Not long ago the U.S. Senate refused to accept an amendment to the stimulus bill by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) that would have reformed some CPSIA provisions and delayed the implementation of others. Last night it rejected a similar DeMint effort in the form of a budget amendment, and this time there was a roll call, which confirmed that the rejection was largely along party lines: every Democrat voted against the measure except for Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), and Ben Nelson (Neb.), while every Republican voted in favor except Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Tex.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Mel Martinez (Fla.), and John McCain (Ariz.). Independent Bernie Sanders (Vt.) voted against, while Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) did not vote.
Following Wednesday’s rally on Capitol Hill, small business people who fanned out to visit their Senators brought back many encouraging-sounding stories of the favorable “We hear you!” “We get it!” reactions they had received visiting the offices of Democratic Senators like Roland Burris (Ill.), Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), and Charles Schumer (N.Y.). Whether or not anyone in those offices hears or gets the outcry, it sounds as if the members even more clearly hear and get a different message: that of party discipline.
Kimberly Payne feels oddly hopeful: “The original vote on the CPSIA was nearly unanimous – this one was 39-58. I call that progress!”
The WSJ editorializes on the law again today, its third, concentrating this time on the youth motorcycle/ATV ban. More: Montana senators fiddle while small businesses perish (Mark Riffey, Flathead Beacon); the rally and the Democrats (Rick Woldenberg).
Public domain image: Yankee Mother Goose (1902), illustrator Ella S. Brison, courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.
- We all know that politicians’ sententious pronouncements about the needs of the poor often ring hollow. But are our elected officials truly unaware of the role thrift shops play in the lives of those trying to raise families with no margin of financial safety? Valerie Jacobsen and Deputy Headmistress have both blogged movingly on the subject, and the latter is back today with a must-read post recalling the morning when her own family unexpectedly expanded through adoption overnight from three children to five:
We had no clothes for them, no beds, no presents; nothing was in readiness for them, except our hearts (and even those needed some sprucing up). They came on a Friday. We went shopping on a Saturday. Where did we go shopping? Thrift shops, of course. We had an immediate and urgent need for clothing, toys, and bedding for two new children, and we lived on an enlisted man’s salary. It was only two weeks before Christmas. The thrift shop enabled us to fill the gap between our income and our needs.
Now families that rely on thrift stores are in trouble from coast to coast: Salem and Marblehead, Mass. (“Throwing away perfectly good clothing”); Nantucket, Mass. (imagine being a landscaper or laundry person trying to raise a kid on that expensive island); Herkimer, N.Y. (“new motto, ‘When in doubt, throw it out'”); Beaver County, Pa.; Imperial, Neb.; Denver, Colo.; San Luis Obispo, Calif. (“I say, ‘Just try to pass the toys down through your family or give them to friends,’”); The Garden Island (Kauai, Hawaii)(via CLC and CPSIA). Some background from NARTS (National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops), which is doing a CPSIA Impact Survey of its members.
- The Wall Street Journal editorializes about the law again today, aiming its main attack at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who “won’t admit a mistake and fix the law“.
- Quite the video on the minibike ban, with youth road racing champion Josh Serne, at AmendTheCPSIA.com. Amateur MX has photos from the Malcolm Smith rally. More powersports coverage: Rochester area, N.Y.; Albany/Hudson Valley, N.Y.; McHenry County, Ill.; Associated Press.
- James Leroy Wilson at DownsizeDC: “What is Congress doing about it? Canceling hearings.” And Amy Ridenour, National Center: “Outrage of the Day: Waxman Drags Feet on Needed CPSIA Reform”.
- “It’s on the books, and that’s the problem for libraries across North Texas,” reported Dallas’s CBS 11 earlier this month (via Rick Woldenberg). Per Fox Albany, the Albany Public Library and the library in suburban Guilderland each estimate that they would have to discard around 10,000 older children’s books if an exemption is not made available. Guilderland library director Barbara Nichols Randall says her institution on average weeds out about 1,600 books a year on average currently, which of course does not mean that they exclusively target the oldest books for weeding. Albany library director Timothy Burke foresees the results at his library as “10,000 fewer books for kids to use”.
- Carter Wood at ShopFloor thinks what’s happening with vintage books is reenacting the story of the Velveteen Rabbit:
And so the little Rabbit was put into a sack with the old picture-books and a lot of rubbish, and carried out to the end of the garden behind the fowl-house. That was a fine place to make a bonfire, only the gardener was too busy just then to attend to it. He had the potatoes to dig and the green peas to gather, but next morning he promised to come quite early and burn the whole lot.
- Candy Corn Studios makes an important point: “Children have access to dozens of small items that were never intended for children.” If grandpa takes the kids out fishing, there’s no law (yet) forcing him to keep the lead sinkers in his tackle kit under lock and key. Meanwhile, purely notional risks that have never been linked to any real-world instances of poisoning are used as the excuse for turning real people’s lives compulsorily upside down.
- Attorneys Michael B. Goldsmith and Jay L. Silverberg of Sills Cummis: “No legislation in recent memory has engendered more confusion and consternation than the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008… There continues to be tremendous disruption, confusion and concern in a variety of industries affected by the CPSIA.” Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a long-time non-favorite at this site, thinks the main problem with the law is that it’s not being enforced enthusiastically enough.
- And don’t forget the rally in Washington Wednesday (buttons and banners, list of rally speakers, including many familiar from this space).
Carter Wood at ShopFloor has a very useful compilation of what are probably all the current bills introduced in Congress related to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. (More, of course, may follow as the crisis continues.) Of the 10 bills, one is an omnibus appropriation bill, while the other nine (six in the House, three in the Senate) all appear from their descriptions to be aimed at reforming the substance of the law, its timetables and deadlines, or both.
Significantly, there was introduced this week the first bill with a Democratic (i.e. majority) sponsor, a bill by Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester to overturn the dirtbike ban.
The three bills in the Senate are S. 608, the Tester bill on motorcycles and related vehicles; S. 374, the much-discussed bill by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) that would have injected common sense into several areas of the law, and which Congress (under pressure from Public Citizen and others) refused to incorporate into the stimulus package; and S. 389, a bill introduced by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) “to establish a conditional stay of the ban on lead in children’s products, and for other purposes.”
The six bills in the House are H.R. 1510 and H.R. 1587, introduced by Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), both relating to cycles/vehicles; H.R. 968, by John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and H.R. 1465, by Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), both of which are described as providing “regulatory relief to small and family-owned businesses”; H.R. 1046, by Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), to “ensure the effective implementation of children’s product safety standards under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008″, and H.R. 1027, by Bill Posey (R-Fla.), to “exempt second-hand sellers of certain products from the lead content and certification requirements”.
CORRECTION: I erroneously listed Indiana Congressman Brad Ellsworth above as a Republican, but he is a Democrat; fixed now.
A season of activism has begun:
- Today’s the day (4 PM Pacific time) that motorbiking legend Malcolm Smith intends to publicly break the law by selling youth motorcycles and ATV at his store in Riverside, Calif. in defiance of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Smith starred with Steve McQueen in the 1970s documentary On Any Sunday, which did much to popularize motorcycle sports. More details at KidsLove2Ride.com:
As a sign of support, a group of small business people and high-profile motorcycle industry celebrities, including racers Jeff Ward and Jeremy McGrath, Glen Helen Raceway owner Bud Feldkamp, and motorsport design guru Troy Lee have all agreed to be on hand to purchase banned units for use by their own children and grandchildren.
No word on whether Public Citizen, or perhaps some on the staff of California CPSIA sponsors/defenders Rep. Henry Waxman, Sen. Barbara Boxer or Sen. Dianne Feinstein, will show up to perform a citizen’s arrest. More from Rob Wilson (“A year ago I would have been shy about supporting ‘illegal’ activities”), Pashnit Motorcycle Forums (“A stupid law that must be defied”), Motorcycle.com, Motorcycle USA, Cycle News, Racer X, Eastern Dirt (Smith has had so many offers of support that he changed the time of the protest to the afternoon so that more could attend).
Advance press notice has already been strong: Daniel McDermon, New York Times “Wheels” blog; USA Today (CPSC has gotten as many as 5,000 emails, letters and calls in one day protesting the ban); Riverside Press-Enterprise. Earlier here.
- Meanwhile, affected crafters, small business people and dealers are making plans to attend the Washington, D.C. fly-in rally, public hearing and CPSIA outreach events in Washington, D.C. April 1. A new website is up on the event titled AmendtheCPSIA.com (not “Repeal”?) and Rick Woldenburg has many updated details at his site. More: David Foster, Chicago Boyz.
Coming up April 1, but not a joke: Since Henry Waxman and other CPSIA defenders on Capitol Hill are still stonewalling demands for hearings on the law’s catastrophic effects, some citizen-activists are preparing an alternative event for the nation’s capital in which persons from many affected constituencies will have a chance to tell their stories; there may also be “rally” activities, as well as events in other states for those who find it more convenient to protest there. Rick Woldenberg has details. (Update: rally now has its own site, AmendTheCpsia.com; Facebook event page]
In the powersports world, DealerNews reports that on March 19 — that’s this coming Thursday — “California motorcycle dealer and industry icon Malcolm Smith says he plans to sell kid’s ATVs and motorcycles to consumers” in defiance of the law. No word yet on whether or not PIRG or Public Citizen will try to have him arrested, but the penalties for willful violation of the law include five-year prison sentences as well as prohibitive fines. (More: Read Deputy Headmistress to learn more about Malcolm Smith and the history of kids’ dirtbiking and BMX (bicycle motocross) — Steve McQueen figures in it — as well as Sen. Klobuchar’s defense of the law)
Finally, those doing CPSIA activism may be interested in the colorful word-cloud poster/graphic that Whimsical Walney did up the other day.
Losses are mounting and anger rising in the world of youth minibikes and powersports, where CPSIA has kept an entire industry shut down for more than a month now, as dealers sit on $100-million-plus inventories now rendered unlawful to sell. On Sunday the Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a substantial piece on the CPSIA debacle which focused on motorsports (while also mentioning in passing such disaster areas as thrift stores and kids’ books). The rising outcry is putting Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the hot seat: after taking a prominent role as co-sponsor of the law, she now blames the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the way it’s working out in practice. Aside from the general popularity of kids’ motorsports in Minnesota, ATV manufacturer Polaris, whose Outlaw 50 model was suddenly banned, is headquartered in that state.
On Wednesday the CPSC confirmed that (per its lawyers’ advice) it was turning down an exemption for youth power vehicles, in that it could not certify what the law requires it to certify, namely that keeping them legal would not result in “any” absorption of lead by a person under 12, ever, or any other risk to public safety or health. Cycle News delves into the details here (with a funny picture) and here. Ryan Leyba at ESPN/FMX also surveys the situation in Congress — where they’re refusing to do anything and, like Klobuchar, blaming the CPSC’s lawyers — and quotes one dealer:
“Business was already slow, and now we’re just dead,” says Gus Saba, general manager of Corona Motorsports in Corona, California. “A lot of people want to get back into the sport [ATVs or dirtbikes] with their kids, and if they can’t buy a bike for their kid, they might not buy one for themselves, either. It’s a mess. We can’t order parts, we can’t service anything. We don’t know what’s going to happen; no one can put a timetable on it.”
Missouri is another state where the minibike community has been hard at work organizing, and the Associated Press, which in general has been a poor place to turn for news on CPSIA, covered the resulting rally in Jefferson City, in an article that got good national pickup. The Missouri House of Representatives has passed a resolution of support. And 2WheelTuesday offers “Stories of a Motocross Generation“: first-person responses to the ban.
Some miscellaneous CPSIA reading: Rick Woldenberg is introducing “our fabulous new Future World Collection of exciting educational materials for the post-CPSIA world. Our products will be lead-free and phthalates-free and in the case of most products, entirely play value-free.” The tongue-in-cheek “catalogue” can be seen here (PDF). At Politico, conservative columnist Hugh Hewitt blasts Congress for its inaction. The Hill covers the Washington wrangling. Punditry by the Pint says “it’s time to repeal this law.” And Scott Greenfield writes, “The Real Risk is the Loss of Childhood Happiness“.
This morning I was a guest on Cleveland’s WMJI radio with popular morning hosts Lanigan and Malone. They’d heard through a listener about the kids’ motorbike ban, and we also discussed ballpoint pens and pre-1985 kids’ books, as well as the question of whether anyone in Congress reads the bills they pass.
Reading from the weekend:
- At the American Spectator, Quin Hillyer says his co-thinkers “need to really get up in arms about” changing the law, and has kind words for a certain website that is “the single best place to track all its devastation”. At The New Criterion, Roger Kimball finds that the threat to vintage children’s books provides a good instance of the dangers of “safety”. And commentator Hugh Hewitt is back with another column, “The Congress Should Fix CPSIA Now“.
- Numerous disparaging things have been said of the “mommy bloggers” who’ve done so much to raise alarms about this law. Because, as one of Deputy Headmistress’s commenters points out, it’s already been decided that this law is needed to “protect the children”, and it’s not as if mere mothers might have anything special to contribute about that.
- Plenty of continuing coverage out there on the minibike/ATV debacle, including Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (office of local Congressman Mike Doyle, D-Pa., says most members think, dubiously, that ban “can be fixed without new legislation”); Lebanon, Pa. (“Ridiculous… It’s closed an entire market for us”), Waterbury, Ct. (“The government does stupid things sometimes without thinking”), and, slightly less recent, Atlantic City, N.J. (“I would’ve had three sales this weekend, so they stomped us”). Some background: Off-Road (agency guidance in mid-February told dealers to get youth models “off their showfloors and back into holding areas”); Motorcycle USA (“With right-size models being unavailable to families, we may see more kids out on adult ATVs and we know that this leads to crashes”). To which illustrator Meredith Dillman on Twitter adds: “Just wait until someone gets hurt riding a broken bike they couldn’t get replacement parts for.”
- One result of CPSIA is that a much wider range of goods are apt to be subject to recalls, but not to worry, because the CPSC recall process is so easy and straightforward.