Friday, February 07, 2014

Senate panel OKs bill to set trigger for ending Sat. mail delivery, perhaps in less than four years

A postal-reform bill with a trigger that would probably end Saturday delivery in about four years is on its way to the Senate floor. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the bill Thursday, as opponents said "the changes would hurt mail delivery to rural areas and threaten the Postal Service’s mission of universal service," reports Lisa Rein of The Washington Post.

USPS wants to end Saturday delivery except for packages, on which it makes money. The bill would allow it to reduce delivery to five days a week when the total volume of mail falls to 140 billion pieces, but not before October 2017. At current rates of decline, volume would fall below the trigger level at about that time or a few months later. A House postal-reform bill would allow the service to cut back delivery to five days without limitations.

The committee defeated an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to allow guns to be carried into post offices, but approved one by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, to allow guns in post-office parking lots if allowed by the state. It remains to be seen whether Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will bring the bill to the floor with such a provision.

The bill should raise concerns not only for rural newspapers that need Saturday delivery. Most depend on the mail for delivery, and the bill would give USPS would have a freer hand to raise rates. Starting in 2017, the Postal Regulatory Commission would have to approve or disapprove as a whole any package of proposed rates, instead of picking and choosing as it does now.

The bill includes several other measures aimed at eliminating USPS's operating deficit, including making permanent a recent increase in postal rates. (Read more)

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