Senate Passes Major CPSC Reform Bill

The U.S. Senate voted 79-13 yesterday to pass a Consumer Product Safety Commission reform bill hailed by its sponsor as a "major victory" for consumers and children. Both houses of Congress were strongly in favor of reforms and increased funding, which do not have the support of the Bush administration or Acting CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said passage of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act of 2008, S.2663, requires testing of children's products, bans lead in children's toys, and will alert the public faster about potential problems. Recalls of imported toys and other products spurred the legisiation.

"The CPSC is crippled under budget restraints, mounting imports, and thousands of new products entering the marketplace. As a result, we've seen endless recalls and unnecessary deaths and injuries," Pryor said Thursday. "My legislation allows parents and the CPSC to fight back against the tide of dangerous toys and products. It provides new safety safeguards that emphasize resources, accountability, disclosure, and testing from the factory floor to the store shelves. I appreciate the broad, bipartisan support behind this bill and will work toward swift conference action in order to produce a solid, aggressive bill for President Bush to sign."

The bill would authorize funding for seven years starting at $88.5 million in 2009 and increasing 10 percent annually through 2015. For 2009 and 2010, an additional $40 million would be authorized to upgrade CPSC's laboratories and $1 million to research the safety of nanotechnology in products. The bill would raise the cap on civil fines from $1.8 million to $20 million and also would allow a two-member quorum of commissioners to conduct official business for nine months. CPSC currently is without a quorum and cannot conduct business that requires commission action, such as a mandatory recall. The bill would restore the commission to five members instead of three to prevent future absences of quorum, Pryor said. The bill would make it illegal for retailers to sell a recalled product and would require companies to identify their subcontractors in the supply chain to make recalls easier and faster.

Public Citizen's Congress Watch Division director, David Arkush, called it a good bill for consumers. "The CPSC needs more resources and authority, and a greater sense of urgency when it comes to hazards that can injure and kill, especially in light of the record 473 product recalls in 2007. In this regard, the Senate bill is certainly a major step in the right direction. But there's still more to be done. As the Senate and House meet in conference to work out differences in their bills, we urge them to keep the health and safety of American consumers and children at the forefront of discussions and to craft the strongest bill possible," he said in a statement posted by the advocacy organization.

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