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CPSIA Update

Thursday, April 2, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Yesterday the staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended to the two Commissioners left that they not issue an exemption to the ATV industry to sell the vehicles specifically designed for the 12-and-under crowd.

This puts the staff on record of preferring a path that will most assuredly see children riding adult ATVs because they cannot obtain or repair the ATVs designed for them. The reason that ATVs are designed for the specific age group is that they prevent the injuries –serious injuries up to and including death– that comes from too-small people attempting to pilot too-large vehicles. The parents fault, you say? Perhaps, but the government which is pledged to child safety is purposefully adopting a policy that they know will lead to the injuries and deaths the Commission is intended to stop.

I asked three United States senators about CPSIA on yesterday’s program –Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee); Ben Nelson (D-Neb) and John Ensign (R-NV). Here are the exchanges:

HH: Last question, Senator Alexander, the Consumer Products Safety Improvements Act, I’ve covered it a lot, it’s crushing a lot of business, it’s destroying inventories, it’s really alarming. Is there going to be an attempt to fix this?

LA: Senator Coburn has an amendment to fix that which I’m going to vote for. It can’t be fixed in the budget process itself, but we’re working on it.

– – – –

HH: Last question, Senator Nelson, Consumer Products Safety Improvements Act, I’ve been covering it a lot, because just nobody else has, and it’s just crushing the ATV people, it’s crushing pen makers, it’s crushing shoe makers, snowmobile makers. Is there going to be any relief, because it just turns out, it’s way too draconian, way too devastating?

BN: Well, I am concerned about world national, international competitiveness of our business and industry in the country, and no question about it, many of the requirements that manufacturers face are draconian. And in any event, add extreme costs to the measures. So it seems to me that that’s something that has to be looked at periodically, and we need to, from time to time, try to relax some of those requirements. But in each and every case, make sure that they’re appropriate.

– – – –

HH: The Consumer Products Safety Improvements Act is just, it’s one of my hobby horses because nobody else covers it, and I’m aware of what it’s done to off road vehicles and snowmobiles and pens and pencils, and children’s books and children’s shoes. It’s just destruction…

JE: Bicycles and all kinds of other things.

HH: Is it going to get fixed?

JE: You know, I certain hope so, because that was, that was, you want to talk about the law of unintended consequences, which is the types of laws that do the most damage around this place, is the things that nobody sees because they don’t realize the regulations that are going to go in behind something, and how people are going to interpret laws that we write up here. And it is extremely dangerous. It hurts organizations like Goodwill that sell used toys or…

HH: Clothing, yeah.

JE: …types of clothing and things like that. It’s been devastating to them, and we really do need to fix it, and it’s going to drive a lot of American companies out of business.

HH: And it also takes 12 year olds and under who should be riding their specially manufactured ATVs and puts them, forces them onto adult ATVs which is dangerous. I know in Nevada you’ve got a lot of off-road vehicle people. Have they spoken with the majority leader about this?

JE: Yeah, I don’t know whether they have. They certainly need to. You know, I mean my kids actually engage in riding off-road vehicles, and it’s something that they’ve enjoyed for a long time, and I know a lot of people who do that whose kids are under 13 years of age. So you’re right. It’s something that, it affects bicycles. It doesn’t just affect off-road vehicles. There’s a lot of things that it affects, and it really needs to be fixed, because this certainly was not the intent of the bill.

HH: Well, I keep looking for, I know that Tom Coburn’s got an amendment coming, I know you’ll support it, so thanks on behalf of all those off-roaders.

No one –no one– defends the CPSIA’s impacts on the ATV industry or all the other industries. Everyone who knows of the law’s devastating impacts on a broad array of industries knows it needs to be fixed. But Congress is embarrassed to have so completely messed up such a minor bit of legislating, and thus does nothing as the money and job losses mount and as real risks to kids grow.

In the media, only bloggers Overlawyered and Shop Floor seem to pay sustained, serious attention to the topic, as the MSM is busy covering the iPod for the Queen story. (The WSJ does have related stories today here.)

My expert, Gary Wolensky of the law firm Snell and Wilmer, gwolensky@swlaw.com, gave the audience an update yesterday and he isn’t optimistic that the two commissioners will overrule the staff on the exemption from CPSIA for ATVs though certainly they should. What a legacy –to allow the commission to destroy so much for no reason, and to stand by as the consumers you are supposed to protect get maimed or worse because you don’t want to offend the incompetent congressional staff who drafted the unworkable law.

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