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So Much to Do, So Little Time
By Bob Levi
Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
Before departing for its five-week-long summer recess, the U.S. Senate confirmed three new members to the Postal Service Board of Governors. As a consequence, for the first time since 2014, the Board of Governors will have a quorum of five presidentially appointed members. The previous absence of a quorum made it difficult for the Postal Service to fully exercise the authority it is granted in statute.
The three new members are Ron Bloom, Ramon Martinez IV and John Barger. The three governors all hail from the financial services sector of the economy. Bloom, who was an investment banker and also a union consultant, was an adviser on certain postal issues to the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Martinez also was an investment banker and retired as managing director for investment banking for the no-longer-existent Lehman Brothers. Barger, a California attorney, served as director of investment and retirement boards for the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association.
The new governors will join current governors Robert Duncan (chairman) and David Williams. The partisan composition of the Board of Governors is three Republican members (Duncan, Martinez and Barger) and two Democrat members (Williams and Bloom). Postmaster General Megan Brennan and Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman also serve on the board.
In addition, before leaving the U.S. Capitol, the Senate confirmed the nominations of two new members to the Postal Regulatory Commission: Ann Fisher and Ashley Poling. The commission already had its full complement of members, but two were in their hold-over year—meaning their statutory terms expired, but they are permitted to continue to hold the position of one year or until the Senate confirms a presidentially nominated replacement, whichever comes first.
Fisher replaced Tony Hammond; Poling replaced Nanci Langley. Both women have extensive postal and legislative experience, having served on the staffs of senators who sat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Fisher was on the staff of the late Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). In addition, she worked in the Government Relations Department of the Postal Service and, for the past 12 years, at the PRC. Poling was on the staffs of Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Gary Peters (D-MI).
The new members will join commissioners Robert Taub (chairman), Mark Acton and Michael Kubayanda. The partisan composition of the PRC remains three Republican members (Taub, Acton and Fisher) and two Democrat members (Kubayanda and Poling).
Also, I would be remiss if I did not express disappointment over Congress’ failure to consider, or even introduce, meaningful postal legislation before the August recess. With each passing week, the task becomes more daunting. Activity on the House Oversight and Reform Committee has tilted toward investigations of the Trump Administration, resulting in an extremely personal attack by President Trump against Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Baltimore, the city he represents.
It is premature to predict how this attack will impact the capability of committee members to craft the bipartisan postal legislation envisioned at the beginning of the year. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal in the postal world.
Regardless, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced H.R. 2382, NAPS-supported bipartisan legislation to repeal the current requirement that the Postal Service prefund future retiree health obligations. Enactment of the bill would relieve the agency of a major burden that, over the past 13 years, has forced the agency to divert about $49 billion into the Postal Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund—funds that could have been used to invest in postal infrastructure and improve the financial condition of the Postal Service.
Before the August recess, 213 members of the House co-sponsored the bill. NAPS members can go to the NAPS website and click on the “Legislative Center” tab to access NAPS-supported legislation to see if their representative is a co-sponsor. If not, a call should be made to their representative’s office.
Over the past month, NAPS Chat, NAPS’ weekly podcast covering legislative and political affairs, hosted a number of notable guests, including postal Board of Governors member David Williams, House Government Operations Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and USPS Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb.
Of course, NAPS Chat also had visits from NAPS Executive Vice President Ivan D. Butts and our legal and legislative counsel, Bruce Moyer. We also conducted July 4th interviews with American postal customers who celebrated Independence Day on the National Mall. Please tune in at your convenience. Current and past chats are stored on the NAPS website’s Legislative Center.
Finally, I invite state and branch SPAC chairs, as well as NAPS Auxiliary members who help collect SPAC contributions, to visit the “SPAC” tab in the Legislative Center on the NAPS website to view a new SPAC webinar. Just click on the link and you can view the program.