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2011 Legislative Agenda : Capitol Watchdogs Wanted

January 2011 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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What could possibly be worse to read about than something that was hot in the news only a few weeks ago? Well, that's the tough thing about Congress' lame duck session: It concludes after press time for our January issue, and any legislation that gets pushed through during the session has been well documented by this point.

But, this is the January issue. Who wants to do a New Year's resolution in February, right? It's the perfect month to look at what's on the legislative agenda for 2011. At press time, President Obama hammered out an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts (reportedly the estate tax exemption would be up to $5 million for individuals, $10 million for couples, and at a tax rate of 35 percent).

But, there are some long-term projects of great importance to the printing industry, and we'll take a look at each of these items and the prognosis for anything happening in 2011.

As usual, we will turn to our printing industry advocacy guru/ lobbyist/vice president of Government Affairs at the Printing Industries of America (PIA), Lisbeth Lyons, for her take on each of the talking points. She will illustrate the PIA's position on each matter and provide expert analysis on what we might expect to happen from a legislative standpoint.

Postal Reform

It's not that we're completely overlooking the significance of the Do Not Mail lobby, which is channeling its efforts toward progressive cities like Seattle and San Francisco. But the United States Postal Service (USPS) is in need of another financial overhaul.

Mr. ZIP suffered an $8.5 billion loss in 2010, but that total included a $5.5 billion payment to the retiree health benefits fund and a $2.5 billion non-cash workers compensation adjustment. Considering the 6.6 percent decline in mail volume, the loss of $500 million must be viewed as a rousing success.

The USPS has done a strong job of reeling in its costs, but many people believe it can do better as the new Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, gets his feet wet. The denial of the USPS' exigent price increase request, if nothing else, set off SOS flares that lawmakers clearly saw. At press time there were two pieces of legislation proposed that, while containing two fairly different road maps, boasted the same destination.

The first one was introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the second by someone very familiar to the print lobby, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The former bill, a.k.a. the Postal Operations Sustainment and Transformation (POST) Act of 2010, has the support of Donahoe. It provides several outlets for cost-cutting, including the elimination of one day of delivery and the option to close down poorly performing facilities. Collins' bill does not contain such provisions.

 

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