HR3076 would allow newspapers 50% sampling

Jun 1, 2021

FALLS CHURCH, Virginia — Legislation for a major overhaul of postal laws, the first in more than a decade, picked up steam in May as key oversight committees in the House and Senate began work on a set of companion bills called the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021. National Newspaper Association expressed support for both bills.

The PSRA, HR 3076, would provide newspapers a concrete benefit: it would allow more mailing of sample newspapers to nonsubscribers. Presently, publishers are permitted to use sampling for recruitment of new readers at the low Within County rate only to the extent of 10 percent of each year’s mailing volume. The new law would raise that limit to 50%. Rep. James Comer, R-Kentucky, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has championed that provision to encourage more newspaper readership in his state.

The legislation also would resolve a long-standing problem with USPS retiree health insurance by requiring all retirees to use Medicare, for which withholding taxes have already been paid, rather than relying on a more expensive federal Retiree Health Benefits fund for the first insurer. The bill would reverse a 2006 requirement for USPS to prepay its RHB obligation for decades into the future and instead allow it to pay current costs as most federal agencies currently do. For the troubled flat-rated mail in the mail stream, PSRA would mandate research by the USPS Inspector General into the costs of the mail–processing network and require recommendations on ways to solve costing and service problems. The bill also requires USPS to set up a website where actual service performance times to every U.S. address can be researched.

NNA Chair Brett Wesner, president of Wesner Publications, Cordell, Oklahoma, said NNA was cautiously optimistic about postal reform legislation. NNA has been seeking Congressional solutions to the Postal Service’s problems since 2009. Wesner said the legislation did not solve all problems facing newspaper mailers, including a threat of exploding postage rates, but that NNA’s postal team believed that the bill would help steady USPS finances, which would relieve pressure on postage rates.

The House bill has already been passed by the Oversight Committee. The Senate bill was due to get its official bill number and a schedule for action in mid-May.