Paul Miller's ACMA Journal How 'Lame' Will The Duck Be?
Apologies for the subject line, but it sums up what might come out of the anticipated lame duck session in Congress.
The build-up to tomorrow’s mid-term elections has left Capitol Hill fairly quiet, legislatively, in recent weeks. After Election Day is a whole other matter. Congress may come back for a short session as lame ducks before the new Congress is sworn in after the New Year. Lame duck sessions usually exist to complete action on appropriations and the Federal budget. They don’t always take place, however. In fact, dating back to 1940 there have only been 16 such sessions held.
This year’s lame duck session, which insiders are pretty certain will take place, could be a game-changer for catalogers in more ways than one. In fact, in recent years 25% of all legislative action has been done during the lame duck. Such sessions typically last just a handful of weeks out of the two-year congressional sessions.
Although chances for postal reform legislation this year are remote, it’s still not entirely out of the question. The 2006 postal reform law (PAEA – the Postal Accountability & Enhancement Act) was signed into law during the 109th Congress’s lame duck session. The 1971 Postal Reorganization Act also passed in the Lame Duck. Both suggest it may actually be easier to pass postal reform during lame duck sessions. What’s more, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), who is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the USPS, late last week told Direct Marketing News he believes postal reform can still get passed this year. (Click here for the full interview podcast; click here for the article.)
Throughout the 113th Congress, postal reform bills designed to revamp the financially-ailing USPS have failed to gain any steam. Some draft bills call for mandatory rate increases and stripping the postal regulator of its oversight mandate; others sought to end Saturday letter mail delivery or close unprofitable post offices. Virtually no bills seem to come close to satisfying all interests.
At the same time, few other Members of Congress have shown much interest in getting a mutually-desired bill to conference. Ebola, ISIS and other issues are keeping the fate of the USPS toward the bottom of their legislative pile.
Strange bedfellows as we might be, our mailing industry group, the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, has been in active discussions with the major postal unions to come up with a bill both sides can tolerably live with. This has been actively shopped around the Hill for the past couple of months, but we’ve seen few signs it could catch fire during lame duck. That doesn’t mean we won’t keep trying, And as long as there is any chance given what is at stake, mailing interests need to keep pushing.
Remote Sales Tax
As for the remote sales tax issue, that’s a whole other matter. It’s also where the lame duck session could become, well, really lame indeed. As you saw from Hamilton Davison’s alert of October 28th, this situation is dire. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) has publicly stated he will seek to tie the controversial Senate-passed Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) with the much-needed extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA). This is an awful idea. See the True Simplification of Taxation (TruST) website for more details about MFA, but in a nutshell, think of this as something of a bait ‘n switch.
For nearly three years, ACMA and our TruST coalition has worked diligently to lobby the House and rally our industries - all to ensure the MFA is reworked properly so if a remote sales tax bill is passed, it represents true fairness to retailers of all kinds, and not just to the big-box retailers and Amazon. TruST’s work has been stellar, but we need more industry appeals to the Senate to “say no” to the slithery tactic of tying MFA with ITFA. Please use this letter template and write your Senator now.
It‘s up to business owners to make sure Congress does not do something completely lame - well intended though it might be (i.e. in the name of “fairness”). Absent vigilant participation in the lawmaking process, business interests can expect to become fatalities of dreadful new laws. Advocacy is thus critical.
Sadly, the business community does not have a good track record of aggressive advocacy for its legislative interests. Beyond a small minority, the catalog sector is no exception. Labor interests, on the other hand, have won remarkable windfalls by participating. ACMA’s New Year’s pledge will be to significantly increase the number of companies with active, ongoing dialog with elected officials. It is not that hard and it does provide your company with insulation against calamity. Give me a call and I’ll tell you how to accomplish this so you don’t become a lame victim of poor lawmaking.
About ACMA ACMA is a Washington-based not-for-profit organization specifically created to advocate for the unique collective interests of catalog mailers in regulatory, public and administrative matters where the shared impact transcends individual company interests. The only catalog owned and controlled trade group focused solely on the business interests of catalogers and their supply chain, ACMA participates in rule-making and other proceedings of significance where a single collective voice increases influence and effectiveness. Membership is open to any party with direct interests in the catalog industry. More information can be found at www.catalogmailers.org.
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