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CPSIA – A Quick Thank You

I wanted to thank all of you who reached out to me via email, phone or blog comments with words of encouragement and appreciation. Your support means a lot to me, and I wanted you to know how motivating it is. We had a big opportunity today, all of us, and I had the good fortune to take the stand on your behalf. You were there and I hope you feel well-represented.

I hope to gather my thoughts for you on today’s hearing and share my conclusions with you in the next few days. In the meantime, I can say I think it was a good day of open dialogue and exchange of views. This can only help. Time will tell.

Thanks again!

Rick

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CPSIA – A Quick Thank You

CPSIA – Today’s Hearing Testimony

Here is the text of my oral testimony and written testimony from today’s hearing. For your convenience, here are the written statements of the other witnesses:

  1. Rosario Palmieri, Vice President for Infrastructure, Legal, and Regulatory Policy, National Association of Manufacturers
  2. Paul Vitrano, General Counsel, Motorcycle Industry Council
  3. Jim Gibbons, President and Chief Executive Officer, Goodwill Industries International
  4. Dan Marshall, Handmade Toy Alliance
  5. Rachel Weintraub, Director of Product Safety and Senior Counsel, Consumer Federation of America
  6. Steve Levy, American Apparel and Footwear Association

The hearing today was apparently available only by audio feed. That is unfortunate because it was good theater, you would have enjoyed it. I don’t know if the video will make an appearance (ever) but when we get links to whatever media is available, I will post it for you.

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CPSIA – Today’s Hearing Testimony

CPSIA – Hearing Webcast Link POSTED

The House Committee hearing website has posted THIS LINK for today’s webcast. As noted, the hearing is scheduled to start at 10 AM EST.

Tune in and enjoy our day in court!

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CPSIA – Hearing Webcast Link POSTED

CPSIA – For You Conspiracy Theorists, A Seventh Witness Has Been Appointed

I have just been informed that the ranks of the six corporate witnesses in tomorrow’s hearing has been augmented by none other than Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America. Perhaps she was added for her expertise on the problems we have in running our businesses under the awful CPSIA. That will be quite helpful.

Any idea how this happened? I wonder . . . .

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CPSIA – For You Conspiracy Theorists, A Seventh Witness Has Been Appointed

CPSIA – For You Conspiracy Theorists, A Seventh Witness Has Been Appointed

I have just been informed that the ranks of the six corporate witnesses in tomorrow’s hearing has been augmented by none other than Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America. Perhaps she was added for her expertise on the problems we have in running our businesses under the awful CPSIA. That will be quite helpful.

Any idea how this happened? I wonder . . . .

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CPSIA – For You Conspiracy Theorists, A Seventh Witness Has Been Appointed

CPSIA – Witness List for Thursday’s Hearing in Washington

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has posted its witness list and briefing memo on the web page for the upcoming hearing on the Waxman Amendment (CPSEA). Thursday’s hearing is scheduled for 10 AM EST and will be webcast. I do not have a link to the webcast at this point and may not have it before the hearing. You should be able to find the link at the foregoing webpage. If you miss the hearing, it should also be available for later viewing on the Committee site. I will post that link when available.

The witnesses will be:

  • Rosario Palmieri, Vice President for Infrastructure, Legal, and Regulatory Policy, National Association of Manufacturers [N.b., the briefing memo says it will be John Engler.]
  • Paul Vitrano, General Counsel, Motorcycle Industry Council
  • Jim Gibbons, President and Chief Executive Officer, Goodwill Industries International
  • Dan Marshall, Handmade Toy Alliance
  • Steve Levy, American Apparel and Footwear Association
  • Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.

The briefing memo states: “The following organizations support the text of this legislation and urge its enactment: the National Association of Manufacturers, the Retail Industry Leaders Association [Ed. Note: this is Wal-Mart and Target], the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Handmade Toy Alliance, and Goodwill Industries, Inc.” So, four of the witnesses are already on record as supporting the amendment.

I haven’t changed my view that the Waxman Amendment should be OPPOSED.

As if to amplify my point, the briefing memo hawks the amendment’s beneficence to small business: “To this end, the legislation provides three major forms of relief . . . Relief for small batch manufacturers and other businesses by allowing the commission to approve alternative testing requirements for certain small batch manufacturers, by requiring CPSC outreach and assistance to small businesses, and by providing that the law’s phthalates limits shall not apply to inaccessible component parts.”

As I have explained in the past, there are NO alternative testing methods available two years after passage of the CPSIA. Too bad for small business, huh? Thus, there is no possibility of relief under this provision. Still, the committee apparently thinks that “outreach and assistance” will do the trick. What is that, psychiatry for small businesses? There are days when I think I need it, too . . . .

It’s also worth noting that the exception to the phthalates ban for inaccessible parts – portrayed here as some sort of small business bonus – was included in this amendment at the urgent request of two famous small businesses who consider it essential for the smooth operation of their businesses. You know them well, they have stores in your neighborhood – Wal-Mart and Target. Now that’s some straight shooting by the Majority, isn’t it?

Anyone still wondering why I feel small business is getting the short end of the stick?

I fail to understand why Wal-Mart and Target get the ears of this committee but small business interests are completely ignored or brushed over. This is a really sad turn of events for our federal government.

Remember, if the committee doesn’t do the hard work of fixing this bill, REALLY fixing it, those of us who survive will be back. This issue isn’t going away.

Tune in on Thursday. I’ll do my best for you.

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CPSIA – Witness List for Thursday’s Hearing in Washington

CPSIA – New Definition of "Children’s Product" Published – Did You Catch It?

The CPSC apparently published a new definition of “Children’s Products” last Tuesday in the Federal Register to no fanfare whatsoever. This little morsel clocks in at only nine pages but it goes in the heap with the other 579 unread pages of miscellania spewed out by the CPSC in the last month. Everyone – quit your jobs so you can keep reading this stuff!

Ah, but the fun doesn’t end there. Try to find this document on the vaunted CPSC website. It’s not under “What’s Hot?” and it wasn’t mentioned in a press release. Until last week, even finding the definition of “Children’s Product” on the site involved quite a bit of hunting and pecking. They remedied that by creating a new category under “CPSIA by Topic” but who would know it’s there? You have to sense its presence and then go find it. This is “Where’s Waldo?”, CPSC-style.

And the final “kicker” – the definition changed from the last publication of this rule on March 19. Since that time, there has been a Commission hearing and much industry chit-chat over the original definition approved by the CPSC Legal Department. Supposedly, this (unread) new definition reflects changes that I am told I will like. The CPSC Legal Department approved this new and revised definition, too. And the conformed or redlined copy for me to read? Nowhere to be found.

What a lovely way to spend my time. Reading rules, digesting rules, commenting on rules, rereading rules, trying to figure out what’s changed, reviewing my last analysis, connecting all the dots, reworking our internal processes again and again and again . . . .

This is the CPSC’s full employment plan. They may be able to solve the unemployment problem all by themselves! Thanks for everything, guys.

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CPSIA – New Definition of "Children’s Product" Published – Did You Catch It?

CPSIA – Lead in the News

The New York Times published an expose on lead poisoning earlier this week. Here’s a shocker – APPARENTLY, the main cause of lead poisoning in American children is lead house paint (leaded gasoline having been long eliminated as a source of lead in our environment). Isn’t it strange that the Times never mentioned the dangers of educational products, toys, t-shirts, ATVs, bikes, pens, rhinestones (oooo, rhinestones, so dangerous!) and the like? What ‘s wrong with those people?

The article cites an example of the lead poisoning problem:

“But the invisible threat persists in the city’s so-called lead belts — areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island where the rates of children showing elevated levels are routinely the highest in the city. Last summer, E.P.A. officials took hundreds of soil samples near a long-closed lead factory on Staten Island suspected in the chronically higher rates of lead poisoning among children in the North Shore neighborhoods of Port Richmond, Stapleton and St. George. The area was once filled with heavy industry, and lead contamination can be found in parks and industrial sites. Of the children tested from those neighborhoods, about 7 out of 1,000 had elevated lead levels, health department data show, compared with a citywide average of 4.5 out of 1,000.

But when the soil sampling results came in last month, the lead contamination found in six residential blocks was traced to peeling paint, not the plant. . . . Walter Mugdan, the E.P.A.’s regional Superfund director, said that the paint had contaminated backyard soil that could also harbor traces of leaded gasoline.”

What-a-shock.

The NYT article points readers to the Lead home page on the CDC website. If you click forward to the poisoning prevention page, you get the straight scoop from the CDC: “Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. However, it is the deterioration of this paint that causes a problem. Approximately 24 million housing units have deteriorated leaded paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust. More than 4 million of these dwellings are homes to one or more young children.”

[You should also check out the NYT video on the CDC's efforts to eliminate lead poisoning.]

With House hearings on the CPSIA pending this week, this reminder of the real threat to children’s health is helpful. As we have been saying for two years, the real health risks in children’s products today are lead-in-paint and leaded jewelry. [I am not even so sure about jewelry but accept the concern as legitimate.] There is no hint that the CDC is any way fixated on the same “threats” as your Congress. Interestingly, if the issues spotlighted by the CPSIA were so serious, they might show up as centerpieces in CPSC outreach programs. After all, the CPSIA did NOTHING to remove these supposedly dangerous items from American homes and schools – it merely ended new supply. As the longstanding effort to remove lead house paint makes clear, our government is capable of acting to remove dangerous products or conditions from our living spaces. Congress made no such effort here – and the CDC saw no need either.

Our businesses have been torched by a phobia. It’s shameful.

For a lighter news item about lead perils, check out this criminal case from Texas which sent the lead perpetrator to cool his heels in jail. Don’t worry, it was just something fishy.

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CPSIA – Lead in the News

CPSIA – Good News! Little Mattel Gets Much NEEDED Relief.

Wipe away those tears and cancel the bake sale, little Mattel (last quarter’s revenue: $880 million) received more relief from the CPSC. Suffering under the burden of only seven certified in-house labs to do its safety testing, Mattel this week received CPSC approval for two more firewalled internal labs to do its testing at a fraction of the cost of using pesky independent labs. The newly-approved labs, one more in China and one in Thailand, promise to make things much easier for Mattel. Imagine the crippling overhead they might incur sending samples from one factory to another if they didn’t have these new approved labs. Read all about the celebrations over the CPSC’s well-timed beneficence!

Mattel, the generous sponsor of a record $2.3 million CPSC honorarium (that’s what we call fines now), lobbied for the provision in the law giving it the right to opt out of independent laboratory safety testing during the drafting of the CPSIA. As Mattel is such a sympathetic supplicant, having recalled more than 20 million toys in 2007 alone, Congress was all ears and gave them what they wanted. [Search this link for "Mattel" and "Fisher-Price" and you will find 19 recalls between November 2006 and today, totalling more than 16.5 million units in the U.S. plus many millions more outside the U.S.]

This is the signal the children’s market was waiting for: a forgive-and-forget approach by the CPSC. As a small business operator, I sure am glad to know that the CPSC is big-hearted enough to overlook a long track record of serious legal violations. Shame they hadn’t adopted this generous spirit when Daiso pissed them off.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Mattel ALSO funded another $1.1 million CPSC honorarium (fine) for failing to report 116 FIRES caused by one of its products? According to Ann Brown, then Chairman of the CPSC, Mattel knew about these fires for “years” before reporting them. Oopsie! [Check out the WSJ article on Mattel's little problem with safety disclosures. I am sure you will cherish the pictures of the burned-out garage.] Don’t worry, the CPSC has decided everything’s in order for Mattel to handle safety all by itself. Sleep well, America.

This makes a lot of sense to me.

And for the rest of us who can’t afford to set up or manage our own “firewalled” laboratories? We can enjoy the bounty of the small batch manufacturer’s relief in the Waxman Amendment, or just hire outside labs. You know, like Mattel doesn’t want to do . . . hey, what’s going on here?!

At least we know Mr. Waxman cares about somebody.

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CPSIA – Good News! Little Mattel Gets Much NEEDED Relief.

CPSIA – I Will Appear as a Witness in Thursday’s House Hearing on CPSIA

I have been invited to appear as a witness at Thursday’s hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. The hearing on the “Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act of 2010″ (the Waxman Amendment 2.0 in its latest form) will take place at 10 AM EST on Thursday, April 29 at 2322 Rayburn House Office Building.

The hearing will be streamed live, but I don’t have the link to give you yet. You may be able to find it at this link on Thursday or on the home page of the committee. I will try to get the link posted in my blog before showtime.

I intend to tell my story and your story to the committee and look forward to exploring the bedeviling issues of the CPSIA in the open air. If you have any ideas or suggestions for my testimony, please feel free to share them here, or send me an email. Thanks.

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CPSIA – I Will Appear as a Witness in Thursday’s House Hearing on CPSIA

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