The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing Thursday on the much-needed draft bill to revise the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, the 2008 law that has rolled a wrecking ball through businesses as diverse as motorcycle and bicycle manufacturers, bookstores, the fashion industry, ball-point pen companies, thrift stores, and home-based toy- and doll-makers.

The committee’s background memo lays out the provisions of the draft bill. Subcommittee Chairman Mary Bono Mack discussed the legislation’s goals in her opening statement. Excerpt:

The discussion draft aims to reduce the regulatory burdens of the law without undercutting consumer protection. A fundamental premise is that the Commission can actually protect consumers far better when it is allowed to set priorities and regulate based on risk. Where possible, we should spare the Commission from having to make time-consuming, case-by-case determinations, and let it spend more time on bigger problems. This is especially true in our current budget climate, where we have to make the most of scarce agency resources.

That emphasis on risk-based analysis is very important. The current CPSIA has forced the Consumer Product Safety Commission to enforce regulations on lead content, for example, that have no relation to risk — that is, no risk to consumer safety — causing the CPSC to misallocate personnel and resources that could be more effectively used in other areas.

It was gratifying to hear Robert Jay Howell, the CPSC’s assistant executive director on hazard identification and reduction, endorse the risk-based approach toward regulation during Q&A. (Although, as he made clear in his prepared statement, he was testifying in his personal capacity.)

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