Thursday, February 18, 2010

CPSIA - Waxman's New Amendment Progress Report

In the last couple weeks, Rep. Henry Waxman's staff on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has been approaching Republicans and various stakeholders for feedback for a "bipartisan" approach to fixing the CPSIA. In these discussions, the staff has acknowledged that the law is "flawed" and requires surgery, not just tweaks. An interim (artificial) deadline of this week has been established for comments on their planned amendment. A draft of this amendment has not seen the light of day yet. No one knows what it will say.

While this may sound "good", the Waxman staffers have also attempted to constrain the development of the amendment. For starters, they insist that the amendment be based on the failed Waxman amendment of last December. [Last year's try was covered in several posts in my blog from December 11-16.] They have also drawn quite a few lines in the sand, such as no change to age limits in Children's Products. They favor exemptions for individual product categories or even individual products, a Swiss Cheese approach. [I hate this approach, as does just about everyone else other than the Waxmanites.]

The Waxmanites seem interested in helping out the ATV'rs. Apparently, the legislative logic is that if the amendment caters to the ATV'rs, who have been quite noisy and enjoy wide support among members of Congress, no one will be able to vote against the amendment for political reasons. Thus, the makings of a Democrat victory and the appearance of bipartisanship. I can see it now: "The two parties worked together and fixed the parts of the law that caused unintended consequences. All is well!"

Among the "have-nots" in this approach:
  • "Common Sense". This case-by-case or product-by-product approach means that the Waxmanites refuse to even consider trusting the CPSC to do its job and assess risk for itself. The only people the Waxmanites and consumer groups can trust are . . . are . . . themselves. You won't be able to draw a line between those that are "in" and those that are "out" in any rational way.
  • Rhinestones. On the subject of rhinestones, my understanding is that they are so resolute on keeping these innocent stones in the bill that they would be willing to write rhinestones in explicitly. This is the opposite of case-by-case exclusion - it's a case-by-case INCLUSION.
  • Educational Products. While the Waxmanites say they want to exclude educational products, they can't figure out how to do it since you might use an educational product in your home. Horrors! Again, without a simple notion of what's safe and what's not, how do you expect a sensible rule to emerge from this primordial goo?
  • Bikes. They really want to figure out how to help bikes but can't seem to do it. For this reason, they are chatting about an indoor/outdoor exclusion. In other words, and I am not kidding, they have suggested a rule that if you keep something in your garage, it's "out", and if you keep it indoors, it's "in". So everybody - move all your toys, children's clothing and shoes, furniture, books, pens, appliances and so on into your garage, quick, so you can qualify for this great new exemption! [Try to resist holding a garage sale, though, because that presents special risks under the law!]

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I am happy they are thinking of an amendment, but I am not happy that we still find ourselves adrift without any sense of what's safe and what's not. It is hard to foresee an amendment that does much good with this kind of inflexibility. Bipartisanship promises to be hard to obtain or a sham staged by Democrats for their own benefit.

Remarkably, a hidden issue that may weigh on these proceedings is the growing awareness of paralysis at the CPSC. The agency saw a massive increase in its budget last year, to match its massive new responsibilities, but still finds itself mired in open projects and conflicting priorities. Simple things are taking forever. Agency paralysis cannot be prevented in this environment without a significant paring of CPSIA priorities, something that the Waxmanites have a hard time conceding. And Obama won't give the agency more money, so they're stuck. And we're stuck.

That's not where you want to be.

Something to think about as we go forward:

  1. Principle One: Your silence is deemed to be your approval. Silence = approval. You must swing from the rafters to get their attention, too. No, don't do that - too dangerous.
  2. Principle Two: An unopposed view, particularly a document with footnotes, is considered definitive. After all, if it were wrong, why didn't anyone point it out, with footnotes? This is really how the Waxmanites think.

You need to keep these principles in mind. Your loud involvement can help a lot.

To Be Continued . . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is as if a tile broke on our kitchen floor and instead of fixing the tile, we tore down the house. Now that it is down, we say oops, but have no skills to rebuild it but no matter because it really isn't our house anyway and we are getting tired of those whiners who had worked so hard on building that house in the first place. Off we go to solve our next problem!