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Legislative News and Information
February 13, 2014
Tester meets with Flathead-area Postmaster
(U.S. SENATE) - Senator Jon Tester today met with Somers Postmaster Tyler Thompson to discuss the importance of reliable mail service for rural Montana families and communities.
Tester's meeting with Thompson comes less than a week after the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee passed a bill to restructure the Postal Service by allowing for further cuts to mail service in rural areas of the country.
Tester, Montana's only member of the committee, voted against the bill and today pledged to keep working on the bill to make sure it includes protections for rural mail service before it comes up for a vote in the full Senate.
"I am committed to finding better solutions that will protect rural Montana's mail service while putting the Postal Service on sound financial footing," Tester said. "The Postal Service must live up to its responsibility to deliver mail on time to all parts of the country, including rural Montana. I'm going to keep fighting to make sure the folks in charge of the Postal Service understand the importance of efficient and reliable mail service for families and communities in rural America."
Thompson told Tester that passing common-sense legislation that supports rural mail facilities will ensure that all Montanans can continue to depend on their mail service. Cuts to rural mail service mean delayed delivery for essentials such as medicine, paychecks, farm equipment - and even election ballots.
LEAGUE Questions Recently-Introduced Senate Postal Measure
Minutes before recessing for its summer recess, Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Colburn (R-OK) introduced a joint postal reform bill, S. 1486. As is fairly typical, the 194-page measure differs significantly from H.R. 2748, the measure that was introduced in the House by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) several weeks ago and that has passed out of committee. In more of a departure from the norm, the Carper/Colburn measure differs significantly from S. 1789, the consensus measure that emerged last year from committee markup and passed the Senate as one of a handful of bipartisan measures in the last Congress. Departing from last year’s successful measure raises the bar for passage in the Senate this year, and will trigger intense opposition from a variety of quarters. The net result will be that the bill will be very difficult to pass without changes, and perhaps significant changes.
The bill is long and complicated, and it will take weeks to fully understand the impact and nuisances of the changes from last year’s consensus bill. After a quick review, we can say that the bill does not include some of provisions protecting rural post offices that were in last year’s bill, and makes significant changes from last year’s bill in the pension and retiree health benefit area, some good, some not-very-good. We will give you more details in the weeks to come.
July 25, 2013
Postal Bill Endangers Quality of Rural Mail Service
Today Senator Carper (D-DE) chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on Solutions to the Crisis Facing the U. S. Postal Service. The LEAGUE submitted a statement for the record to be part of the hearing today. The hearing lasted three hours with three panels and nine testimonies. Congressman Issa (R-CA) was one of those testimonies. He focused on two points and discussed the possibility of the Postal Service taking their own health care in house. The first point Congressman Issa made was the need for flexibility for the Postal Service to run its business. He also stated that current law never intended for the Postal Service to run at a loss, including forcing them to deliver mail six days a week when the business model has changed so much. The Congressman also mentioned the savings that could be realized from moving the mail delivery from the door to cluster boxes.
Of course Postmaster General Donahoe was one of the nine testimonies and he stayed true to form on the legislative agenda he has shared with us. On the Postal Link today is the full testimony and bullets of requested legislation. The Postmaster General asked that Congress not stop the new delivery schedule going to five days a week on August 5th. He asked that the Postal Service be able to sponsor their own health care which he predicts could produce a savings of 7 billion dollars a year; 5.6 of which is the prefunding requirements. The Postmaster General also asked that a proper audit be completed on the FERS pension funds and that any surplus returned to the Postal Service.
Senator Carper, along with the full committee, stated that they want to get Postal Legislation done soon. He stated they are in the first overtime period of a football game and have no desire to go to a second overtime. Neither do we, this game has gone on far too long.
Click the link
watch to the video of the entire hearing.
2012 Election Impact Report
Late Tuesday evening, Barack Obama was elected to a second term as President of the United States. Nearly every so-called “swing” state broke the President’s way as he piled up a 303 to 206 Electoral College margin, with Florida’s 29 votes yet to be determined. The magnitude of the victory took many by surprise. What will be important about it is what that outcome says about the electorate, and its impact on the state of gridlock in Washington. More... (PDF)
S. 1789 Passes Out of Senate
Mark Strong, President of the LEAGUE, wishes to thank Senators Lieberman, Collins, Brown, Carper and all the other senators for the hard work that went into S. 1789. I want to congratulate the senators on their effort and the fact that they showed that legislation can still work, especially with this very difficult bill. The LEAGUE is pleased with the amendments that strengthened S. 1789 that gave extra protection to rural post offices and dealt with some of the overpayment issues, specifically the FERS overpayment. Click to view the text for s.1789. (PDF)
Washington, D.C., April 25, 2012 - Senate Passes Postal Bill - Rural Post Offices Get Support, New Restrictions on Closing Added
Today, the United States Senate passed S. 1789, the 21st Century Postal Act of 2012, in a bi-partisan fashion 62 to 37. The bill gives rural post offices more support and adds on a number of restrictions to the Postal Service’s ability to close them. Clearly, the Senate was not at all pleased with the behavior of the Postal Service in attempting to close thousands of small post offices over the last year or two. The bill contained a moratorium on closing small post offices in rural areas for one year, as well a moratorium of going to five-day delivery for two years.
From a broader perspective, the bill returns some $11 billion of overpaid FERS money back to the Postal Service, allowing some to be used for buyouts, and the remainder to be used to pay down its debt and to cover other employee benefits, such as workers’ compensation, pensions and health care. Further, the bill also begins a 40-year amortized payment schedule for the Postal Service to fund the rest of its retirees’ health benefits and would calculate those payments using the same discount rate that is used for the major federal government retirement funds.
The bill would also begin paying current postal retirees’ health care premiums out of the funds accumulated from earlier payment, thus reducing the size of USPS current payments for the prefunding. Together, these measures would save the Postal Service billions of dollars annually while still ensuring adequate funds for future postal retirees’ health benefits.
Although, as noted below, the Postal Service received substantial financial relief, it generally was not a good day for the Postal Service, and a significant vote of “no confidence” in the way it has been handling matters such as small post offices, small business issues, and overall service reductions. The bill restricts, to some degree, the Postal Service’s attempts to cut delivery standards, go immediately to five-day delivery, and close mail facilities. The bill allows the Postal Service to offer new products and new services, subject to PRC approval, so long as it follows all federal laws and regulations required to be followed by private sector companies.
Specifically, in terms of small post offices. the Postal Service must establish national retail service standards that take into account such factors as the proximity of retail postal services to customers, the age and disability status of individuals in the area, and the transportation challenges in the areas served.
Moreover, in order to counter the Postal Service’s willingness to sacrifice the needs of rural communities in favor of its own needs, the bill forbids the Postal Service to close any post office if, after it would be closed, there would be no other post office within ten miles from the post office to be closed (as measured on roads with year-round access). Further, no post office could be closed if the area served by the post office does not have adequate access to wired broadband Internet, as identified by the NTIA. See for example www.broadbandmap.gov/speed .
Additionally, the Postal Service could not close a post office if the “economic loss to the community served by the post office as a result of the closing ”exceeded “ the cost to the Postal Service of not closing the post office.” Further, the Postal Service could not close a post office without determining that businesses located in the community served by the post office would not suffer substantial financial loss as a result of the closing. Finally, postal customers would have to continue to receive substantially similar access to essential items such as prescription medications and time-sensitive communication sent through the mail or the Postal Service could not close the post office.
The bill also allows the filing of a complaint concerning a closing or consolidation, and the immediate suspension of the closing, if the person filing the complaint does so on the basis that it is not in conformance with service standards issued under section 3691, including the service standards required to be maintained under law; or unsupported by evidence on the record that substantial economic savings are likely to be achieved as a result of the closing or consolidation. It does allow the Postal Service to reduce hours. The Commission, in considering closing where there is broadband, would have to take into consideration how good and how widespread it is.
Finally, the Commission shall make a determination based upon such review no later than 120 days after receiving any appeal under this paragraph. The Commission shall set aside any determination, findings, and conclusions found to be either arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law; without observance of procedure required by law; inconsistent with the delivery service standards required to be maintained under section 201 the law, not in conformance with the retail service standards established under the law, or unsupported by substantial evidence on the record, including that substantial economic savings are likely to be achieved as a result of the closing or consolidation.
A more comprehensive analysis will be available in several days. The Postal Service is the cornerstone of a $1 trillion mailing industry that accounts for more than 8 million jobs in manufacturing, publishing, advertising, and other sectors.
April 23, 2012 - Postal Legislation; The Deals Continue
The National League of Postmasters is continuing to monitor the deal making and political maneuvering of all sorts continued over the weekend. The postal bill and amendments are scheduled to go to a vote tomorrow, Tuesday around 2:15 p.m., although that time could easily change. It will be cablecast on CSPAN 2. I would not be surprised to see some postal speeches on the floor today, although the votes will be tomorrow.
At this point, the number of amendments have decreased to 39 and rewriting is ongoing in order to make amendments more palatable to a broader group. Indeed, several amendments might be combined and offered up by unanimous consent. We also we expect some senators to back off of some of the other amendments. Don’t be surprised, then, when Tuesday rolls around, to see a narrower field of amendments.
The sentiment for protecting rural post offices remains strong and I would expect an even further improvement in some amendments.
Sen. John McCain continues to insist that he will offer his version of the Rep. Darrell Issa bill as an amendment in the nature of a substitute, and it should be first up. Should that amendment pass and thus should the Senate bill become like the Issa bill, the Postal Service would be finished. We have asked key Postmasters to weigh in with some targeted senators on this issues.
Understand that the approach behind the Issa bill and the McCain amendment is not predicated upon the possibility of a healthy, vigorous postal system thriving into the 21st Century, serving the postal industries as we know it. Rather, it assumes that volume will continue to plummet and that there is no need to have a broad national network capable of sustaining (at reasonable rates) the type of volumes we need in order to support a healthy advertising industry, and a broad delivery network for internet purchases.
That approach bought the Postal Service’s line that it spun to Congress that the precipitous volume drop of the last several years was not due to the recession but due to electronic diversion (a point of view that is completely inconsistent with what the Postal Service has told the Postal Regulatory Commission). That approach also assumes that volume drops will continue, one after another, until most of the volume disappears and that only a small residual postal system is necessary. That is exactly the mentality of many of the Hill staff that pushes this position. Not only is the approach simply wrong, but it lacks a fundamental understanding of the mailing industry.