington. "We think that by removing it, it will enhance the ability of H.R. 22 and some meaningful postal reform to move forward."

In general, direct marketers want the bill to move quickly because McHugh will not be the chairman of the subcommittee next year. As a result, unless reform legislation is passed this year, the bill may not get the necessary attention it needs to pass when he leaves the chairmanship.

Meanwhile, the DMA, along with McHugh and his staff, are trying to sway votes. The organization -- which serves as a coordinator of a coalition of groups supporting H.R. 22 consisting of at least 20 trade associations, major mailers and suppliers, postal unions and postmaster organizations -- has had meetings with committee members who support the alternatives. Reportedly, no votes have yet been changed.

In related news, survey results released last week by the Consumer Federation of America, Washington, found that in general, the American public believes postal rates should continue to be regulated and that the postal service should not be allowed to act like a large for-profit company.

The survey, conducted in May by Opinion Research Corporation International for the CFA, found that 65 percent of the 1,003 surveyed Americans said they disagree with this proposed deregulation.

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