The 106th Congress will have its plate full this year as it examines many items affecting DMers and U.S. Postal Service users, including sweepstakes legislation, slamming, spamming, cramming encryption, Internet tax and postal reform.
“I think we are going to have some difficult issues to deal with, particularly in the sweepstakes and privacy area,” said Richard Barton, senior vice president of congressional affairs at the Direct Marketing Association. “It is going to take a lot of work on our part to have an outcome that will not be harmful to direct marketing.”
This year, Congress has the potential to have more of an impact on direct marketing because several bills were tabled last year. H.R. 3888, for instance, which attempted to crack down on slamming and spamming, died in Congress' final days because of a unrelated provision. The Honesty in Sweepstakes Act also died at the last minute. H.R. 22, the postal reform bill, was passed by the postal subcommittee but didn't make it to the full House committee.
All of these bills are expected to be brought up again this year. Other measures, however, were passed last year that affect the DM industry, including the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which contains the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and requires any Web site directed at children under age 13 to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting any personally identifiable information from the children. It also included the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which places a three-year moratorium on new taxes imposed on Internet access or commerce. A 19-member commission has been set up to study how taxes should apply to the Internet (see sidebar).
Leaders of key direct marketing-related House and Senate committees and subcommittees will remain in place, according to the DMA.
“None of these people are total pushovers for the industry,” Barton said. “Generally, the people that we have dealt with have been very open-minded and very fair in their dealings with us. It doesn't mean we'll always win, but we have good working relationships with all of these people.”
Here is a look at the makeup of some of the committees:
House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), oversees postal legislation, including sweepstakes policy. House Subcommittee on the Postal Service, Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), McHugh plans to introduce his postal reform bill this session and already has scheduled hearings on it in February. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN). Senate Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS). Senate Subcommittee on Permanent Investigations, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
House Commerce Committee, Rep. Tom Bliley (R-VA), oversees the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, telemarketing and Internet-related issues. House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, Rep. Billy Tauzin ( R-LA), oversees the FTC, FCC and most Internet privacy issues. Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Senate Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT).
House Appropriations Committee, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), who replaces Rep. Bob Livingston, who resigned to become House Speaker, a position that he subsequently stepped down from, oversees funding to the USPS. House Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Subcommittee, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ). Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AL). Senate Treasury, General Government and Civil Service Subcommittee, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO).