By: Mark Fitzgerald
With the passage of the most favorable postal legislation for newspapers in three decades behind it, the National Newspaper Association (NNA) is urging President Bush to sign the bill into law quickly — and it is girding for a new fight against a last-minute attempt to ram through big postal increases before price caps take effect.
“We looked for an iron-clad guarantee that Within County mail would not see a continuation of the unjustified increases that the (United States) Postal Service (USPS) wants in 2007,” said Max Heath, NNA’s postal expert and vice president of Landmark Communications.
If signed into law, the new provisions — including a cap on prices — would not take effect until 2008. The USPS is expected to set new rates under the old law next May.
“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,” he added.
The NNA, with a membership mostly composed of smaller-circulation dailies and weeklies, hailed the passage last week of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, legislation it had been lobbying for since 1996.
“The Postal Service is affected by the Internet and so are newspapers,” NNA President Jerry 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 … 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, publisher of the Hood County (Texas) News, said the act would help community newspapers.
According to an analysis released Wednesday by the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA), community papers will benefit from many of the legislation’s provision, especially its mandate to the USPS to set price caps for Periodicals, First-Class and Standard Mail within a cost of living index.
The bill restores the preferred rates for Outside County mail under 5,000 copies that were eliminated in the 1980s. It establishes Within County rates for requester publications and for wandering routes.
Under the proposed law, the Postal Regulatory Commission would get new power, including a role in setting service standards and the right to subpoena USPS information.
The new law is also expected to reduce USPS costs by shifting the burden for paying some pensions back to the general federal treasury.