The Kentucky Press Association is lauding Congressman James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, for his role in the passage of the Postal Service Reform Act that is headed to President Joe Biden for his signature.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the act in February by a 342-92 vote and then HR 3076 was approved by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday by 79-19.
Kentucky Congressmen John Yarmuth, Andy Barr, Brett Guthrie and Hal Rogers joined Comer in support of the measure in the House while Thomas Massie was opposed. In the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell voted in favor. Sen. Rand Paul voted "no."
During a virtual meeting in March 2021 with publishers from across his Kentucky district, Congressman Comer announced his support, saying he recognized the importance of the postal service for community newspapers. In his district, 42 newspapers are weekly/community newspapers and rely on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver those newspapers to the subscribers. The First District covers 34 of Kentucky's 120 counties.
2021 KPA President Sharon Burton, who publishes the Adair County Community Voice in Comer's district, said, "He faced backlash from his own party to get this done and it is a rare bipartisan effort. It is very important for rural communities and has language specifically requested by our industry. He deserves a big thanks."
HR 3076 would give the U.S. Postal Service relief from a 16-year-old requirement to prefund decades into the future. The mandate, unlike requirements for other federal agencies, beset the Postal Service with more than $58 billion in unpaid obligations. The bill passed by a vote of 79-19 with many rural Republicans voting with Democrats in favor. President Biden is expected to sign the bill. The legislation also contains the Rural Newspaper Sustainability Act, which would give newspapers using within county mailing rates the ability to send more sample copies to nonsubscribers. Community newspapers use this sampling practice to recruit new readers. Previous limits permitted them to send copies equaling only 10% of their annual mailings. When the bill becomes law, they will be permitted to send up to 50% of their annual mailings to prospective readers. Newspapers pay for the postage to send these copies and generate new business for USPS in doing so, as first-class postage is also purchased to complete new subscribers' invoicing and payments.
The National Newspaper Association also honored Congressman Comer for his efforts. "This legislation gives community newspapers a new ability to regain subscribers lost by the past few years of slow mail delivery," NNA Chair Brett Wesner, president of Wesner Publications, Cordell, Oklahoma, said. "It also offers USPS a new lease on life by relieving debt to the federal government. Now we look forward to a revision of postage rates by both USPS and the Postal Regulatory Commission, which have attempted to retire some of this debt with dramatically higher postage rates." Wesner expressed his thanks to NNA's Congressional Action Team for its vigorous advocacy and said congratulations were owed to the bill's principal drafters. "A long list of believers in universal mail service have shaped this legislation over more than a decade," Wesner said. "I want to particularly thank Congressman James Comer (R-Kentucky), for his work on the rural newspaper provision and also Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, (D-New York), Congressman Gerald Connolly, (D-Virginia), and Senators Gary Peters, (D-Michigan), Rob Portman, (R-Ohio), and Tom Carper, (D-Delaware).
The PRSA would roll back the prefunding mandate of 2006, shift about 40,000 postal workers onto Medicare parts B and D for their primary health care benefit and require USPS to continue its practice of delivering mail and packages as part of one integrated network, rather than splitting up costs as some package service competitors wanted.