Colorado, Montana kill do-not-mail bills

Legislators in Colorado and Montana have both pulled do-not-mail bills they had sponsored.

On March 1, state Rep. Sara Gagliardi, a Democrat, tabled her bill, the Colorado Junk Mail Opt-Out List Act, HB1303. On Feb. 22, Rep. Franke Wilmer, a Democrat, killed her bill, the Montana Do-Not-Mail Act, HB 718. Both bills called for creating a do-not-mail registry similar to the do-not-call registry. Unions and associations as well as paper companies and other members of the mailing industry approached the legislators about the harm the bills would cause.

“When we have the opportunity to explain to legislators that advertising mail is something they want and need, and how badly a do-not-mail bill would affect the economy and the jobs of their constituents, we are successful,” said Bob McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council in Arlington, VA. “Once you think through issues, you understand how difficult it would be to enforce a do-not-mail bill.”

Rep. Gagliardi said in a statement that she plans to return next year with a bill that has had input from groups ranging from labor to business, from printers to postal workers, and from environmentalists to the Direct Marketing Association.

“It is my hope that people will work with me and that together we’ll come up with the best compromise possible,” Rep. Gagliardi said.

Ms. Gagliardi introduced the bill because of environmental and identity-theft concerns. She also said she still believes in the bill and that it will ultimately “help all of us who want to protect our privacy, help our environment and save the taxpayers money.”

In an e-mail sent to DM News, Ms. Wilmer said she wanted to pursue this legislative idea for two reasons: energy and trees.

“I anticipated opposition from the retail sector, but underestimated the opposition from the [National] Letter Carriers Association,” she said. “Equally important to me was opposition from small printing businesses in Montana. I am a strong supporter of small, locally owned businesses.”

Ms. Wilmer said she concluded that she was not ready to take on printing businesses, retail lobbyists and the letter carriers. She said there were ways to accomplish some of the same objectives with a different approach, for example, incentives to printers who use post-consumer products.

“I just didn’t feel like it was a fight I was prepared and able to win at this point and that there were other ways of accomplishing at least some of the same objectives without putting people out of work either in small businesses or with the post office,” she said.

Erik Nylund, president of the Montana State Association of Letter Carriers, said that the NCLA traditionally has partnered with mailers to reach solutions to common challenges. In this case, the association partnered with a large state mailing house called The Directory.

“I firmly believe this bill was defeated because of an early morning conversation that took place between me and the owners of The Directory,” he said. “That started the ball rolling on a massive phone and e-mail tree that involved hundreds of people who called and wrote their legislators.”

Mr. Nylund attributed the effort’s success to a short-notice coalition that was built to oppose the bill in less than eight hours.

The direct mail community is keeping a close eye on other do-not-mail bills that have been introduced to state legislators this year in hopes that the passage of the bills is blocked.

Currently, do-not-mail bills that include a do-not-mail registry similar to do-not-call legislation are pending in Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and Washington. In most cases, marketers who mail solicitations to individuals on these lists would have to pay fines of several thousand dollars per violation. In all cases, nonprofits and politicians would be exempt. There would be a business relationship exemption as well.

Several other bills – in New York, Virginia, New Jersey and Washington – offer related measures including the creation of a do-not-mail registry of certain senior citizens and people with mental illness. Another would prohibit mailing credit card solicitations to people under the age of 21.

In general, Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the DMA, said the key to stopping the passage of these bills is education.

“The fact that two bills have been tabled signifies that the industry is educating and explaining the economic consequences of these bills, both to businesses and consumers,” he said.

Mr. Cerasale said the DMA is working with its state lobbyists and the Mail Moves America Coalition on educating the consumers and states. The coalition, spearheaded by the DMA, is comprised of major mailing associations and other groups.

“The coalition and our combined efforts are working in the sense that legislators are beginning to understand what the consequences are and how important the mail is to the American economy,” he said.

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