House Advances Franking Modernization Bill

The House passed a bill last week designed to bring the Franking Commission into the 21st century. The Communications Outreach Media and Mail Standards Act, or COMMS Act (H.R.7512), extends the commission’s authority to regulate mass communications (i.e., to 500 people or more) by Members and Members-elect. The commission’s authority has historically been limited to mailings but the new language refers to a wider range of communications. 

The bill is the most recent in a series of steps to improve and modernize regulated Member communications, several of which were previewed by Rep. Davis’s Chief of Staff Lisa Sherman at the 2019 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference. As promised, an updated communications standards manual and online database of commission advisory opinions were made available online earlier this year. 

Franked communications are a source of direct communications from congressional offices. Rep. Susan Davis, who leads the 6-member Franking Commission and is retiring this year, is a leader in the effort in the House to make the process more transparent, accessible, and modern. 

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.