Feb 282007
 
Authors: Stephanie Gerlach

A controversial bill that would allow Colorado consumers to avoid junk mail will be killed today and significantly revised before returning to the committee agenda next year.

Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada, introduced a bill that would establish a statewide “Do Not Junk” registry for people who don’t want to receive unsolicited mail at a state capitol press conference on Feb 18. Political and nonprofit groups would be exempt from this law.

House Bill 1303 was formed in mid-January after constituents from the New American Dream approached Gagliardi to address issues of environment, identity theft and fraud. New American Dream, a non-profit pro-environmental group, is supporting similar bills in nine other states, all facing opposition from the direct mail industry.

“We got a lot of positive feedback and unfortunately a lot of negative as well,” Gagliardi told the Collegian.

The bill gained support from constituents who live in Arvada, predominantly senior citizens, and environmental groups. Many individuals and business owners were concerned about the jobs that would be lost if this bill was passed.

Al DeSarro, a spokesperson for the Colorado postal service, said there is a lot of information regarding this bill that has not been made known to the public – specifically, that it could be damaging to the economy in Colorado and businesses that use junk mail, also known as direct mail.

“They’re trying to take away a viable way for (businesses and organizations) to communicate,” DeSarro said. “If you start trying to restrict communications that are vital to the livelihood of businesses and organizations, what’s next.do we restrict TV and radio advertising, too?”

DeSarro was one of approximately 60 people who attended an informational meeting about the bill last week; he said most of the attendants were totally against the bill.

“If it was passed here, you couldn’t regulate out-of-state organizations that send direct mail,” DeSarro said. “That would give (out-of-state businesses) a competitive advantage over those in Colorado.”

Joe Contrino, owner of Contrino Direct Marketing and a member of the Denver Postal Council, has been in business in Boulder for 11 years. If this bill were passed, he would have to downsize, as would a lot of other people in the industry.

“I think it’s a really noble idea, but I think it would be devastating to the economy,” Contrino said. “There are a lot of facts here that aren’t being looked at.”

Post offices do not make money on first-class mail, only on direct mail. If direct mail was banished, Contrino said stamp prices would increase because there would be much less revenue coming in.

“I don’t think the creators thought about the ramifications – the loss of jobs, the loss of taxes. It could be crippling. Why do something that could possibly hurt the state?” Contrino said.

Linda Rubright, a community liaison for the junk mail bill, chose to get involved because she was tired of receiving unsolicited mail. After many failed attempts at trying to get her name off numerous mailing lists, she wanted to do more because she knew she wasn’t the only person in Colorado facing this problem.

“Colorado gets 342 million pounds of junk mail every year. That is 70 pounds for every man, woman and child in the state,” Rubright said. “That also equates to deforesting Rocky Mountain National Park three times per year.”

Rubright said it’s devastating that the bill will be killed because Coloradans can say no to every other form of communication, but with junk mail, residents forced to say yes and deal with it.

Rubright said Gagliardi wants to kill the bill because of speculation she has been getting from the post office, businesses and unions. Gagliardi wants to revise the bill and try to come to a compromise.

“The majority of Colorado wants this (bill). What people aren’t understanding is we’re not forbidding them from receiving junk mail, we’re just giving them a choice,” Rubright said.

For Gagliardi and supporters, keeping unnecessary mail out of the dumps and protecting citizen’s identities is the important issue.

However, Desarro said mail makes up less than .0005 percent of our dumps and less than 5 percent of identity theft is connected to mail, with even less connected to direct mail.

Students from CSU are divided on this heavily debated issue.

“I personally hate junk mail, but I don’t know much of it would actually be stopped since I don’t know how much of that mail is from political or nonprofit organizations,” said Shauna Redican, a junior technical journalism major.

Nathan Coe, senior liberal arts major, said this issue is similar to the “no-call list” put into affect May 2001. A lot of people, such as telemarketers, lost their jobs, but people were still given the choice to be added to that registry.

“I think if someone doesn’t want t receive junk mail and wants to be on a no junk mail list, they should have the right to be on the list,” Coe said.

HB1303 is scheduled to be shredded in the State House Business Affairs and Labor Committee this afternoon because Gagliardi said they need to take another look at it and find a different approach.

She said she wants to talk to the bill’s creators and constituents to brainstorm new ideas and look at all the issues together.

“I think it’s a great idea for Colorado, but we have to really look at what is best for our people,” Gagliardi said. “I think we can come up with something great for next year.”

Staff writer Stephanie Gerlach can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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-Other states with similar proposals:

-Texas -Hawaii

-Missouri -Michigan

-Maryland -New York

-Connecticut -Washington

-Colorado Direct Mail Facts:

-Direct Mail is a $9.2 billion industry in Colorado.

-154,000 jobs are related to the Direct Mail industry.

-48 percent of all mail is Direct Mail related.

-There are 11,000 Colorado postal employees.

-Colorado has about 14,000 businesses and organizations that use direct mail.

-In 2006, 11,000 businesses and organizations sent out 1.2 billion pieces of direct mail.

-Direct Mail is a $900 billion industry, employs 9 million people nationwide.

Facts provided by the Public Affairs and Communications Office

-The Direct Marketing Association already maintains a national “do-not-mail list.” For more information, go to www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist or download a mail-in form and send to:

Direct Marketing Association

Mail Preference Service

P.O. Box 282

Carmel, NY 10512

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