Postal reforms pass; weeklies applaud

News release: December 11, 2006

Contact: Tonda F. Rush, Public Policy Director, 703-465-8808


The National Newspaper Association today urged President Bush to sign into law the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, the first major legislative reform of the United States Postal Service since 1970.

NNA President Jerry Tidwell, publisher of the Hood County (TX) News, said passage of the legislation on the final day of the 109 th Congress, before dawn on December 9, capped more than a decade of work by community newspaper publishers and other major mailers.

NNA Postal Committee Chairman Max Heath, vice president of Landmark Community Newspapers, Inc., hailed the passage as a breakthrough in the long impasses over price caps, repayment of over-funded pension accounts and various labor matters. His Postal Committee oversaw NNA's work on the bill since NNA first endorsed postal reform in 1996.

“The Postal Service is affected by the Internet and so are newspapers,” Tidwell said. “We foresaw a decade ago that the regimen of costly postal rate cases and pricing that depended upon an ever-growing first-class mail stream needed to come to an end. But we believe, along with Postmaster General Jack Potter, that print media are going to be in our lives for some time to come. The Postal Service has to be able to deliver our mail promptly and at an affordable price for either of our institutions to survive.”

Tidwell congratulated and thanked the key bill sponsors: Sens. Susan Collins, R-ME, Joseph Liebermann, D-CT, and Thomas Carper, D-DE, and Reps. Tom Davis, R-VA, John McHugh, R-NY, Henry Waxman, D-CA and Danny Davis, D-IL. He said their leadership in the face of repeated stalls in five successive Congresses had been remarkable.

Heath said the bill contained many provisions that will help community newspapers.

“We looked for an iron clad guarantee that within county mail would not see a continuation of the unjustified increases that the Postal Service wants in 2007,” Heath said. “The bill sponsors assured us of their support in holding the Postal Service to the intent of the price cap law, and we will be watching closely to see that it works.

“Also,” he said, “there are several provisions in this bill put there expressly at the request of NNA, including a provision that solves the ‘wandering route' problem where the Postal Service believed it had to charge higher postage when a few households on an in-county route happened to fall over a county line.”

NNA's Director of Public Policy Tonda F. Rush said the passage had been a hard fought battle by NNA's Congressional Action Team.

“Some of us began to think we would never live to see it,” she said.

A year of rulemaking and setting up of procedures will follow the President's signature. Mailers may not see the effects of the change until 2008, she said. New rates set under the old law are expected in May 2007.

Among the provisions in the new law are:

1. Price caps for Periodicals, First-Class and Standard Mail, to be set by USPS within a cost of living index.

2. New Postal Regulatory Commission powers, including a role in setting service standards, which are now only informally-recognized for periodicals, as well as subpoena rights for USPS information.

3. Preservation of Within County Mail, which USPS is required to carry at preferred rates.

4. Restoration of preferred rates to Outside County mail under 5,000 -- a preference that was lost in the mid-1980s.

5. Within County rates for requester publications.

6. Within County rates for wandering routes.

7. The end of costly 10 month long rate cases. And a new PRC role will begin, in which complaints about improper rates will be considered and mandated audits and reviews will occur.

8. A review of the need for a postal monopoly.

9. A report to the President from USPS and PRC on the quality of data on periodicals' costs.

10. Shifting the cost of USPS military pensions back to the general federal treasury, which will trim about $78 billion from USPS costs.

The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues helps non-metropolitan media define the public agenda in their communities, through strong reporting and commentary on local issues and on broader issues that have local impact. Its initial focus area is Central Appalachia, but as an arm of the University of Kentucky it has a statewide mission, and it has national scope. It has academic collaborators at Appalachian State University, East Tennessee State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Georgia College and State University, the University of Illinois, Indiana University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Marshall University, Middle Tennessee State University, Ohio University, Southeast Missouri State University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Washington and Lee University, West Virginia University and the Knight Community Journalism Fellows Program at the University of Alabama. It is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Kentucky, with additional financial support from the Ford Foundation. To get notices of Rural Blog postings and other Institute news, click here.




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