Posts Tagged ‘CPSIA and Congress’

Recalling Sen. Mark Pryor’s role in CPSIA

Readers who followed Overlawyered in 2009-10 will recall that the closest this site has ever come to a crusade was in covering the truly horrible Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, enacted after a media-fed tainted-toy panic, a law that needlessly drove out of business many small retailers and manufacturers of children’s goods posing no hazard whatsoever to consumers. Some will further recall that the chief Senate handler of the legislation was Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), who cut a poor figure throughout as both ill-informed and dismissive about the side effects his own legislation was having.

Now Sen. Pryor is locked in a tight race for re-election with challenger Rep. Tom Cotton, and a group called the Arkansas Project has been reminding readers of Pryor’s record on CPSIA, digging up many new details in an August series written by Washington, D.C.-area policy analyst Marc Kilmer (who generously credits Overlawyered coverage as a source throughout). Most of the series can be found at this tag or via search. Here is a guide to individual installments in the series, supplemented by links to further coverage from our archives:

Arkansas voters — and everyone who wants to learn how a Congress can fail spectacularly at its legislative responsibilities — should read this series in full.

May 27 roundup

  • Prospects dicey at best for CPSIA reform as Waxman, Dems toe consumer-group line [Woldenberg, more, Nord, Northup] If AAP is going to posit 49,000 poisonings from lead in recalled jewelry, shouldn’t it try to document a couple of them? [Woldenberg] Credit at least to House Commerce Committee majority for trying to tackle mess with this law [Mangu-Ward, ShopFloor, AtC]
  • “Lawsuit claims Jay-Z’s ‘Big Pimpin’ violates Egyptian ‘moral rights'” [DBR]
  • My Cato Institute colleague Gene Healy reviews new Eric Posner/Adrian Vermeule book on executive power [AmCon]
  • Subpoena filed by class-action lawyer Stephen Tillery demands contributor list of Chicago-based think tank critical of litigation [Madison County Record] Judge quashes subpoena as chilling of First Amendment liberties [same]
  • Suits filed by its own officers, often those accused of misconduct, have cost LAPD $18 million since 2005 [L.A. Times via Dave Krueger, Agitator]
  • “Do Menthol Cigarettes Taste Too Good to Be Legal?” [Sullum, earlier]
  • “Motion Claims Buxom Woman with Opposing Counsel Is Intended as Jury Distraction” [ABA Journal] More: Ken at Popehat, Lowering The Bar, Above the Law.

CPSIA: “Toymakers Would Get Relief Under Republican Plan”

Reform efforts are finally afoot in the House of Representatives, at least two years after they should have started, but a three-member majority of the CPSC (two Obama appointees and a holdover) is defending the law on many though not all of its worst points. [Bloomberg, HuffPo] “This is by far the best bill we’ve seen to date,” declares the Handmade Toy Alliance. Tireless CPSIA critic Rick Woldenberg testified with other witnesses at a House Commerce hearing and contributes an op-ed to The Hill about the law’s irrationality. More coverage: Carter Wood/ShopFloor, Sean Wajert. And a memo by committee staff discussing some of the key issues is here (PDF).

House hearing on CPSIA Thursday

Speaker line-up via Rick Woldenberg; opening statements by Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.); ABC News coverage; Republicans reportedly preparing legislation that would amend, but not repeal, the ill-conceived statute; a move to strip funding for the controversial product database.

A separate piece of legislation may address the law’s devastating effects on the sale of youth motorcycles, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles:

“The original legislation Congress passed was meant to keep kids safe from lead content in toys,” said Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), who comes from a state where smaller recreational vehicles are popular. “Ironically, the overreaching enforcement wound up putting kids at risk by forcing them to use larger more dangerous machines that are intended only for adults.”

Rehberg’s “Kids Just Want to Ride” Act, which he introduced last month, has 41 co-sponsors, including seven Democrats. A similar bill in the last Congress garnered 70 co-sponsors, including 24 Democrats.

CPSIA: the new consumer-complaint database

A 3-2 vote at the Consumer Product Safety Commission last week ensures that the federal government will put its imprimatur behind allegations about supposed hazards in consumer products — whether true or not. I explain in a new post at Cato at Liberty.

P.S. Kelly Young comments: “I wonder if they’d be willing to maintain a public database of complaints against federal employees?” More: Coyote (comparing relative sophistication of Amazon, TripAdvisor consumer ratings systems with primitive nature of CPSC’s); letter from Rep. Joe Barton, PDF; Washington Post; ACSH.

“The law that stole Christmas”

KiteWoodcutA nonprofit in suburban Chicago each year encourages its woodworker members “to craft and donate wooden Christmas toys to less fortunate children.” After donating upwards of 700 toys a year in the past, it will have to discontinue the program in future since it can’t afford the third-party testing required under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, sponsored by area members of Congress Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “Woodworking hobby magazines have pegged prices for third-party testing as high as $30,000 for 80 items.” Testing is particularly impractical for items made from donated/recycled wood, since each donated wood source needs to be put through separate testing. Another triumph for CPSIA! [Jenette Sturges, Sun-Times/Beacon-News]

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGE from John Bate’s 1635 book, The Mysteryes of Nature and Art, Wikimedia Commons.

CPSIA, business anger and the election

The Wall Street Journal had a report Tuesday on newly mobilized sentiment among businesspeople intent on challenging the rapid ongoing expansion of federal governance and regulation. It profiles Rick Woldenberg, well known to readers of this site as a tireless agitator against the insanities of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act AnimalsBall1c(CPSIA) of 2008. Woldenberg had been an Obama voter and basically apathetic about politics until the CPSIA debacle unfolded, putting at risk his medium-sized educational products company and many other makers and sellers of basically harmless products for kids. The indifference of the federal establishment to the resulting distress in the business community — and in particular the deaf ear turned by such lawmakers as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) — propelled Woldenberg into legislative activism ( and then politics, where he has backed Joel Pollak in an unusually strong challenge to Rep. Schakowsky in her Chicago-area district.

On CPSIA’s tendency to ban rocks used for study in Earth Science classes, see our earlier post. More: ShopFloor.

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGE from Elise Bake, Der Ball Der Tiere (“The Animals’ Ball”, German, 1891), courtesy

An Oregon crafter on CPSIA

You might be bitter too:

I called the lab, got the quote and did the math. CPSIA-mandated testing costs for my little product line was over $27,000 for just over $30,000 worth of product. I cannot express the horrible feeling I had when I realized that I had made a mistake that was going to cost my family all of our money. …

I blame every one of the Energy and Commerce legislative staffers.

— Jolie Fay, crafter,, guest post,


PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGE from Ethel Everett, illustrator, Nursery Rhymes (1900), courtesy

CPSIA: hearing set for tomorrow on proposed legislative fix

Readers of this site will recall that as reports rolled in last year of the calamitous effects of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the Congressional leadership, and in particular key lawmaker Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) steadfastly refused to hold hearings or in general acknowledge that the law was causing systematic ill effects of any sort. As resale outlets across the nation swept harmless winter coats from their shelves or stopped dealing in kids’ goods entirely; BadMrsGinger1bas librarians warned that whole collections of pre-1985 books would need to be either put through prohibitively expensive testing or simply discarded; as makers, importers and sellers of perfectly harmless apparel, school supplies, furniture, musical instruments and other children’s items puzzled over ruinously high testing costs and bans on common materials like brass; as smaller, craft-oriented producers began folding, leaving the market to be served by the largest mass-production toymakers and retailers (many of which had supported the legislation); as the kids’ motor vehicle industry, including makers and sellers of dirtbikes and mini-ATVs, found itself transformed overnight into outlaws; even as all this unfolded, Henry Waxman and his counterparts on the Senate side kept the lid clamped down tight on any Capitol Hill airing of such woes. Eventually Waxman held a hearing with exactly one (1) witness, Obama-appointed CPSC chairperson Inez Tenenbaum, who sought to put the best face on the law. (After a false start, a House small business committee lacking actual legislative jurisdiction was also allowed to hold a more varied hearing.)

In recent months, without of course admitting any error whatsoever, representatives of Waxman’s office have been quietly floating amendments intended to correct some of CPSIA’s most blatantly impractical elements. The fixes would be likely to help in some specific areas where opposition has been vocal and influential, BadMrsGinger2bsuch as children’s books and mini-vehicles, while affording much less relief, or none at all, to many others trying to cope with the law. At the same time, Waxman’s staff has been demanding that “business” (conceived as if it were some monolithic group) gratefully sign off on the fix as acceptable and perhaps even accept new provisions that would increase CPSIA burdens. While many affected groups are understandably eager to reach a deal, others, such as persistent critic and businessman-blogger Rick Woldenberg, are reluctant to sign off on obviously partial and inadequate fixes as if were going to solve the wider problems with the law.

The fixer amendment has gone through several iterations; its current draft is here (PDF), named the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, or CPSEA (more background from the committee, PDF, via ShopFloor). Now, at long last, Waxman has agreed to hold a hearing tomorrow (to be chaired by his colleague Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.). The witness list includes persons from Goodwill Industries, the National Association of Manufacturers, Handmade Toy Alliance, and the Motorcycle Industry Council — all of which groups have apparently agreed to support the legislation — as well as Rick Woldenberg of Learning Resources Inc., who continues as a critic, and Steve Levy of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. Of course the difference now, and the reason some of these groups at long last will get their chance to testify, is that they have agreed to testify at least nominally on Waxman’s and Rush’s side — perhaps in some cases while biting their tongues.

We’ll be reporting more in days to come. In the mean time, this would make a good occasion for news organizations to renew their attention to the public policy disaster that CPSIA has wrought.

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES from Honor C. Appleton, The Bad Mrs. Ginger (Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1902), courtesy