More than two years after the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act became law, driving children’s bikes off the market, children’s book off library shelves, and home-based craftsmen out of business — to name just a few of its many excesses — a Congressional committee is finally going to vote on an CPSIA fix. From the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade:

Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee to Vote on Improvements to Consumer Safety Law THURSDAY

May 11, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, chaired by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), has scheduled a markup of the Discussion Draft of H.R. ___, “Enhancing CPSC Authority and Discretion Act of 2011 (ECADA).” The markup will convene on Thursday, May 12, at 9:00 a.m. in room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The draft legislation would revise the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) and seeks to give Consumer Product Safety Commission greater authority and flexibility to regulate based on risk.

The discussion draft of the legislation is available here. A background memo explains further: “The draft legislation’s objectives are: to reduce the regulatory burdens created by CPSIA where possible to do so without harming consumers; to enhance the Consumer Production Safety Commission’s (CPSC) ability to investigate complaints and to prioritize based on risk; and, to improve the utility and accuracy of information in the CPSC’s public database.”

Take risk into account? It is indeed a good idea for a consumer product safety agency to focus its efforts on items that might conceivably pose a risk to consumers as opposed to those that don’t: How could Congress have ever passed legislation that failed to recognize that principle?

Basically, “consumer activists,” their trial lawyer allies and members of Congress who believe the more government the better, took advantage of the recalls of Chinese toys to push regulations far beyond what was necessary to ensure consumer safety. The media abandoned their critical distance and cheered on the bill. A scare led to overreaction and bad legislation.

Now, more than two years later, Congress may make modest reforms to repair some of the damage. Hope so.

UPDATE From Chairman Mary Bono Mack’s opening statement:

For thousands of businesses, which strive to be responsible, “let’s do what’s best for consumers” – CPSIA has consumed an inordinate amount of their time trying to understand how each new regulation and standard will affect them. Unfortunately, many have gone out of business, attributing their demise to some of the burdens of compliance. Today, we are attempting to strike a careful balance. As a nation, we simply cannot afford to lose jobs or stifle innovation because of questionable regulations.

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