CPSC Update: A Better Approach

By March 4, 2008General

At 5:30 p.m. today the Senate is scheduled to vote on an amendment to S. 2663, the consumer product safety bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). The language is basically that of H.R. 4040, the bipartisan legislation that passed the House. DeMint:

Giving the Consumer Product Safety Commission the tools it needs to ensure that products are safe for our children should be a top priority. The House passed a truly bipartisan bill last year and the Senate should have taken it up long ago. But some of my colleagues want to use this emotional issue to add a number of politically motivated giveaways for trial lawyers, organized labor and other special interest groups. Unfortunately, these provisions will harm American workers and consumers.

I hope the Senate will recognize that passing Speaker Pelosi’s bill is the most responsible thing to do. The President could sign it tomorrow, instead of waiting months to work out differences in the House and Senate bills and without adding harmful political giveaways. Let’s set politics aside and protect our children.

The Heritage Foundation has released a good memo outlining the problems with the bill, “Senate CPSC Bill: A Boon for Trial Lawyers at the Expense of Product Safety.

Driving the debate over reauthorization of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is public concern about the importation of unsafe products from China. In response to this concern, the Senate Commerce Committee has drafted legislation (the forthcoming substitute for the CPSC Reform Act, S. 2045) that is larded with massive gifts to the plaintiffs’ trial bar and would undermine the CPSC’s efforts to improve product safety. It would boost criminal penalties for distributing products in violation of consumer-products laws and regulations, dramatically raise fines for such violations, and give state attorneys general the power to sue firms on behalf of their citizens–a great boon for trial lawyers. These three provisions are likely to have serious unintended consequences, especially for small businesses, independent retailers, and American products manufacturers and distributors. The House versions of these provisions (in H.R. 4040), though not perfect, present a more balanced approach. At a time when economic growth is slowing, Congress should take care to avoid policies such as these that raise the cost of doing business, increase legal uncertainty and risk, and threaten jobs.

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