This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.
The Postal Service has been offering mailing promotions and incentives dating back to 2012, and with each passing year, more and more mailers have successfully taken advantage of innovative ways to add value to their mail while gaining postal discounts. Promotions for 2018, however, are very much up in the air due to the absence of any presidentially-appointed governors. Without a single seated governor, the Postal Service does not have the authority to establish promotional pricing incentives. In fact, the Postal Service has no authority to change any Market Dominant or Competitive product prices without an appointed governor.
How Did We Get Here?
At full complement, the USPS Board of Governors (BOG) includes nine presidentially-appointed governors, along with the Postmaster General (PMG) and the Deputy Postmaster General (DPMG). The board has not had a quorum since 2014 and has been without a single governor since December 2016, which was when 2017 promotions were approved. In the interim, the Postal Service has been functioning under a Temporary Emergency Committee that includes only the PMG and the DPMG. Governors that are appointed by the President must be confirmed by the Senate and, in the prior administration, nominees were appointed but not brought forth for confirmation.
Where Do Things Stand Now?
On April 18, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) held a confirmation hearing for three nominees to the USPS Board of Governors. The three nominees include former USPS Inspector General David Williams, Philadelphia entrepreneur Calvin R. Tucker, and Kentucky businessman Robert M. Duncan.
On May 7, HSGAC voted favorably, meaning unanimously by voice vote, to send the nominations of David Williams and Robert Duncan to the full Senate. The third nominee, Calvin R. Tucker, withdrew from consideration. However, his name will likely be resubmitted if President Trump also nominates a Democrat. Not more than five of the nine governors may belong to the same political party. To date, there is no word on if, or when, the nominees will be voted on by the full Senate.
Is There Still Enough Time?
As of this writing, Congress had returned from their Memorial Day recess, but Fourth of July and the August recess are just around the corner. The clock is ticking down.
On June 5, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would cancel most of the August recess, allowing the Senate to catch up on confirming President Trump’s nominees and funding the government. Hopefully, this means good news for the mailing industry.
If Williams and Duncan are confirmed, there are still a few steps that need to be considered. Prior to execution, the Postal Service must have final approval from the USPS Executive Leadership Team, and the Board of Governors can then submit their proposal to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). The PRC has 45 days to review, although historically, they have ruled much sooner.
So, in a hypothetical scenario, for the Postal Service to offer promotions for a three-month period this year (October through December), the proposals should be in the hands of the PRC by mid-August at the latest. As more time passes without Senate confirmation, the possible promotion period shortens.
The USPS promotions department has done everything possible to prepare in advance for the possibility of a fully functioning Board of Governors. Five promotions have been vetted and planned, and draft requirements have been prepared and shared with members of the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee’s User Group #8, USPS Promotions. The planned promotions are laid out below:
Considering the tight timeframe, another possibility is that the Postal Service may limit its promotion offerings to the two that typically run in the fall of each year – Mobile Shopping and Personalized Color Transpromo. These are also the two promotions with the highest participation levels.
In the meantime, mailers can continue to leverage the benefits of mailing innovations gained through prior promotions and be prepared in the event that governors are confirmed. In general, the draft requirements are not appreciably different than last year’s promotions, so it behooves mailers to be prepared at a short notice.
It would also be wise to contact your Senators to relay the urgency at hand and to ask that they encourage the Majority Leader to bring these nominations to the Floor for a full vote.
Let’s stay tuned and do all that we can to make 2018 promotions a reality!
Anita Pursley is Senior Manager of Industry Affairs, BCC Software.