Treasury-Postal Appropriations Bill Moves On

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Direct marketing and postal officials are watching closely as the final version of the Treasury-Postal Appropriations bill moves to the Senate and then to the White House.


Meanwhile, the Honesty in Sweepstakes Act, which was introduced this summer by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), was not included in the conference report because Campbell decided it needed more work.


The committee, which includes representatives of the House and the Senate, last week reconciled differences and passed the Treasury-Postal Appropriations bill. As of press time, no date had been scheduled for when it will reach the Senate floor.


The bill's main purpose is to set forth uses of appropriations for payment to the U.S. Postal Service, the Treasury Department, the executive office of the president and independent agencies for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 1999. The committee's passed version contains several postal-related amendments that will undoubtedly affect direct marketers, including the revised version of the International Postal Services Act, which requires the Postal Rate Commission to submit to Congress -- before July 1 of each year -- a report on the costs, revenues and volumes accrued by the postal service in connection with international mail.


The amendment also requires that before March 15 of each year, the postal service must provide the PRC with cost, revenue and volume data for each international mail product or service so the PRC can analyze it in a similar fashion to how it analyzes rates for domestic mail. However, it does not allow the PRC to actually set international rates. Like the old version of the bill, the amendment would check on the postal service and ensure that its domestic services -- such as First-Class mail -- aren't cross-subsidizing international ones.


The committee also included an updated amendment that appeared as a statement in the House version of the appropriations bill. Originally, the amendment would have prohibited any money to be used for USPS' participation in the Universal Postal Union, the 189-member specialized institution of the United Nations that regulates postal services around the world. It also would have given the State Department authority to represent the United States at the UPU instead of the postal service.


While its competitors -- not surprisingly -- supported the provision, the USPS and the Direct Marketing Association did not. They thought it would be destructive to the postal service's position in the international market, particularly the package market.


"If the original provision had taken effect, it would have likely knocked the postal service out of the box," said Richard Barton, senior vice president of congressional affairs at the DMA.


The new version has been approved by all parties -- including private couriers, the USPS and direct marketing organizations -- and gives the postal service authority in certain contexts, as long as it follows State Department guidelines.


"This provision is a good compromise. It keeps us all in business and it signifies a big victory for us and the postal service," Barton said.


He said the provision will let the postal service compete with all of its U.S.-to-international mail competitors, such as the recently announced partnership between Global Mail and Deutsche Post, without being crippled by restrictions. "The only requirement here is that [the USPS] consults with private enterprise and their customers and competitors before they reach any major international agreement."


Meanwhile, Barton said the Honesty in Sweepstakes Act probably will be picked up again next year. In addition, Rep. John M. McHugh (R-NY), chairman of the subcommittee on the postal service, is interested in holding sweepstakes hearings next year. Dana Johnson, McHugh's spokeswoman, said Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-NJ) is expected to reintroduce his sweepstakes bill in the next session.


"If everyone gets re-elected and maintains their chairmanships, McHugh would be interested in having a hearing and a subsequent markup on the bill next year as a stand-alone bill, as opposed to being attached to H.R. 22 [Postal Modernization Act]," she said.
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