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Legislative Challenges Require Vigilance
By Bob Levi
Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the NAPS resident officers, Executive Board and Headquarters staff for the welcome extended me as the newest member of the NAPS family. I also would like to thank Legislative and Legal Counsel Bruce Moyer for helping guide me through the transition.
My relationship with NAPS is almost lifelong. My dad, who is a retired postal clerk, began his postal career in 1960; his first supervisor was Rubin Handelman, who, of course, went on to become NAPS president. When I began my legislative career on Capitol Hill about 36 years ago, Ruby’s NAPS office was one of my first stops and I always felt welcome.
Over the years, I maintained professional—and sometimes personal—relationships with past NAPS presidents from Donald Ledbetter through Louis Atkins and President Brian Wagner. In addition, my professional and personal association with Bruce extends back to 1985. And I have collaborated with Executive Vice President Ivan D. Butts on the postal employees’ coalition.
As many NAPS legislative activists know, I began my 11-year congressional career on the staff of former Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and migrated to the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee after two years. Upon leaving Capitol Hill, I was the legislative assistant for six years to late NALC President Vincent Sombrotto. I spent the past 20 years as director of Government Relations for NAPUS and UPMA.
So, I absolutely am not new to the issues that impact NAPS members. I look forward to working on your behalf with a strong legislative team, led by Ivan and in tandem with Bruce.
Not more than three days into my tenure as your new director of Legislative & Political Affairs, I had the distinct honor of addressing the NAPS Executive Board and participating in a meeting with the board’s legislative committee. On both occasions, we collaborated over the critical legislative and political cross-currents that can jeopardize the viability of an accessible and affordable U.S. Postal Service.
We also spoke about how congressional and executive branch activities could threaten the sustainability of the benefits earned by EAS employees. The results of the midterm elections will have a consequential bearing on the legislative plans for a post-election lame duck session of Congress, as well as the agenda for next year.
The ongoing lame-duck session is not without potentially devastating landmines that could accelerate and intensify the perils. The spiraling federal deficit, caused by last year’s tax bill, has left “entitlement” programs, such as the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), extremely vulnerable to attack by the very same legislators who exploded the deficit in 2017.
We also need to be vigilant about postal legislation. News of the impending postage rate increase could prompt members of Congress to consider postal legislation—but not necessarily a bill NAPS could support. Remember that Congress enacted the 2006 “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act” during a lame-duck session. NAPS also is monitoring the status of nominees to the Postal Board of Governors and Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).
President Trump has nominated Michael Kubayanda to the PRC and Ron Bloom and Roman Martinez to the Board of Governors. Kubayanda’s confirmation could break a purported tie in the PRC over establishing a new rate regime; the confirmation of two more governors would yield a quorum on the Board of Governors (a quorum is six).
The absence of a quorum has hindered postal governance and certain postal matters are reserved for a decision by the board, assuming a quorum. NAPS will be working to secure the nomination and confirmation of a fully functional Postal Board of Governors and Postal Regulatory Commission.
Two lingering postal issues relating to the carriage of international mail will affect postal operations. First, President Trump recently signed into law legislation to help prevent and treat opioid abuse. One of the provisions in the bill would require the Postal Service to secure from international shippers an advance electronic manifest of inbound international parcels. The Postal Service would be financially penalized if 70 percent of all inbound parcels were not manifested by the end of this year and 100 percent by 2020.
Notwithstanding the penalty, the Congressional Budget Office projected this provision would cost the Postal Service $3 million per year. It is not clear how the Postal Service will handle inbound parcels that may slip through the cracks.
The second issue relates to the State Department’s announcement that the United States intends to withdraw from the 144-year-old Universal Postal Union (UPU), a United Nations entity that coordinates postal policies among member nations. If the country withdraws from the UPU, it would lose access to global processing and coding systems that make international mail possible and have to negotiate bilateral postal agreements with every individual country.
The reason the Trump Administration plans to withdraw is the result of the deep discounts on international postage extended to such countries as China. The State Department believes the international discounts cost the Postal Service about $300 million per year.
So, as you can see, NAPS cannot afford to rest even after the gavel falls at the end of the year with adjournment of the 115th session of Congress.