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Well I'm home now watching Real Time with Bill Maher but before I head out tonight I will conclude Friday's blogging with one last diary.  U.S. Senator Al Franken (D. MN) is not happy about the Postal Service cutting Saturday mail delivery:

“Many Minnesotans rely on the mail to get their essentials like newspapers and paychecks, and for many parts of the state — especially rural communities — the U.S. Postal Service provides the only way to get something delivered,” he said in a news release.

Franken said the decision could have been avoided if the House of Representatives had taken up the bipartisan postal reform bill passed in the Senate last year. The bill would have put the Postal Service on sounder financial footing and would have allowed rural communities to have a greater say in the operation of local post offices.

The bill included an amendment by Franken that would have given the Postal Regulatory Commission the power to overturn closures when communities make a compelling case to keep the facilities open. It would have also reduced the requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund retiree health care benefits. - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, 2/7/13

So Franken is fighting back by pushing for legislation to help preserve Saturday delivery:

In an effort to address the financial problems faced by the U.S. Postal Service and ensure that Minnesotans continue to receive rapid, reliable, six-day postal delivery, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and seven of his Senate colleagues introduced legislation to modernize the postal service and repeal the law passed by Congress that’s largely responsible for the postal service’s financial problems.

The measure would let the Postal Service look for innovative new ways to generate revenue by allowing post offices to notarize documents, issue hunting and fishing licenses, and allow shipments of wine and beer—all services currently prohibited at post offices. It also would clear the way for the Postal Service to help customers take advantage of email and Internet services. Moreover, the legislation would create a commission composed of successful business innovators and representatives from small business and labor to make recommendations on other ways the Postal Service could generate new revenue and thrive in the 21st century.

The legislation would also repeal an onerous 2006 law that forces the post office to pre-fund 75 years of future health care benefits for retirees over the course of 10 years – a burden placed on no other government agency, and almost no private businesses. The $5 billion annual payments have been piling up in a fund that experts say already has more than enough in reserve. Since 2007, the pre-funding mandate is responsible for $4 out of every $5 in Postal Service debts. The bill would also reinstate overnight delivery standards to speed mail delivery and prevent shutdowns of mail sorting centers. Safeguards also would be put in place to protect rural post offices. - Hometown Source, 2/14/13

The bill was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I. VT) and is also co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D. VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D. NY), Ron Wyden (D. OR), Jeff Merkley (D. OR) Tom Udall (D. NM) and Sherrod Brown (D. OH).  Franken is fighting to keep Saturday mail service open because he is also fighting to help keep the Duluth mail-processing center open which has been constantly threatened with being closed due to budget cuts:

Union workers at the mail-processing center in Duluth were told Tuesday that the facility could close sometime starting in July or as late as 2014, with less than half of the employees offered positions elsewhere.

Peter Nowacki, U.S. Postal Service spokesman in Minnesota, said the employees were told the news as part of a contractual obligation, but there is no set date for closure of the mail-sorting station in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Nor is it clear whether the center will close, or whether congressional action could intervene to save it again.

The Duluth facility and its nearly 100 workers got a reprieve last May, spared in the first round of budget-cutting that closed 140 processing centers nationwide. The closures were made as the Postal Service moves to consolidate operations to help stop its ongoing financial losses.

In Minnesota, the original plan was to sort all mail in the Twin Cities area. Centers in Mankato, St. Cloud and Rochester were scheduled to close, while Duluth and Bemidji were spared. - Duluth News Tribune, 2/13/13

The best part about this bill is there is a clause that would spare the Duluth mail-processing center from being closed down:

This legislation would also pave the way for the Postal Service to help customers take advantage of e-mail and Internet services.

The bill also contains a clause that would implement safe guards to protect rural post offices and prevent shutdowns of mail sorting centers like the one in Duluth. - 2/14/13

You can Senators Franken or Sanders to get more information about the legislation so you can urged your Senator and Congressman to get behind it:

Franken: (202) 224-5641

Sanders: (202) 224-5141

And if you want to donate to Franken's re-election campaign, you can do so here:

Happy Friday everybody!

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 08:09 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and South Dakota Kos.

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