Congress Continues to Work Toward New Consumer Safety Bill

Congress is moving a bit closer to passing one of the most sweeping <"">consumer bills in history; however, some controversial obstacles remain.  Nearly one dozen Senators and Representatives who are working on the differences between the Senate and House versions of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Reform Act, agreed on the following nine more provisions in the legislation.  Briefly:

1. Export of recalled and non-conforming products, enables the CPSC to prohibit a U.S. entity from exporting a product out of compliance with CPSC rules unless the importing country has previously notified the Commission of its permission.

2. Import safety management and interagency cooperation requires the CPSC to develop a plan to identify shipments of consumer products for import into the U.S.

3. Substantial product hazard list and destruction of noncompliant imported products.

4. Financial responsibility allows the CPSC to recommend to Customs and Border Protection a bond amount to cover certain costs.

5. Inspector general audits and reports tasks the Inspector General with conducting reviews and audits to assess the CPSC capital improvement efforts; barriers to oversight and compliance;  and reports of waste, fraud, and abuse.

6. Lead bans in products manufactured for children age 12 or younger.

7. Enforcement by State Attorneys General which provides authority for State Attorneys General to enforce consumer product safety laws and remove dangerous products from shelves.

8. Establishment of a public consumer product safety database.

9. Public disclosure of information.

Consumer advocates, industry lobbyists, Senators, and Representatives are still unable to agree on phthatlate restrictions, mandatory ASTM toy testing standards, preemption, whistleblower protection, mandatory All-Terrain Vehicle standards, and product-specific standards.  The conferees also voted on an amendment to allow CPSC to ban importers and local manufacturers from the marketplace for repeat offenses.   The Senators unanimously voted in favor while the Representatives unanimously voted against the amendment.  The Senate bill has always been stronger in terms of consumer protection; the lacking House bill passed unanimously and was more concerned with receiving g bi-partisan approval.   Senator Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota) promised the issue would be raised again in the Senate.

In the first conference on June 25, conferees voted and agreed on 21 noncontroversial items.  Senator Inouye (Democrat-Hawaii), who co-chairs the conference with John D. Dingell, Junior (Democrat-Michigan), said the next meeting will likely be scheduled next week for Tuesday, July 22.  The conferees have repeatedly said that they are hoping that the legislation passes in time for the August recess, which begins in just about two weeks.

It is unknown whether or not President Bush will sign the impending bill into law.  Although the president has not threatened a veto, a memo from the White House indicates that Bush disagrees with many of the more aggressive clauses and has been largely apposed to any regulatory legislation that contains no preemption clause.  Also, many Democrat conferees want rules similar to the EU phthatlate restrictions ban included in the legislation, some Republicans, especially Texas Representative Joe Barton, feel fears are overstated.  Barton may also stand in the way of the legislation.

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