Monday, May 11, 2009

CPSIA - Updates!

Sorry for my short absence. Here's the latest:

a. Tomorrow is the scheduled CPSC Tracking Labels meeting. There will be two panels of speakers, one of which includes me. The meeting runs from about 1 PM - 5:30 PM EST and can be viewed online. Interestingly, the vote on the NAM petition to stay the implementation of Section 103 (tracking labels) has been delayed from last Friday until Wednesday after this meeting, supposedly at the request of Commissioner Thomas Moore. This move is quite sensible as it made NO sense to vote on the NAM petition two days before having an open meeting on the topic. That would have really been thumbing the Commission's nose at industry, a very unnecessary slight. Comments were finally made available online at and are hundreds of pages long. There were perhaps 150 comment letters filed, impressing the folks at the CPSC. Let's hope they listen hard tomorrow. The big issue is how long is needed for a stay. My comment letter stated that two years are needed.

b. As if May 12th wouldn't be interesting enough, it is also the day docketed for the Commission decision on the bicycle exemption request. The CPSC staff properly recommended voting the request down because, although no sane person would believe that bicycles are dangerous because of lead, the leaden CPSIA says that if any lead can leak into the human body from a bicycle (i.e., one atom of lead), no exception can be made. Thanks, Congress! Apparently, it would be much better to get in our lead paint-encrusted cars and drive to our destinations, kids. Cap and trade that, Mr. Waxman!

The Commission has no easy out on bikes like they did on ATVs. That is, there is no excuse to legislate this time, never mind that legislating is illegal for an agency of the U.S. government. With that door seemingly closed, we are either about to venture off even further into legal netherworld OR the Commission will ding the bike folks as the Staff recommends. I hope they do ding the bikers, not because I have anything against bikes or the bicycle industry, or even because I don't want the CPSC to continue the new tradition of secret laws (I don't like secret laws, in fact). No, I want them to deny the bike request because this law has to be changed. The worse it gets, the better it gets for opponents of this law. And, with bikes finally outlawed, we ought to have more people available for a march on Congress . . . .

c. The interesting week continues on Thursday when, heavens-to-Betsy, an actual House committee holds hearings on the CPSIA! Yes, at least as of today, the House Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight will hold hearings on Thursday at 10 AM EST. See the Committee's website for more details. Despite my pleas, I have not been invited to appear as a witness. That being said, this is progress. Let's hope for good questioning and thoughtful inquiry.

d. As you all know by now, Mr. Obama has appointed two new Commissioners, Inez Moore Tenenbaum as Chairman and Bob Adler as Commissioner. Ms. Tenenbaum appears to be new to the safety gig and is considered to be a bit of an unknown. Let's hope that her background as a South Carolinian leaves her open to the notion that not all industry objections to the dreaded CPSIA are self-interested and "evil". One can always hope . . . . We need open-minded and curious leadership to help mend fences and restore common sense to safety regulation.

I have previously written about Mr. Adler, reporting on his keynote speech at ICPHSO earlier in February. As you will see, he gave very sensible and even-handed remarks and seems to be open to a dialogue with all parties. I hope his optimistic vision is achievable. I would also note that he is a Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at UNC Business School. This would suggest that his mission in life is not put all of us out of business . . . . I am actually looking forward to having Bob Adler on board at the CPSC. Please don't make me sorry I said that!

The appointment of Tenenbaum and Adler has positive implications for the CPSIA saga. Okay, perhaps I am a giddy optimist. For one thing, I think that everyone (EVERYONE) knows that this law is seriously screwed up. The issue now is how to dig our way out of this mess. [Start by turning the bike petition down, Commission!] The Dems in Congress would rather eat dirt than hand a "victory" over to Republican Nancy Nord by admitting that anything is wrong with their precious law. Thus, no movement can be expected on the law itself while she remains the sheriff in town. That being said, desperate Senators have instructed the CPSC to operate with "common sense", meaning that the CPSC is being given free rein to disregard the law and do as it pleases. Thus, the ATV stay. There are limits to this kind of giddy disregard of law (the Constitution, blah blah blah, oh-what-a-killjoy) and in time, the Commission will define how far they are willing to go to fix things for Congress. The next step in this saga on behalf of Congress (barring some surprise on Thursday at the Small Business subcommittee hearings) is to confirm the two new Commissioners and then in due course, hold a showy hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (Bobby Rush's Subcommittee, actually) where the new Chairman can give her diagnosis of the law's issues, what's working and what's not. This message will shock and amaze the Dems who were previously "unaware" of any problems . . . . They will then set about liberating the agency now that it is in safe Democratic hands again. Will the world be safe for democracy after this? Who knows, but let's hope we can survive long enough to find out.

Btw, for those of you keeping score at home, the two new Commissioners cannot BOTH serve prior to August 14, when authorization of the reduction of the size of the Commission from five to three Commissioners legally expires. Thus, if no one resigns before August, presumably Mr. Adler will have to sit out the fun for a few months while he works on getting his handicap down. The Republicans have another vacancy to fill as well, also to serve after August 14. Each Commissioner gets their own staff, and soaks up perhaps $1 million per annum in funding. Your tax dollars at work!


trinlayk said...

Do you know if the Mr. Urbanski on the panel is the same Mr. Urbanski who works in the RFID and product tracking industry?

I can't catch the whole thing, but I know you will represent us all wisely and well... including us microbusiness running "mommy bloggers". (PROUD to be a "MommyBlogger VS CPSIA")

Catherine Jaime said...

Rick, Thank you again for all your work. I wasn't able to watch all of your portion, but I caught much of it between customers. I couldn't believe they cut you off at the end.

If you can't convince them to fix the mess that's being made with CPSIA, I don't think anyone can! WE got what you were saying, even if the folks there didn't!

Anonymous said...

Rick, you did an outstanding job, and accurately depicted many of the issues that need to be addressed. Let's hope the Commission takes your recommendation -- and the recommendation offered by most of other panelists -- and delays the tracking label requirement so that a reasoned exploration of the many issues can be had. At a minimum, they have 501 pages of comments to wade through. Some of those comments are quite detailed so this will be no easy task.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say Thank You! for all you have done and continue to do to bring the flaws in this law to light.
I, too, would have liked to have seen and heard the last few minutes of your presentation before the commission. Thanks again! Your efforts are much appreciated!