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Draft Postal Bill Draws Positive Response

Mailers are reacting positively to a draft version of postal reform legislation being circulated by Rep. John McHugh, R-NY, who serves on the House Committee on Government Reform.

The objective of the bill, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, is to position the U.S. Postal Service to operate in a more businesslike manner. According to the bill, the system must respond to market considerations and provide clear incentives for postal management and the USPS as an institution.

In addition, the USPS no longer would operate under a break-even mandate. By maximizing gains and minimizing costs, the agency could generate profits that might be distributed as incentives to management and employees through collective bargaining. In the same way, losses could not be recovered by raising rates beyond specific parameters.

The bill incorporates the legislative framework of a bill that was approved twice by the former postal service subcommittee. That bill died in committee last year. The new bill also includes a proposal presented to the Government Reform Committee earlier this year by the Coalition to Preserve Universal Mail Service. The coalition includes the postal service's employee groups plus many major mailers.

The Direct Marketing Association has applauded McHugh's effort, saying the bill comes at a dire time, as the USPS aims to push through its third rate increase in 18 months.

“The objective of this legislation is to position the postal service in a more businesslike manner,” Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the DMA, said in a statement. “Congress must enact legislation that will allow the postal service to be more responsive to the current business climate and that gives it the incentives to be more competitive. We need a postal service that can maximize its gains while minimizing wasteful spending.”

John Campanelli, president of R.R. Donnelley Logistics, said, “We are very pleased that congressman McHugh has put forward this proposal, especially with the strain on Congress right now as they deal with the events of Sept. 11. [We are pleased] that he is able to keep focus on the postal crisis in these times. It shows his dedication and commitment to this issue.”

The DMA last week began an e-mail campaign asking its members or company CEOs to call House members in their districts who serve on the Government Reform Committee, asking them to push for postal reform. Once members reply to the e-mail, which requested a reply by today, the DMA will contact the designated person at that company by phone or e-mail. The campaign's objectives will be discussed, and “you and/or your president/CEO will be given 'talking points' and contact information for use in placing the calls.”

Meanwhile, the USPS is circulating a discussion document that will provide all stakeholders a chance for input into postal reform.

At the request of Congress and the comptroller general, the USPS is preparing a Comprehensive Transformation Plan to address the challenges of serving the American public in the 21st century. It will be presented to Congress and the General Accounting Office on Dec. 31.

Through a Federal Register notice, the USPS has invited comments and suggestions by Nov. 1.

The USPS has experienced lower mail volume and escalating operational costs. In its last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 7, it lost an estimated $1.65 billion. Last month, it filed for a $6.1 billion increase in postage rates, which would be in addition to the $3 billion in increases implemented in January and July.

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