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More 'Charity' Stamps Coming

More "charity stamps" are coming to your local post office, and you could have a say in what the subjects will be.

"Yes, we're going to have [a semi-postal stamp program]," said USPS manager of stamp services Cathy Caggiano, during a press briefing earlier this month. "We have to have one."

Semi-postal stamps, as they're called by collectors, cost more than a regular stamp. The amount in addition to the postage rate is given to charity, after costs. The Breast Cancer Research stamp, when first issued in 1998, cost 40 cents, with 32 cents for postage and 8 cents for charity. The price remained at 40 cents through two subsequent rate changes, with the amount earmarked for breast cancer research going down each time.

Congress last year extended the Breast Cancer Research semi-postal, the first by the U.S., for another two years, and mandated that the U.S. Postal Service issue more semi-postals. However, it left the details up to the agency.

The Postal Service was required to submit its plan to Congress by Monday.

Caggiano, a 30-year veteran of the Postal Service, said the new program consists of five more semi-postals, each two years apart, starting in 2002.

The public will be asked to make suggestions this spring — the mechanics of the process are not yet set — and the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee will review the suggestions. From there, the recommendations will go to the Postmaster General, as is the case with every stamp subject.

The subjects suggested must be human welfare issues, for a cause that is handled by a federal agency: The USPS does not want to get involved in disbursing the funds.

The proposals will be accepted through the end of June, then reviewed by CSAC at its regular July meeting, which may be expanded. Subjects for the 2002 and 2004 semi-postals will be chosen this spring. Then the process will be repeated, for one subject, in 2003, 2005 and 2007, for stamps to be issued three years later.

Congress should not be involved in suggesting subjects, except as private citizens.

"The process was to be developed by the Postal Service, the subjects are to be developed by the Postal Service, approved by the Postal Service, the frequency, the numbers, everything was something to be determined by the Postal Service," Caggiano told CBSNews.com.

However, resolutions introduced in Congress in the past have called for charity stamps for other forms of cancer and AIDS research, domestic violence prevention and rail highway crossing safety. A recent unscientific survey in the Virtual Stamp Club found the greatest support for the World War II monument, a subject supported by former Kansas Republican Senator Bob Dole.

And both Congress and the president carry a big stick when it comes to suggesting stamp subjects. Franklin Roosevelt even drew the design for one issue.

It won't e a vote, and, lest some groups hope to "stuff the ballot box," one person's suggestion will carry as much weight as 10,000, said Caggiano.

U.S. stamp collectors generally do not like the idea of semi-postal stamps, calling it a "tax upon the hobby" since many philatelists strive to obtain a copy of every U.S. stamp for their collections. However, they are popular in some European countries, including Germany and France.

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