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As legal counsel for American Business Media, David Straus, a partner at Thompson Coburn in Washington, D.C., has been at the forefront of the battle for postal reform, something publishers have yearned for as rate cases have piled on top of rate cases. In the last days of the 2006 congressional session, President Bush signed postal reform into law in the form of the Postal Reform Accountability and Enhancement Act, and BtoB caught up with Straus to get his reaction to the news.

BtoB: Congratulations. Straus: It's certainly [better]that this happened than that it didn't. I'm not saying this is just a rearranging of the deck chairs, but it may prove to be depending upon how the new system works. Will the new price caps just make the Postal Service raise rates by the CPI (Consumer Price Index) every year instead of by the CPI every other year? Rates have increased by roughly the CPI since the Postal Service was created. It's nice to have the rates go up at a set time every year for some mailers but not necessarily periodical mailers. You can send catalogs out earlier but you can?t really send your June issue in March to save money. The real question is whether the price cap will operate in a way to lower costs. Will the Postal Service tighten its belt? There is incentive for them to do that, but I don't know if all the incentive in the world will help the Postal Service spend less money. BtoB: How will publishers know that this new legislation is working to their advantage? Straus: In 20 years, they'll have to look back. They're not going to know as we go forward. Basically there are all sorts of new rules and regulations that have to be created and put into effect, and there will be lots of public comment put into this so that's something publishers need to weigh in on and watch for: the public comment periods for all of these. The goal here is to allow the Postal Service to survive in a declining first-class environment, and you won?t be able to tell that in a month or a year.
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