Consumer Product Safety Commission poised to gain flexibility

A last-minute bipartisan compromise enabled Congress on the eve of a recess to provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission with greater discretion in how it regulates manufacturers.

The bill (H.R. 2715), which cleared the House and Senate on Monday and was sent to President Obama for signing, would amend some procedures set out in the controversial 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act without relaxing major health precautions.

In the standards regulating toys, bicycles and all-terrain vehicles, for example, it would apply an exceedingly low lead content requirement of only 100 parts per million as of Aug. 14, but the new rule would apply prospectively rather than retroactively. This would allow existing inventories to be brought to market by primary retailers as well as secondhand sellers.

"The CPSC chairwoman and the commissioners were unanimous in supporting this congressional help for businesses," Scott Wolfson, spokesman for the CPSC, told Government Executive.

As the advocacy group OMBWatch noted, Congress enacted the 2008 product safety law after the recall of millions of toys and products, "but the legislation proved problematic. The CPSC has struggled to implement the [act], and members on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged its unintended shortcomings."

The law was defended by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a recent floor statement: "The Consumer Product Safety Commission, after years of atrophy due to budget cuts and neglect, has been reinvigorated and become proactive, rather than reactive," he said. "As a result, we've seen a decline in the number of children's products that have to be pulled from homes and store shelves. The agency is intercepting more dangerous products at the border."

But Waxman acknowledged the law "has some rough edges that need to be smoothed out. For example, there are some products that require a small amount of lead to maintain their strength and durability and don't pose a serious threat to public health or safety."

He worked out a compromise with, among others, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., who had been hearing complaints from industry groups that the 2008 law was difficult to interpret and was costing jobs.

The National Association of Manufacturers, for example, in a statement issued earlier, said the law's "overly broad reach harms consumers, manufacturers and importers alike by applying the same criteria to a wide range of products, regardless of their intended use . . . By the CPSC's own account, implementing the CPSIA has overwhelmed the agency and jeopardized its ability to meet critical safety priorities."

Mack on Monday lauded passage of the bill, saying, "Today, we are striking a very careful balance. As a nation, we simply cannot afford to lose jobs or stifle innovation because of questionable regulations. But we also have an obligation to make certain that our children's toys remain safe. This bill is a win for everyone."

Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, was equally enthusiastic. "We appreciate that this bipartisan legislation protects children's health and safety while taking measured steps to address some of the claims raised by industry," she said. "This bill preserves the independent safety testing of toys and other children's products, and it maintains a robust database for people to report and find out about safety hazards. This bill preserves the core of the CPSIA, the 2008 law that was a significant victory for consumers. It provides more clarity for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to do its job."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.