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Cost of legislative franking

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Additional sorts of prohibited materials include bumper stickers, magnets, buttons and other similar items; information on or notification of events in which the legislator will participate that will occur on a future date beyond the legislator's current term; statewide nominating and ballot proposal petitions; references to names of or how to contact persons if the purpose is to urge those individuals to take action on an issue; birthday greetings and messages; social media websites that don't relate to the work of the legislature.

Further restrictions are placed on the materials of the mailings. For instance, specific paper stock and ink colors are approved for its use, as well as the types of photos or graphics in a mailing.

Restrictions are also placed on when mailings can be utilized. For instance, in the 2016 election year, between July 2 and August 2, 2016, and between October 8 and November 8, 2016, a maximum of $500 postage will be available in the member's account. This is to provide a sufficient amount to accommodate routine mail, but ensure informative materials aren't used as direct campaigning.

Additionally, from March 22, 2016 (one month prior to the last date for filing nominating petitions for election) through November 8, 2016, the only photos that can be used in the pieces being printed by any print shops are photos of the member pictured alone for whom the printing is being completed, approved stock photos provided to the caucus coordinator or photos that have no people in them.

Because of the strict deadlines and prohibitions on certain promotional materials, savvy legislators tend to send bulk mailings late enough for them to increase name recognition, but within the guideline's deadlines. For instance, in the 39th District, Kesto's largest bulk mailings in 2014 were made on June 23 ($6,328 on postage) and June 30 ($6,669 for postage); with additional mailings in May and September. In the 41st District, Howrylak's largest mailing ($7,007 in postage) was sent on September 29, with additional mailings on Sept. 30 and Sept. 22.

And, despite the apparent value of franking materials to those in office, such mailings are often just as helpful to voters.

"I think it does have some value," Dulio said. "Take it with a grain of salt because it has great benefits for folks come re-election time, but it does provide information on what that individual is doing, in part. I'm sure they talk about the issues they have been championing in relation to the district. Sometimes they provide ways to provide feedback, so it does provide some information and a connection between the Rep and the constituent. Regardless of any political help, that's a good thing. It's helping the Representative be responsive to their constituents."

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