Congress fails to pass postal reform; NNA gears up for 2013 Summit

Jan 2, 2013

By Tonda F. Rush
CEO & General Counsel | NNA
WASHINGTON—The effort to enact sweeping postal reform in 2012 was all but dead heading into Christmas as legislative leaders reported Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision not to give reform legislation time for floor debate in December.
The National Newspaper Association board of directors has called for a newspaper summit March 14, 2013, to address the need for changes in the law.
Faced with a rapidly declining U.S. Postal Service, the principal drafters of reform legislation worked through the lame-duck 112th Congress to try to craft a deal that could pass a majority of votes from the labor-friendly Democrats in the Senate to the fiscal hawk GOP members in the House. Negotiations behind closed doors leaked out little information on what a final bill might look like.
But the National Newspaper Association was able to learn roughly what the final package might have been.
Saturday mail would have ended after a year, but newspaper publishers could have had access to the mailbox for private delivery on Saturdays.
The highly controversial Negotiated Service Agreements that set up open competition between USPS and newspaper publishers would have had to operate under new rules that took greater account of potential impact on mailers that were excluded from special deals.
USPS would have gotten some financial relief from heavy payments into a future retirees’ health benefit fund. And workers who lingered for years past retirement on workers compensation would have been booted off the benefits system and forced instead to claim their pensions.
Though last minute deals could still emerge from the dying days of the Congress, Capitol Hill staffers said they thought postal reform was over for now. The 113th Congress will have to begin again in January to find a legislative package to save the Postal Service.
It will do so under the tutelage of a brace of new committee members. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, who led the USPS oversight committee of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, is retiring. Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, long a newspaper champion as chair of the committee when Republicans were in the majority and then the leading minority member, can no longer serve on the committee. Her ranking minority position is subject to term limits.
In their place will be Sen. Thomas Carper, D-DE, who leans toward supporting USPS management wherever possible but was willing to give newspapers some limited mailbox access while killing six-day mail, and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, known for his independent streak. Coburn has been highly critical of USPS management, but also has been reluctant to set tight priorities for USPS, which he thinks should be run like a business.
NNA will begin legislative efforts anew in 2013.
The We Believe in Newspapers Leadership Summit on March 14 will be a critical time for newspapers to speak to Congress about the urgency for dealing with Postal Service problems. NNA President Merle Baranczyk has issued a call to state press associations to recruit at least two publishers from each state to join in that summit, where a direct dialogue with postal leaders and an afternoon of congressional visits are expected to shape the debate.
More information about the summit can be found at Click on the events button or on the Join Us. Fight for Fairness button.