Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CPSIA - Workshop on the Public Database Jan. 11/12

The CPSC has scheduled another two day workshop in January, this time for the dreaded and much-feared public database. This workshop comes on the heels of a lightly-attended hearing on the same subject held November 10 at CPSC headquarters. [You can watch the hearing at this link.] I testified at this hearing, one of two companies to participate (there were also a few trade associations presenters and the usual assortment of highly-motivated consumer "advocates"). There has been no response by the agency to this information-gathering exercise other than to schedule the workshop.

No never mind, they really want to hear from us. According to a blanket email I received from Scott Wolfson, "Education and advocacy are at the center of our priorities, which means strengthening partnerships with community leaders like you . . . . We hope for significant participation and we greatly value your input." Wow, I am touched.

Of course, it is nice that the agency is attempting to show an interest in dialogue and exchange of views with stakeholders. I certainly appreciate being afforded the opportunity to speak at these events. However, I find this particular workshop opportunity somewhat grating. Here are a few reasons why I am so easily annoyed:

a. I testified at the November 10th hearing at the request of the Commission. I was not planning to attend the hearing, as I have made many trips to Washington in the last year - all at company expense and at the sacrifice of my "regular" job. The CPSC staff made it clear that they not only wanted me to attend, but that I should present. This may have been particularly important because as of the beginning of the week of the hearing, there were only two people committed to speaking (including me). Okay, so I go to Washington, study up on the issue, write a little speech, and try to keep it short. They have a strict time limit, you see. This wasn't always a problem. At my first hearing (lead panel, Nov. 6, 2008), my speech was impromptu and they let me speak for 23 minutes (other speeches were longer). That flexibility is a mere memory now, as I learned at the tracking labels hearing (May 12) when I was cut off at the ten minute mark. And, drat, at the public database hearing, I again ran a bit over. Even with hardly anyone in the room, the time limit police stopped me at ten minutes, mid-sentence.

So I find it irritating that they asked to fly in to tell them my thoughts in November, but limited me to ten minutes, and now they want me to pony up for more flight and travel expenses, so they can . . . what, cut me off again?

b. I would take this process a bit more seriously if they gave ANY sign of listening at the last workshop. Why so cynical, Rick? Well, wasn't it this Commission who moved to act on the testing stay only three business days after we attended the LAST workshop (December 10/11, on the so-called "15 Month Rule")? There was no time to process the testimony at the 15 Month Rule workshop before the stay decision was made (those three days were devoted to complete chaos, courtesy of Henry Waxman and his unilateral amendment of the CPSIA). The fact that the agency spent two days intensively gathering information from 250 stakeholders on the impact of the 15 Month Rule and then the Commission almost immediately disregarded it in one of their most important decisions of the year made me feel the workshop was a SHAM. And if that one was a sham, this one promises to be an even greater sham. Since the last hearing has apparently generated no work product or further dialogue and since it was so lightly attended, the January workshop appears to be entirely for show.

I can talk to myself at home for free.

c. Finally, does the CPSC think drafting implementing rules for the CPSIA is some sort of hobby for the business community - or is it a plot to make the conduct of regulated business impossible? Do they really think any ordinary business can sacrifice its leadership to monthly trips to Washington to blather on to regulators who are only slightly interested in what they have to say? [Let's not forget about the CPSC's pet organization, ICPHSO, which bookended meetings in late October 2009 and mid-February 2010. ICPHSO meetings are essentially unofficial CPSC workshops/hearings.] Who can afford this financially, as a matter of priorities or allocation of scarce corporate resources? It seems obvious to me that the more frequently the CPSC holds these meetings, the fewer participants they will garner. The scheduling of meetings and hearings every month by the CSPC seems naive and sinister at the same time.

I won't be there.

All Roads Lead to Rome, as the old saying goes. Why the nuttiness here? I have the usual explanation:
  • an irrational, over-reaching law is impossible to implement sensibly;
  • the regulatory agency is left with no discretion under the new law and has no power to alter the ridiculous, irresponsible or impossible language of the statute;
  • Congress won't listen and would prefer that the CPSC make the problem go away, perhaps even at the expense of breaking the law Congress passed;
  • The agency gamely tries its best to carry on, with increasing chaos and market damage inflicted; and
  • Businesses (particularly small businesses) are the big losers, with the agency itself a close second.

So we have another two-day session to help the CPSIA create an over-arching database that will likely harm American businesses, create liability storms, eliminate jobs (except at plaintiff law firms and at consumer groups) and generally fail at whatever starry-eyed objective underlay its conception. A good time for all, no doubt.

Let me know how it goes.

3 comments:

jennifer said...

Good for you Rick...honestly I don't know any other small business owner who has spent more time, energy and money on trying to help reform this law and help the CPSC. Way above and beyond the call of duty. I know personally it has opened my eyes to how bad the corruption in DC really is.

If the CPSC isn't hearing from people it is because they are busy running their companies, it isn't because things are a-okay with complying with the law.

I was amazed by some of the things that I saw in these hearings of just how out of touch all these people in DC are. A small business owner asked a question about who to call if she has a question and the person at the CPSC responded to contact your attorney...who on earth needs to travel to DC to get that type of advice?

Esther said...

I don't blame you. Until the law is changed by Congress, testifying at these hearings is and will be an exercise in futility. The 2010 elections can't come fast enough IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I think they really do. If we don't all fly there and protest we must not be interested. All is fine.

"Finally, does the CPSC think drafting implementing rules for the CPSIA is some sort of hobby for the business community - or is it a plot to make the conduct of regulated business impossible? Do they really think any ordinary business can sacrifice its leadership to monthly trips to Washington to blather on to regulators who are only slightly interested in what they have to say?"