Last night, I emailed my elected officials: President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John Cornyn, and Congressman John Culberson, asking them to take action to stop the potentially devastating consequences inherent in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. My email was a succinct version of last night's blog post, Save the Children's Books! CPSIA is a Road to Hell, Paved with Good Intentions . If you haven't read that, please take a minute now to do so.
Still with me?
Today, I received a reply from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison that makes it crystal clear that neither she nor her staffers actually read constituents' correspondence. Either they skim, or they use an autoresponder. (Fellow Twitterers, how do we feel about autoresponders? Riiiiight.) Here is the email I received from the Senator:
Dear Ms. Jahangiri:
Thank you for contacting me regarding consumer product safety. I welcome your thoughts and comments on this issue.
Recent recalls of various consumer products, especially children’s toys, have prompted a review of how Americans are protected against faulty products. Created in 1972, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the independent agency of the federal government charged with protecting Americans against the unreasonable risk of injuries associated with consumer products. The CPSC fulfills its mission by researching potential hazards associated with consumer products, banning dangerous consumer products, developing voluntary and mandatory standards, and issuing recalls of products already on the market. This agency has the authority to regulate the sale and manufacture of more than 15,000 different consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals.
To address the concerns raised by these recalls, the Senate and the House of Representatives developed separate plans to enhance the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s ability to ensure our nation’s consumer product safety. In the Senate, S. 2045, the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act of 2007, was introduced by Senator Mark L. Pryor (D-AR) on September 12, 2007. H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act, was introduced by Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) on November 1, 2007.
Between March and July 2008, I worked on the bills as a member of a conference committee between the House and the Senate. At the end of July, we came to a compromise, which passed the House and Senate on July 30 and 31, respectively. The President signed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 into law on August 14, 2008.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act includes a five-year reauthorization of the CPSC and provides more than $620 million for the agency to implement new rules, buy new equipment, and modernize its labs. Additionally, this funding will be used to increase the CPSC personnel to at least 500 from 367, and it will place additional inspectors at ports of entry and in foreign countries to inspect manufacturing facilities.
According to the CPSC, paint and similar surface coatings of children's toys containing lead have historically been the most commonly recognized sources of lead poisoning. Currently, paint and other similar surface coatings that contain more than 600 parts per million (PPM) lead are banned by the CPSC. Under the new law, the allowable amount of lead in paint is reduced further in coming years, and the lead ban is expanded to regulate the surface of the products as well as the paint. Currently, when the CPSC orders a recall, they will not announce it publicly for 30 days to permit manufacturers an opportunity to address the concerns of the CPSC and to prevent certain proprietary information from being released. The final measure that we agreed to cuts this time period in half to 15 days, in order to allow information to reach the public more quickly.
Should a manufacturer be found guilty of violating consumer product safety laws, the bill we passed provides for an increase in the cap on civil penalties that can be levied against the manufacturer and provides expanded criminal liability. As an additional enforcement tool, the measure allows individual State Attorneys General to bring actions against manufacturers for violations of certain federal consumer product safety laws. The coordination between the state Attorneys General and the CPSC means that we will have a greatly enhanced monitoring and enforcement framework to protect the public against dangerous products, and to enforce recall orders once they are issued, by making sure that retailers are promptly removing the dangerous products from their shelves.
As a mother of two young children, I empathize with parents who are anxious to protect their kids against unsafe products. As a U.S. Senator, I must also ensure that federal laws do not go further than necessary when attempting to guarantee the safety of consumer products. I believe this bill struck a good balance between these goals, and I will continue to work to protect our children from unsafe products.
I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to keep in touch on any issue of concern to you.
Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
PLEASE DO NOT REPLY to this message as it is not a valid e-mail address. Due to the tremendous volume of mail Senator Hutchison receives, she requests that all email messages be sent through the contact form found on her website at http://hutchison.senate.gov/contact.cfm .
If you would like more information about issues pending before the Senate, please visit the Senator's website at http://hutchison.senate.gov . You will find articles, floor statements, and press releases, along with her weekly column and monthly television show on current events. You can also sign up to receive Senator Hutchison's weekly e-newsletter.
So, folks, when you write to complain to your elected representatives, be sure not to agree with anything: Don't say that "children need to be protected from products with lead and phthalate content" even if you do believe that - because they'll stop and likely break an arm patting themselves on the back.