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eNAPUS Legislative & Political Bulletin
Preparing for the Uproar
Volume 8, Number 8
The NAPUS Post Office Closings and Consolidations Committee is currently updating the NAPUS Redbook on Post Office Closings; however, it will not be reprinted until the PRC the advisory opinion is issued.
It is anticipated that, next Wednesday, the Postal Service will request the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to issue an “Advisory Opinion” on the potential closing of 3,600 postal retail facilities, including about 2,800 Post Offices. Also, this past Tuesday, US Postal Service officials have sought to ease the way for newly finalized rules that will guide Post Office closings, by briefing congressional postal staff on the revised process. These USPS actions should be of no surprise to Postmasters who have been monitoring the NAPUS Website, and reading the Postmasters Gazette. NAPUS will be deeply involved in the PRC deliberations over the future reconfiguration of retail facilities, as well as educating Congress about the closings process, how such closings would impact their constituents and assuring that the Postal Service provides accurate data to Congress, as well as the PRC. It is also crucial that Postmaster rights be protected as the new discontinuance process is being rolled out. (The two issues included in the NAPUS/League PRC Complaint are not included in the final regulations; they are the definition of “Postmaster” and definition of “consolidation”.) A postal law that dates back to 1970 (section 3661 of Title 39 of the United States Code) requires the Postal Service to seek an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission “within a reasonable amount of time prior to the effective date of a proposal that would change the nature of postal services on a “nationwide or substantially nationwide basis.” PRC regulations define “reasonable amount of time” as not less than 90 days in advance of the day on which the USPS proposes to make the change effective. Once the USPS files the request, it will lay out the case for its “closings campaign” in documents and written testimony filed with the PRC. The PRC will open up a “docket” and will appoint one of its own staff members as “the Public Representative” for the entire proceeding. The PRC will solicit on-the-record public comments and likely hold public hearings, where testimony will be given and witnesses crossexamined. During consideration of the two prior Advisory Opinion requests, the PRC conducted field hearings across the country, where local citizens and postal stakeholders were invited to testify. It is unclear if the PRC will once again conduct field hearings. At the conclusion of the proceedings, the PRC will deliberate and craft the advisory opinion. In the past, the PRC has taken longer than 90 days to issue advisory opinions. It is important to note that the law does not prohibit the USPS from acting on its own at the conclusion of 90 days, and that the PRC provides “advice”, not a legally-binding directive. Nevertheless, Congress and the American public will not look kindly on USPS actions that appear to be in direct conflict with PRC “advice.” As mentioned above, USPS officials have conducted two Hill briefings on its new regulations, and plan for a webinar next week. Congressional staff have contacted NAPUS, concerned about the USPS presentation and suggested that we debunk misleading information disseminated at the briefings. In fact, some
of the presented data conflicts with other USPS-produced or contracted data, information developed by other federal agencies, and independent research conducted by the PRC. At the invitation of congressional offices, the NAPUS Government Relations Department and NAPUS Legislative Chairs are currently sharing information with congressional offices that demonstrate the importance of the post offices and the Postmasters who manage them.
Debt Ceiling Blackmail
It appears highly likely that postal and federal employees will be collateral damage in an expected budget deal being negotiated by the White House and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), over raising the debt ceiling. A pivotal number of House GOP members have proclaimed that they will refuse to approve any increase in the debt ceiling, absent major reductions in federal spending. In addition, they have taken a blood-oath against any revenue increases – including closing corporate tax loopholes. With less than two weeks until the government runs out of cash and defaults on its creditors, the White House and the House GOP leadership appear to be crafting something that will placate the GOP House base – for the time being. Tragically, it appears that, once again, postal and federal employees are the “low-hanging fruit.” It also appears that all four congressional and White House budget-reducing proposals will, in varying degrees, impact Postmasters and their federal compatriots in a negative way. This is in spite of around-the-clock efforts by members of the Federal-Postal Coalition, urging Congress and the White House to recognize the sacrifices already made by members of the public service. NAPUS has signed numerous letters to Congressional leaders, the Administration, and budget negotiators, asking that they treat our members fairly. NAPUS has also signed onto a letter asking Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew to outline how failure to lift the debt ceiling would impact postal and federal employees and retirees.
National Association of Postmasters of the U.S. 8 Herbert Street Alexandria, VA 22305 Tel. 703-683-9027 Fax. 703-683-0923 We are on the Web!
Senate to Hold PRC Confirmation Hearings
On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will conduct a confirmation hearing for Robert Taub, who would replace Commissioner Tony Hammond on the Postal Regulatory Commission, and Commissioner Mark Acton who has been renominated to his PRC post. Even if Taub and Acton are confirmed by the Senate, there remains one vacancy on the PRC. In early July, Commissioner Dan Blair left the PRC to become the Executive Director of the National Academy of Public Administration. PRC Commissioners serve a 6-year term. While the primary focus of the hearing will be the confirmation of the two nominees and an exploration of their qualifications for the position, it should be expected that the questions will also survey their views relating to the relationship between the PRC and the USPS, the conditions under which postage rates may be adjusted due to exigent circumstances, broad Postal governance issues, and the long-term financial stability of the Postal Service. It should be noted that there is presently one vacancy on the USPS Board of Governors; Governor Alan Kessler will resign his position at the end of July, providing another vacancy; and, unless Governor James Miller III is renominated, his position will be vacant in December.