|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 yesterday...online. 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
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.