Illinois Bicentennial Stamp Ceremony

by Steven J. Bahnsen

The U.S. Postal Service had a splendid ceremony for the Illinois Statehood forever stamp on March 5. Everything seemed to go right at the event held in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in downtown Springfield, Illinois.

In 1818, Illinois gained statehood. This stamp features a multicolored outline of the state with sun beams within the map rising from the bottom to the top. The stamp was issued in panes of 20.

More than 125 people attended the first-day ceremony, which started with dozens of students from the Glenwood High School chorus in Chatham, Illinois singing The Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.

The Postal Service had a roomy sales area staffed with friendly clerks in uniform. Other nearby clerks affixed postmarks onto covers with the new stamp. Museum volunteers handed out programs with a cancelled stamp on the outer envelope.

The master of ceremonies was John Reger of WICS-TV. Welcome and greetings were extended by Alan Lowe, executive director of the library and Randy Dunn, co-chairman of the Illinois Bicentennial Commission.

A group of volunteer firefighters presented the colors prior to the National Anthem and Invocation.

The stamp was dedicated by Jacqueline Strako, acting chief customer and marketing officer from the U.S. Postal Service.

Illinois Deputy Governor Leslie Munger gave a talk that preceded a video from Governor Bruce Rauner, who was in Chicago that day.

Springfield Mayor James Langfelder spoke, followed by Illinois State Historian Sam Wheeler, who had the closing remarks.

NEWS FLASH – USPS Dates for 2nd Quarter Stamps

U.S. Postal Service Provides Dates and Locations for 2018 Second Quarter Stamp Dedications

Name of Stamp First Day of Issue Date City State
STEM Education 4/06 Washington DC
Peace Rose 4/21 Shreveport LA
United States Airmail 5/01 Washington DC
Sally Ride 5/23 La Jolla CA
Flag Act of 1818 6/09 Appleton WI

Postmaster General Calls on Congress to Enact Postal Reform

WASHINGTON—Postmaster General Megan Brennan called for sweeping postal reform at the U.S. Postal Service’s Temporary Emergency Committee meeting Friday morning, as the Postal Service faces another year of financial losses.

“Despite our best efforts, under the current legal framework we will not be able to stem the tide of our ongoing losses and return to financial stability without legislative change,” she said.

Brennan called on Congress to pass the Postal Reform Act of 2017 and to confirm President Trump’s nominees to the currently-vacant Postal Service Board of Governors.

According to the Postal Service’s website, the board is responsible for implementing an array of postal policies, including the company’s budget and long-term planning.

President Trump made three nominations to the board in October, but the Senate has yet to confirm them.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which oversees postal policy and is responsible for initial confirmation of the Board nominees, did not respond to our emails asking when nominee confirmations might occur.

Nonetheless, Brennan was hopeful that the nominees would be confirmed soon.

“We’re encouraged, in talking with some of our key public officials, that they understand the urgency of this,” she said in a web conference. “As we’ve said from the outset…we are best served, as is the American public, by having a fully constituted board, so I’m optimistic we’ll have them confirmed and on board by our next scheduled meeting.”

As for the Postal Reform Act of 2017, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced the bill in January of last year, but Congress has made no recent move to approve the bill.

If passed, the bill would amend the Postal Service’s employee and retiree health benefits and revise rules surrounding postal rate changes. The bill would also allow the Postal Service to work with state and local authorities to provide government goods and services and would encourage the use of centralized delivery, through which customers can opt to pick up their mail at a centralized location instead of at their front door.

The bill establishes a Postal Service “Chief Innovation Officer” to focus on innovation within the company and would reduce the number of seats on the Board of Governors to five, which has historically consisted of nine governors, who serve seven-year terms.

At Friday’s meeting, Chief Financial Officer Joe Corbett outlined the Postal Service’s financial results in quarter one of fiscal year 2018. The Postal Service faced a net loss of $540 million, as first class mail revenues declined about four percent and marketing mail revenues declined about five percent. With the holiday season, package revenues increased around nine percent and international mail revenues increased around the same amount. However, this was not enough to offset the losses.

Brennan attributed the Postal Service’s financial troubles to the high cost of employee benefit programs and to the Congressional mandate to deliver to every American home and business. She suggested that the price cap on stamps and mail services prevents the Postal Service from earning enough revenue to cover costs. She also noted that current regulations limit the Postal service’s “ability to pursue new sources of revenue.”

The National Association of Letter Carriers, the national labor union for city-delivery mail carriers, released a statement on the Postal Service’s first quarter results, echoing the Postmaster General’s call for action from Congress.

“Congress should address the pre-funding burden it imposed in 2006, which requires USPS — alone among all public and private entities — to prefund future retiree healthcare benefits decades into the future,” they wrote. “This produces an onerous annual burden of billions of dollars.”

The only current postal legislation being considered by Congress is the renaming of post offices, a common practice to honor community leaders and other important officials.

by Tasos Kalfas, @TasosKalfasWRGW

Love Flourishes on New U.S. Forever Stamp

The U.S. Postal Service today celebrated love of all kinds with the dedication of the Love Flourishes forever stamp during a first-day-of-issue ceremony at the Creativation conference held at the Phoenix, Arizona Convention Center. The conference, sponsored by the Association For Creative Industries, is a trade show for all aspects of the arts-and-crafts business.

Love Flourishes is the latest stamp in the popular Love series, which began 45 years ago. The stamp is being sold in panes of 20.

The stamp art features a fanciful garden of colorful flowers surrounding the word “Love” written in cursive script. Hand-painted by artist Anna Bond, the flower garden includes stylized roses, peonies and dahlias in pink, coral and yellow, with pale blue-green berries and fold fronds and leaves.

Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp with Bond’s original art.

Postal Rates Due to Increase January 21

New U.S. postal rates due to begin January 21 affect most, though not all, mailing classes.

First-class domestic 1-ounce letter rate and postcard rates, which each rise by a penny to 50 cents and 35 cents, respectively, are among the rising postage rates.

Also rising will be metered first-class mail, from 46 cents to 47 cents, along with all basic shipping charges, which are rising 5 cents per rate across the board. The shipping rates include Priority Mail small flat-rate box and padded flat-rate envelope, which will rise to $7.20 and $7.25, respectively.

Two rates that are not due to rise include the additional ounce (or second ounce) first-class letter rate, which stays at 21 cents, and the international 1-ounce letter rate, which remains at $1.15.

Any appropriate forever stamps purchased at lower prices are, of course, valid for all the new rates. Forever stamps originally released to accommodate former rates will now be sold at the new price. For example, a booklet of 10 Flag stamps originally issued in 2016 and sold for $4.90 will cost $5 if purchased from the U.S. Postal Service starting January 21.

The U.S. Postal Service filed notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission on October 6 of the price changes, which still need formal approval.

The proposed prices would raise Mailing Services product prices approximately 1.9 percent, and most Shipping Services products will average a 3.9 percent price increase, the Postal Service said in a news release. While Mailing Services price increases are limited based on the Consumer Price Index, Shipping Services prices are adjusted strategically, according to market conditions and the need to maintain affordable services for customers, the USPS stated.

The following chart lists all of the main mailing rate changes, according to the USPS:

Product Current New
Letters (1 oz.) 49 cents 50 cents
Letters additional ounces 21 cents 21 cents
Letters (metered) 46 cents 47 cents
Outbound International Letters (1 oz.) $1.15 $1.15
Domestic Postcards 34 cents 35 cents

The proposed domestic Priority Mail Flat Rate Retail price changes are:

Product Current Proposed
Small Flat Rate Box $7.15 $7.20
Medium Flat Rate Box $13.60 $13.65
Large Flat Rate Box $18.85 $18.90
APO/FPO Large Flat Rate Box $17.35 $17.40
Regular Flat Rate Envelope $6.65 $6.70
Legal Flat Rate Envelope $6.95 $7.00
Padded Flat Rate Envelope $7.20 $7.25