Friday, April 30, 2010

Handmade Toy Alliance House Testimony to the House Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection on CPSIA, April 29, 2010

Hello. My name is Dan Marshall. I am the Founder and Vice President of the Handmade Toy Alliance. The HTA represents 435 small businesses affected by the unintended consequences of the CPSIA. I would like to submit this statement, two letters, and our issue statement to the official record.
My wife Millie and I own Peapods Natural Toy Store in St. Paul, Minnesota. For the past 12 years, we've supported our family selling cloth diapers, baby carriers, and wood toys, many of which are handcrafted by artisans in the US and Europe. I am here today with fellow HTA Board members Jolie Fay of Skipping Hippos in Oregon and Randall Hertzler of euroSource in Pennsylvania.
When Congress first spoke of toy safety legislation, we all applauded your efforts. As we learned the details of the actual law, however, we realized that it applied not just to companies like Mattel that had betrayed the publics’ trust, but would apply broadly to all children's products and effectively outlaw many small family businesses--not because our products were unsafe, but because we simply could not afford the mandatory third party testing and labeling requirements, which disproportionately affect small batch manufacturers and specialty retailers.
The deadline for third party testing is February 10 of next year. After that point, our member businesses face extinction. Although many of us have already paid for XRF testing of our products, we simply cannot afford to pay for the services of a CPSC-certified lab.
For that reason, The HTA has endorsed the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act. The provisions of the bill which allow alternative testing methods for small batch manufacturers are imperative to the survival of our members. We hope that it can proceed through this committee, the House and the Senate as quickly as possible.
However, we have made clear that we have two primary concerns regarding the language of this bill. First, we desire clarity and simplicity in the definition of “alternative testing method.” We believe the standard for small batch manufacturers should be the same reasonable testing methods applicable to non-children’s' consumer products under the CPSIA. Leaving “alternative testing method” ambiguous places new rulemaking burdens on the CPSC and extends the uncertainty about compliance for HTA businesses.
We are willing and able to work with the CPSC through this additional rulemaking process, but feel that more flexible language would greatly simplify the standard. In particular, we would like committee report language or, preferably, the bill itself, to stipulate:
1. That small batch toymakers be exempted from third party testing for ASTM compliance. These destructive tests cost $200 - $350 per toy, which is a significant impediment to small batch toymakers.
2. That the CPSC allow the use of XRF testing as an alternative testing method for lead in paint, lead in substrate, and other mineral content standards.
3. That EN-71 testing certification qualify as an alternative testing method. This provision is critical for preserving access to quality European children's goods and removing the regulatory trade barrier created by the CPSIA.
4. That small batch manufacturers be fully exempted from labeling requirements.
Even with these stipulations, we fear that non-business hobbyists and crafters will lack the resources and understanding to fully comply with the law.
Our second primary concern with the bill pertains to its definition of small batch manufacturer. In particular, we are concerned about the $1 million company revenue cap. We feel that this limit should either be removed altogether or should be based only on income generated by the manufacture or importation of children's products without including other unrelated business income. If this limit is not changed or removed, we fear that this committee will continue to hear from constituents wondering why specialty products like adaptive toys for children with disabilities are no longer available.
Finally, we have long argued that meaningful reform of the CPSIA should grant the CPSC the authority to make adjustments to the law based on risk analysis. In particular, we would like the CPSC to be given the flexibility to adjust certification requirements based on the age of a product's intended user and the risk of injury the product poses.
In conclusion, on behalf of our members, I would like to thank this committee for addressing this important issue and urge you to quickly pass meaningful reform of the CPSIA. Thank you.
Photo: HTA Board members Jolie Fay, Dan Marshall, and Randall Hetzler.

Below is a clip from the Q&A portion of the hearing in which Representative Pitts (R-Pennsylvania) asks about EU Harmonization:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Press Release: The Handmade Toy Alliance to Testify at House Commerce Subcommittee Hearing

The Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) will testify at this Thursday’s Commerce Sub-Committee hearing regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). HTA Founder and Vice President, Dan Marshall (Peapods Natural Toys -MN), Board member Jolie Fay (Skipping Hippos – OR) and Board member Randall Hertzler (euroSource – PA) will travel to DC to participate in this very important process.

”Over the last seventeen months, we have worked tirelessly to bring about common sense changes to the CPSIA,” Marshall stated. “This is our opportunity to share our story and formally present our ideas for change directly to Congress. We are honored to be included within the short list of those invited to testify.” Marshall will represent the HTA as part of the panel presentation, as well as the question and answer period of the hearing.

HTA has worked directly with the House Commerce Committee over the last 3 months, developing draft legislation that could offer relief to small batch manufacturers. “Thursday’s sub-committee hearing is the culmination of all of our hard work,” Fay discussed. “It is important for our members – all of whom are very small businesses – to see us speak and share all of their stories.”

Following the hearing, House Sub-committee members will discuss whether to move forward with draft legislation known as the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act (CPSEA). Last week, the HTA officially endorsed this legislation. “We recognize that this legislation could offer significant relief to the small batch manufacturers, specialty retailers and importers that the HTA represents,” Marshall shared. “We’ve also asked for some specific inclusions to the report to further clarify the needs of our members. But, we also have to stress the need to have an amendment signed into law prior to the February 2011 lifting of the stay of enforcement.”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

HTA invited to testify at House Commerce Committee CPSIA Hearing

The HTA has received an invite to testify at this Thursday’s Commerce Committee hearing for the CPSIA. For the event, we will send three of our Board members on our behalf. Dan Marshall, Jolie Fay and Randall Hertzler will make the trip to DC to participate in this very important process.

Earlier in the week, we officially endorsed the proposed amendment, with a number of stipulations to include in the report language. We recognize that the amendment isn't perfect, and that it in fact increases the amount of work we will need to do with the CPSC (working for flexible reasonable testing protocols and alternative testing methods). That being said, it does serve to offer many in our membership significant relief from the third party testing protocols the CPSIA imposes. We understand that the amendment does not change the overall language of the CPSIA (specifically, it does not change the wording of “no risk” to “de minus” risk), but it has become fairly clear to us that the CPSIA will not be changed in this way. Our hope at this point is that an amendment will move through the House and Senate and be adopted into law.

After the HTA and others signed on endorsing the amendment, a meeting was scheduled for the committee to “mark up” and discuss the bill. This meeting was canceled. Instead, Rep. Waxman, Rep. Barton and Rep. Dingell met and scheduled the hearing that will take place this coming week. The consensus was that stake holders needed to be given the opportunity to discuss and vocalize any and all concerns regarding the proposed amendment.

We are very excited and honored to be included within the short list of those invited to testify. We will have the opportunity to read a prepared statement, and then participate in a panel question and answer period. Please know that we will work extremely hard to share with the committee all of your stories and all of your concerns with the CPSIA. Our understanding is that the event will be web cast, you should be able to find it here or here.

Any and all donations to help send our members to DC would be greatly appreciated. To Donate, visit (click on button on the left side). Thanks!