It is an anniversary of sorts. It has been one year since I learned about the CPSIA and started my journey to amend the law. And my journey with the Handmade Toy Alliance. The last week has been a flurry of information and frankly, I am on information overload. I have taken it upon myself to read the bulk of the actual legislation, much of the news reports that have come out throughout the last year, as well as the multitude of rulings that have been promulgated by the CPSC. That’s a heck of a lot of information, to say the least.
Last week, I traveled to DC for the third time since April – this time to participate in workshops at the CPSC offices in Bethesda. In addition to the enormous amount of information presented in the workshop itself, and the large number of informal conversations that went on within the halls of the CPSC, I came home to read about report language within the Omnibus Appropriations Bill (now cleared for the President’s signature) and pending legislation written by Rep. Waxman allowing for a very partial revision of the CPSIA (which was later cut from the bill it was attached to). This is the first time that Congress has formally acknowledged that perhaps there is a need for a legislative amendment to the original legislation. Big news indeed.
As a group, the Handmade Toy Alliance has always worked towards a legislative amendment, while developing a constructive relationship with the CPSC to ensure a common sense approach to implementation of the act. We believe in the intent of the law, but feel that the narrow wording (specifically the use of the word “any lead”, rather than “de minimis risk of lead”), eliminates the ability to utilize risk assessment in the implementation process. Our member businesses only want the opportunity to continue crafting beautiful, safe products for children. It is as simple as that.
Today, the CPSC voted to extend the stay of enforcement for the testing and certification requirements of Sec 102 of the CPSIA for an additional year (through February 10, 2011). This was a highly debated decision and, although not a focus of the workshops last week, was definitely a large part of behind the scenes discussion. The topic of the workshops – testing requirements and implementation – include rulings which will soon be promulgated. And, are of the utmost concern to our membership as they will dictate for most if they are able to stay in business.
So, what do I make of these developments? As I shared in the beginning, I am on information overload, but I am encouraged. The report language that now sits on the President’s desk states the following: “The CPSC is directed to assess enforcement efforts of section 101(a), including difficulties encountered, as well as recommendations for improvement to the statute, and to report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, no later than January 15, 2010.” There is also specific mention to address the concerns experienced by small batch manufacturers.
Is this the beginning of the open hearings that we have been requesting? I don’t think so. Could this be the beginning of an amendment to the CPSIA? Possibly. Is it acknowledgement that there are issues that the CPSC may not be able to address? Probably. The conundrum now is that if open hearings do not occur, but the Democratic leadership makes the changes necessary to allow our member businesses to continue doing what they love, is that okay? We have always recognized that we would need the force of the Democrats to truly make a change, and that change may occur behind closed doors. If the end result is the same – a legislative amendment to the CPSIA – do we really need to speak in an open hearing? Perhaps not, but I would still like to. We’ll see what happens.
For now, I am grateful for the additional time the continued stay of enforcement brings us. I feel encouraged that many of the formal requests the HTA has made over the last year appear to be on the table and being openly discussed. I believe that the work we have engaged in for the last year is being acknowledged. And, I have hope. For now, that will need to be enough.
Secretary, Handmade Toy Alliance