Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Congress Considers Marked Expansion of CPSC

With political will stoked by the recent lead-paint scares in children's toys, Congress is considering significantly expanding the role of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  The Wall Street Journal reports in Congress Weighs Sweeping Overhaul Of Consumer Product Commission, by M.P. McQueen and Christopher Conkey:

Spurred by a spate of scares over the safety of imported goods, Congress is weighing the most significant consumer-safety legislation in a generation -- even as states and nonprofit groups step up their own watchdog efforts.

A bill that would substantially boost fines, add staffers and increase transparency at the embattled Consumer Product Safety Commission is moving through the Senate. The moves represent efforts to address what consumer groups and critics widely see as the weakness and inefficiency of the commission, the tiny federal agency charged with regulating at least 15,000 types of consumer products, from toys to all-terrain vehicles to mattresses.

The Senate bill faces industry opposition and other hurdles on Capitol Hill, including conflict with President Bush over the direction of the CPSC. The House has already passed separate legislation. But consumer advocates predict the Democrat-controlled Senate could pass a version by year end. Industry groups say Republicans aren't likely to try to kill the bill, but hope to amend it to change provisions manufacturers find onerous.

Manufacturers and retailers say they will fight some of the bill's provisions, including the increase of fines to a maximum of $100 million from $1.85 million. But their clout has been diminished by a rash of highly publicized recent recalls involving everything from Halloween pails with lead paint to hazardous cribs to toys with small parts that present choking hazards.



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