Good Government Panel Scores Victory On Constituent Communications

January 7, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – New updates to the official House communications rules and procedures include several improvements endorsed by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress last month.

The updates, which went into effect on Tuesday, include:

  • Name Change – The House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards (also known as the Franking Commission) has taken steps to change its name to the House Communications Standards Commission.
  • Rules Regulations governing franked mail and other communications content have been consolidated and simplified.
  • Approval Procedures – Requirements for Advisory Opinions have been updated to streamline the approval process.
  • Transparency – All Advisory Opinions will be available online for public review on the Clerk of the House’s Public Disclosure website.

“Since this committee began, we have committed to not only passing recommendations to make Congress work better for the American people, but to actually see those recommendations implemented,” said Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Tom Graves, R-Ga., co-chairs of the Select Committee, in a joint statement.

“We are grateful to our colleagues with the Committee on House Administration for working with us to craft improvements that will make a real difference in the way we connect and communicate,” they said.

The Select Committee worked closely with the Committee on House Administration and the House Commission on Mailing Standards to craft recommendations that would allow for 21st Century updates to the way Members of Congress communicate with their constituents.

“I applaud Chairwoman Susan Davis and Ranking Member Bryan Steil for their efforts in updating and streamlining the rules by which members communicate with their constituents,” said Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Chair of the Committee on House Administration.

“It has been two decades since these rules were substantively updated, and since that time they have become woefully inadequate in today’s fast-paced digital environment,” Lofgren continued.

“These new rules will enable members to communicate with constituents more quickly, allow members to write in the manner they actually speak, and importantly, will considerably increase public access and transparency through greater disclosure of official communications.”

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill, ranking member of the Committee on House Administration, said his goal since joining the committee “has been to make the House work better for members, so they can more effectively represent their districts.

“A key component of that effort is ensuring effective communication between Members of Congress and their constituents,” he said.

Last fall, the Select Committee held a hearing to examine the history of the congressional frank, how it’s been regulated and reformed over the last few decades, and opportunities for continued reform in the U.S. House.

Since 1775 the franking privilege has allowed members of Congress to send official mail to constituents, and the frank is highly regulated by law. But with constant changes to how people communicate with one another, there is often a need to reevaluate the rules and procedures governing congressional communication.

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