On Thursday, March 22, 2018, a bi-partisan group of Senators filed S. 2629, “The Postal Reform Act of 2018: Improving Postal Operations, Service, and Transparency”. The bill’s co-sponsors will be familiar to mailing industry veterans – Tom Carper (D-DE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
This bill is very similar to legislation in the House – H.R. 756 – also known as the “Postal Reform Act of 2017.” The highlights of the Senate bill include:
- Future Retiree Health Benefits – The bill changes the prefunding formula to a 40-year amortization schedule and eliminates any outstanding payments. It also creates the Service Health Benefits Program (PSHBP) for all postal employees and annuitants and require all Medicare-eligible postal annuitants and employees enrolled in the PSHBP to also enroll in Medicare, including parts A, B and D.
- Postage Rate Increase – The bill reinstates half of the 2014 temporary rate increase while freezing any further rate increases until a new rate system can be finalized by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).
- Service Standards - The bill mandates maintaining current service standards for at least 2-years.
- New Products – The bill allows the United States Postal Service (USPS) to introduce new non-postal products and services, ship beer, wine and distilled spirits, and partner with state and local governments in offering government services.
In an interesting legislative move, the sponsors invoked a Senate rule to allow the bill to bypass the committee approval process and go directly to the Senate floor for a vote.
Directly to the Senate floor for a vote? Does this mean mailers and the USPS may see real legislative postal reform in the near future?
If the past is prelude, probably not. While the House bill now has 17 co-sponsors and was passed by the Committee on Oversight and Government affairs over a year ago, there’s been no other action. The President nominated 3 individuals to the USPS Board of Governors in October, but the Senate Committee on Homeland Security (of which Senator McCaskill is the ranking member) hasn’t held any hearings for the nominees.
Furthermore, both bills rely upon adding USPS retirees to the Medicare rolls. The Speaker of the House has made it clear that he supports cuts to the Medicare budget. It will be difficult to reconcile increasing the number of people covered while reducing the money available. And it’s shaping up to be a very contentious election year.
The good news is that filing this bill puts postal reform in the news – for a while. However unlikely, perhaps this legislation will generate enough public interest to put pressure on Congress to do something.
Meanwhile, the USPS will continue delivering the mail.