Congress Passes Bipartisan Bill to Amend the CPSIA

Both chambers of Congress Aug. 1 approved legislation to amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The bill, H.R. 2715, moved through the House by a roll call vote of 421-2 before passing the Senate by voice vote. Unlike previous attempts to "fix" the CPSIA, this bill received bipartisan support. Viewed as a win-win, supporters say it will give the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) greater flexibility in enforcing safety laws, ease the regulatory burden on U.S. manufacturers, and maintain consumer health protections against lead.

Congress enacted the CPSIA in 2008 after the recall of millions of toys and products, but the legislation proved problematic. The CPSC has struggled to implement the CPSIA, and members on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged its unintended shortcomings.

Last Friday, Reps. Butterfield (D-NC) and Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to Reps. Upton (R-MI) and Bono Mack (R-CA), urging them to work with Democrats to craft an acceptable package that "would provide considerable regulatory relief for industry yet still retain the support of public health and consumer groups." They could not support, however, bills like the Enhancing CPSC Authority and Discretion Act of 2011 (ECADA), H.R. 1939, introduced in May. Though supported by Republican CPSC Commissioner Anne Northup, the ECADA raised concerns from CPSC majority members, public safety groups, and House Democrats.

Unlike the ECADA, this bill will "fix valid problems and keep in place valuable health and safety protections for children," Rep. Waxman said Monday in a floor statement. The bill was widely uncontroversial because rather than remove current statutory mandates completely, its provisions mainly tailor existing requirements to provide the CPSC with greater flexibility in implementing the CPSIA.

Instead of altering the current standards, H.R. 2715 applies lower lead limits prospectively, allowing existing inventory to be sold after the limits go into effect. This is especially timely given the commission's recent adoption of the 100 parts per million (ppm) limit. The CPSC’s majority and minority members supported allowing existing products to stay on the market past the Aug. 14 effective date to ease the hardship on product manufacturers.

In addition, the bill gives the CPSC the authority to revise third-party testing regulations if the commission determines that doing so will reduce testing costs while assuring compliance with safety standards. Special consideration will be given to small-batch manufacturers, and the commission may allow for alternative testing requirements or exemptions from the third-party testing standards. The bill also eases the regulatory burden on manufacturers by exempting off-highway vehicles from the CPSIA’s lead limits and setting the lead-content limit for bicycles at 300 ppm.

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