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Obama Plans to Expand Consumer Product Safety Commission

President Obama announced two nominees to the Consumer Product Safety Commission today and also said he plans to enlarge it later this summer to five commissioners from the current three. Inez Moore Tenenbaum, South Carolina's state superintendent of Education from 1998 to 2007, is the nominee for chair of CPSC, while Robert S. Adler is nominated as a commissioner to fill one of those two new positions.

Obama pointed to $107 million in his budget for CPSC, which is a 71 percent increase from fiscal year 2007 for the agency, and said he's making progress on his goal to double its funding.

"It is a top priority of my administration to ensure that the products the American people depend on are safe. We must do more to protect the American public – especially our nation’s children – from being harmed by unsafe products," the president's statement said. "I am confident that Inez and Bob have the commitment and expertise necessary to fill these roles and raise the standard of safety. To ensure these goals are met, I will also increase the number of commissioners at the CPSC. I am confident this new leadership at the CPSC will revitalize the agency and achieve the high standard of product safety that the American people deserve."

Tenenbaum would replace Acting CPSC Chairman Nancy A. Nord, who has been a commissioner since May 5, 2005, and was nominated by President George W. Bush. Thomas Hill Moore is the other current commissioner; one position is vacant. The White House said Tenenbaum practiced health, environmental, and public interest law at a South Carolina law firm, Sinkler & Boyd (now named Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd P.A.) before winning election as the state's education superintendent. She ran as a Democrat in 2004 for the U.S. Senate seat held by Fritz Hollings, who was retiring, but Republican Jim DeMint won it.

Public Citizen's Consumer Law & Policy blog and other public health blogs say Adler is a longtime consumer advocate; he is a professor of Legal Studies at the University of North Carolina and the Luther H. Hodges, Jr. Scholar in Law & Ethics at Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School. He knows CPSC and Congress well: He worked from 1973 to 1984 as an attorney-adviser to two commissioners at CPSC in Washington, D.C., including David Pittle, an original appointee at CPSC's inception, and had been a deputy attorney general for the Pennsylvania Justice Department, where he headed the southwest regional office of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection. The White House said Adler has been elected six times to Consumers Union's board of directors and served on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team, co-authoring the agency review report on CPSC.

The National Association of Manufacturers released a statement by President John Engler welcoming the nominations of Tenenbaum and Adler and urging them to reform the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which affects ATVs and numerous other consumer products.

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