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legislation: important public policy decisions for America's postal system

10:30 a.m....Saturday...hi, Betty!  Got my gift? Cool!  I just ordered it  Now, that's service!

10:30 a.m....Saturday...hi, Betty! Got my gift? Cool! I just ordered it Now, that's service!

     In the drastically changed security environment growing from the terrorist attacks of 2001, aviation security has been an issue high on Congress' agenda. Several bills, including H.R. 2144, the Aviation Security Technical Corrections and Improvements Act of 2003, were introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives that called for screening of aircraft cargo. Most bills included mail within the definition of cargo. S. 824, passed by the Senate, would require the Department of Homeland Security to study air cargo security.

     H.R. 2555, introduced in the House of Representatives, contained an amendment that would not have permitted the transport of unscreened cargo, including mail, on passenger planes. While this bill was enacted and became Public Law 108-90, this amendment was stricken and funds were appropriated for research on this issue.

     Legislation was introduced to encourage employers to make up the difference between the civilian and military compensation of employees who are called to duty as reservists or as members of the National Guard. These include S. 442, S. 593, H.R. 217 and H.R. 1345.

     The issue of postal reform remained prominent with the introduction of S. 1285, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2003, building on the postal reform legislation introduced by the House of Representatives in the last Congress. The bill would preserve universal service and the Postal Service's exclusive access to the mailbox. It also would create a Postal Regulatory Commission which would develop a new pricing system for postal market-dominant products. A number of the bill's provisions were reflected in the recommendations of the President's Commission on the United States Postal Service.

     Two bills affecting postmasters' compensation and benefits, S. 678, the Postmaster Equity Act of 2003, and H.R. 2249, the similarly-named Postmasters Equity Act of 2003, were enacted as Public Law 108-86. The law amends Title 39, U.S. Code, to permit postmasters and postmasters' organizations to have access to fact-finding in compensation discussions. It also gives postmasters the

right to convene nonbinding fact-finding to resolve differences between their representatives and Postal Service management.

     Perhaps the most significant postal legislation enacted was Public Law 108- 18, the Postal Civil Service Retirement System Funding Reform Act of 2003. The law helps the Postal Service to avoid an overpayment of $105 billion to the Civil Service Retirement System. An analysis by the Office of Personnel Management found that the net accumulated value of our payments to the Treasury approached the value of future CSRS benefits attributed to our participants. The potential overfunding was due to the excess interest earned by the fund. With the savings from the change in the funding schedule, the Postal Service is reducing debt and holding postage rates steady until 2006.

     H.R. 2673, the Omnibus Appropriations Act for 2004, would extend the sales period for the Breast Cancer Research Semipostal stamp, first issued in 1998, and due to expire at the end of calendar year 2003, for an additional two years. The Conference Report is pending before the House and Senate for a final vote.

     The Postal Service testified at a number of oversight and other hearings in both the Senate and House of Representatives. This included the Postmaster General's appearance before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to testify regarding the recommendations of the President's Commission on the United States Postal Service.

     Subjects of other hearings included the reclamation of Washington, DC's Curseen-Morris Processing and Distribution Center, the effects of the 2001 anthrax mailings on the Wallingford, CT Processing and Distribution Center, the screening for radioactive materials in incoming international mail, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment and Rights Act.