Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Opioid roundup

The country’s ongoing opioid epidemic has sparked a series of proposals aimed at solving the crisis, some of which include provisions regarding the Postal Service. As such, Congressional committees have held numerous hearings and markups, as well as issuing numerous reports on the crisis in both the House and Senate.

On May 16 and 17, the House Ways and Means Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee respectively held markups of a series of opioid bills, advancing the majority of the legislation including the Securing the International Mail Against Opioids Act (H.R. 5788) introduced by Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) just a day before to be a replacement for the stalled STOP Act (H.R. 1057/S. 372). This bill would require USPS take aggressive stance on obtaining agreements with foreign postal operators for the transmission of advanced electronic data (AED) on all international packages, while complying with our international obligations. Additionally, it also authorizes measures to ensure compliance, up to and including the refusal of shipments for which AED is not provided. The bill advanced via voice vote. NALC has not yet taken a position on this bill as it seeks clarification on certain language.

The other measures focused primarily on treatment, prevention, education, and Medicare and Medicaid. There was some contention in the hearings as Ways and Means Democratic members noted a lack of regular order for the bills, meaning there had been zero hearings on any of the legislation before they were required to vote on them. Energy and Commerce Democratic members were concerned some previously considered legislation was not offered for this markup while those that were had troubling language on medical privacy and funding cuts. Ultimately, Ways and Means advanced four bipartisan opioid bills and Energy and Commerce advanced 32 bills, though many in tight mostly party-line votes.

On May 10, HSGAC Ranking Member Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) released a report titled, “Combating the Opioid Epidemic: Intercepting Illicit Opioids at Ports of Entry.” The report states that the amount of illicit opioids seized has increased significantly in recent years, and that in order to stem the growing opioid crisis in this country, increasing resources and staffing at ports of entry is critical. The report also highlights Sen. McCaskill’s bill, the Border and Port Security Act (S.2314), which would authorize CBP to hire an additional 500 Port Officers each year until they meet the goals calculated in their workload staffing model.

On May 7, the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (S. 2680) was placed on the Senate calendar. This bill would upgrade facilities to increase and improve inspection and detection capabilities, including USPS, to improve detection and seizure of illegal drug. With regard to USPS, import and international mail facilities would be outfitted with controlled substance detection and testing equipment and other applicable technology. Of importance, no mention is made in this bill of the use of advanced electronic data (AED). The product of seven bipartisan hearings, S. 2680 sailed out of committee with unanimous approval and marks a positive congressional step at addressing a public health crisis plaguing the United States. While NALC has not formed an official position on this bill, it is clear that this bipartisan legislation may be the most likely to progress through the Senate.

America’s letter carriers, who work in every neighborhood in the country, have seen the devastating impact of opioids firsthand. We are fully committed to working with Congress to fight the epidemic in any way we can.

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