Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Op-Ed in the Washington Times

Crib crash kills cash, doesn't save kids

Today, the Washington Times printed my op-ed on the implementation of the recent crib rule. I could not have written this without your stories and experiences regarding this rule. I hope you will keep sending me more in the upcoming weeks and months!

Crib Response

Following the implementation of the crib rule, I received several e-mails and letters from those most affected by the Commission Majority’s decision. While I will continue to urge my Democratic colleagues toward a reasonable interpretation of the CPSIA and the avoidance of unnecessarily burdensome regulation, I and my fellow Republican Commissioner have an uphill battle. I am hopeful that by sharing some portions of these letters with you that my colleagues on the Commission will understand the harm their rulemaking is causing not only to American businesses, but more importantly, to the hardworking American family.

From Sarah in Utah:

When I had my first baby, we were so poor that I had to make all my maternity clothes from leftover fabric, and even then I wasn't able to make enough to last me a week without washing. My aunt lent us a crib that had been hers since my cousins were babies. It was a drop-side crib and it in no way met the current safety standards of that time (13 years ago), let alone today's safety standards. But my daughter survived it too, just like my cousins did, and if it hadn't been for that crib my daughter would have slept in the proverbial dresser drawer.

When I had my oldest son, we were a bit more prosperous and we could afford a used (fixed-side) crib which we bought for $80. That was all we could afford and still get the other things we needed. And by "needed" I mean like clothes and car seats, not diaper wipe warmers and fancy toys. Even so we could only afford used clothes. We used that crib for three boys total, the second of which, a budding engineer, removed two of the slats and forced us to jerry-rig it back together with a metal rod (totally untested by a third party lab) so that it could be used for the third boy, who was born just a couple months later. And when we were done with it, we gave it to another family in need of a crib.

This is how it works in the REAL world, far from the rarefied heights of Washington D.C. Most people starting their families are not prosperous, and not everybody's got a relative who can afford to buy them a brand spanking new crib when they can't pony up the cash. You can make it illegal to sell cribs and put the proverbial Fear of God into retailers and resellers, but you can't stop the distribution of these cribs, because they will continue to be passed down through families and around neighborhoods. If we had done this today, we must have committed several felonies in the provision of sleeping quarters for our four children! And yet, if we had not done so, we would have been guilty of child neglect.

From Rafael de Castro, NINFRA:

I hope that even though we were unsuccessful in our petition, the commission now sees the unintended side effect of instituting the same compliance date for two different segments of our retail supply chain. I can attest to the damage the implementation of this standard has done to many small retailers throughout this country and I am sure this was never intended when the commission decided to adopt 16CFR-1219. In both sides of the argument presented to the commission on June 16th, retailers had suffered unnecessary harm cause by this implementation plan, all of which could have been avoided if retailers would have been given an opportunity to sell through their inventor.

In a statement [by one of the Commissioners] following the vote, he says the following:

“Any Type of extension of the effective date for this rule would be patently unfair to the many retailers, both small and large, that have planned ahead, worked hard, played by the rules and prepared themselves to sell only compliant cribs on June 28th.”

I can tell you that we planned ahead and we worked hard to sell only compliant cribs by June 28th. The problem was never planning or how hard we were working, the problem was the fairness of the rules. As we move forward, I can only hope this commission does whatever studies it has to do to understand the full impact of this implementation plan. Maybe then, opinions such as those stated above by [the] Commissioner will change.

Personally there is a point I must make. While watching the webcast I could not help but notice how the four retailers fighting this extension were portraying us. We were being painted as profit hungry retailers with little regard for the safety of children. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The retailers I am proud to represent are family oriented good people. They understand the importance of safe cribs and welcome any standards, which make cribs safer. We support 16CFR-1219 and think it has set a safety standard this industry has needed for quite some time.

From Jim Vieira, President, Baby Boudoir:

Political ideology aside, anyone leading a government agency should be able to recognize an error in judgment, and take the necessary steps to correct that error when new substantiated information challenges a previously held position. It's clearly illustrated by Commissioner Northup's statement that this error was not even considered, let alone corrected. Meanwhile, were still waiting for certificates of conformity, retrofit hardware and a miracle to save a number of stores on the brink of bankruptcy.

I appreciate all the feedback I have received on this matter and will continue to provide as much information to the Commission as possible. Your input continues to help me in my efforts of being a responsible advocate during the CPSIA rule making process.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Setting The Record Straight

The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s official pronouncements on the new mandatory safety standards for cribs have caused confusion among the press. This post is intended to correct the record.

The new standards ban drop-side cribs. But the standards also prohibit the sale, new or used, of all cribs – both drop-side and fixed-side – that are not tested to the new standards by a private laboratory. Because very few cribs that were not originally manufactured to the new standards will ever be tested, the new standards essentially ban all such cribs – drop-side and fixed side. As reported in today’s press, millions of drop-side cribs have been recalled. On the other hand, tens of millions of fixed side cribs manufactured to previous standards have never been recalled, never been found to be unsafe, and now also cannot be sold new or resold used.

Drop side cribs have been banned since 2009 by the voluntary standard followed by the vast majority of crib manufacturers offering cribs in the domestic United States market today. Therefore, although it is true that the new standards are the first “mandatory” federal crib standards in 30 years, very few new drop-side cribs have been available in the United States market for two years. That problem was largely solved already through recalls and a change to the industry voluntary standard.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tomorrow You May See Tens of Thousands of These

Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had an opportunity to act in a sensible manner and provide important and immediate relief to retailers in the crib industry who requested an extension of the effective date of the new mandatory crib standards. The retailers of these cribs, which the Commission deemed were safe enough to continue to be used for another two years in day care facilities, stand to lose at least $32 million dollars when they are required to throw out noncompliant cribs on June 28. We all agree that the economy is growing painfully slowly, with high unemployment, minimal job creation, and a crushing national debt due in part to the reduced tax revenues associated with a weak economy. Among the central factors economists attribute to the reluctance of private sector employers to hire employees and invest capital are the costs and uncertainty of complying with new regulations. By failing to provide relief to crib retailers, the Commission continues to create over burdensome regulations without a safety justification.

I urge you to read my most recent statement on this issue and comment with your thoughts. If we at the Commission continue to ignore the voices of small businesses, sooner or later there won’t be any small businesses to ignore.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ribbon Cutting

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining my fellow Commissioners in opening CPSC’s brand new state of the art testing facility in Rockville, Maryland. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony gave us an opportunity to discuss many of the benefits of the new facility as well as get a glimpse into the work that is conducted there.

During the tour, I was able to witness first-hand the important technological steps that CPSC staff are taking to ensure the safety of the products that we use on a daily basis. Unlike the prior facility, this new center allows agency scientists and engineers to work together in a central location with the resources they need to do their jobs effectively. In particular, I was impressed by the center’s ability to conduct carbon monoxide alarm testing as well as their new mattress flammability testing chambers.

I want to congratulate all those who put in the time to make yesterday such a success. I am confident that this new facility will help us in our continuing efforts to ensure safety.