Thursday, March 31, 2011

CPSIA - The Senate Wants to Save ATVs . . . What about the Rest of Us???

Yesterday Senators Klobuchar and Tester offered an amendment to S. 493, a moving bill to reauthorize the small business administration ("SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011").  This amendment is intended to exempt ATVs, dirt bikes, motocross and snowmobiles ("All-terrain vehicles") from the lead restrictions of the CPSIA.  To my knowledge, this amendment has not been voted on yet.  The text of their amendment reads as follows:

SA 259. Ms. KLOBUCHAR (for herself and Mr. TESTER) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by her to the bill S. 493, to reauthorize and improve the SBIR and STTR programs, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

On page 116, after line 24, add the following:


(a) Exemption.--Section 101(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (15 U.S.C. 1278a(b)) is amended-- (1) by redesignating paragraph (5) as paragraph (6); and (2) by inserting after paragraph (4) the following:


(A) IN GENERAL.--Subsection (a) shall not apply to an off-highway vehicle.
(B) OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE DEFINED.--For purposes of this section, the term `off-highway vehicle'-- (i) means any motorized vehicle--(I) that is manufactured primarily for use off of public streets, roads, and highways; (II) designed to travel on 2 or 4 wheels; and (III) having either -- (aa) a seat designed to be straddled by the operator and handlebars for steering control; or (bb) a nonstraddle seat, steering wheel, seat belts, and roll-over protective structure; and (ii) includes a snowmobile.

(b) Additional Amendment.--Such section is further amended in paragraph (1)(A) by striking ``any''.

This is pretty stunning, really.  Did you notice that they are "fixing" the CPSIA by making two changes (one surmises that they think these are the only needed fixes), exempting All-terrain Vehicles from the law, and ALSO knocking out the word "any" from the lead exemption process.  If their amendment were to become law, the CPSIA Section 101(b)(1)(A) lead exemption would read as follows:

"The Commission may, by regulation, exclude a specific product or material from the prohibition in subsection (a) if the Commission, after notice and a hearing, determines on the basis of the best-available, objective, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence that lead in such product or material will neither— (A) result in the absorption of any lead into the human body, taking into account normal and reasonably foreseeable use and abuse of such product by a child, including swallowing, mouthing, breaking, or other children’s activities, and the aging of the product . . . ."

I must be stupid, but in this context, I don't think anything is achieved by deleting "any" (assuming "plain English" is the language of choice for legislative interpretation).  The word "any" is implied in "the absorption of lead into the human body", at least I think it is.  This is the kind of legislative change I am used to from the Dems in the last three years, a change that brings no relief whatsoever.  After all, they are plainly deaf.

Perhaps more interesting is why they chose to make these changes now.  I have long asserted that ATVs have no business being regulated under the CPSIA.  Klobuchar was a prime mover for the CPSIA but apparently found out later that her state of Minnesota is deeply affected by this awful law because of the ATV ban.  Oops!  Minnesota is home to several large manufacturers of these products.  Jobs, jobs, jobs are the key nowadays, especially if you are running for reelection.  Oh no, did I say that?  How cynical of me!  Tester is also running for reelection - last time, he won by by 3,662 votes.

There must be some reason why Klobuchar and Tester think legislation relieving these industries from the burden of regulation.  Since I know the Senators are ALL ABOUT safety, I can only conclude that they figured out that these products are already safe.  Aha.  I wonder how they made this determination.  Perhaps they took note of the fact that lead in these products has never injured any children EVER.  That fact suggests that it is wasteful to regulate the presence of lead in these products - it would not make anyone safer.  Even if there were one or two injuries, wouldn't the argument be the same?  After all, we are a country of 300 million, with 50 million-plus kids in the age range enveloped by the CPSIA.  A tiny handful of injuries over a decade of use by perhaps 75-80 million children passing through the age range would hardly justify the billions in expense and disruption caused by the CPSIA. Good thinking, Senators!

Have I ever mentioned that the CPSC cites one death and three unverified injuries from lead over an 11-year period from 1999-2010?  Hmmm.

If THAT'S the standard now, then I think Senators Klobuchar and Tester should expand their amendment to exempt ALL other products classes and components that have the same safety profile.  Rhinestones?  T-shirts and shoes?  Educational products?  Rocks and fossils?  Books?  Pens?  Musical instruments?  CDs and DVDs?  Steel and other metal parts? 

Isn't this proposed amendment just what we have always wanted - a concession by zealot Democrats that the law makes no sense and needs to be sharply revised?  If they are rational legislators (that's a big "if"), let them tell us WHY it makes sense to NOT regulate All-terrain Vehicles and STILL regulate everything else for lead in children's products.

Senators Klobuchar and Tester, you owe us an explanation!  This regulatory torture has gone on for three years, not in small part because of your unwillingness to do the right thing.  Now that you are sufficiently motivated to propose giving a pass to certain favored products and industries, you must tell the Electorate why this is GOOD LAW and why the rest of us deserve to stay in Purgatory.

'Fess up - we've had enough!

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