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DQ: Administrative Law and Agencies
Consider the following case:
Centre Daily Times (State College, PA)
Copyright 2008 Centre Daily Times
January 2, 2008
Toy recalls spur Congress to act
Lawmakers look to increase oversight power of safety group
Jim Tankersley and Maurice Possley, Chicago Tribune
WASHINGTON — A year of recalls and lead scares in the toy industry is spurring Congress toward the largest overhaul in decades of the nation’s product safety watchdog.
Lawmakers from both parties are pushing to increase the budget and power of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, motivated by consumer unrest over millions of recalled children’s products and revelations by the Chicago Tribune of the agency’s slow response to reports of deadly cribs and toy magnets.
House and Senate leaders say the question isn’t whether Congress will send President Bush a product safety bill; it’s how far the changes will go.
The House unanimously passed a bill in December that tightens lead standards, mandates new toy safety testing and boosts the CPSC’s annual budget to $100 million by 2011, an increase of more than 50 percent from 2007. The Senate is mulling a farther-reaching measure that would vastly increase toymakers’ lawsuit liability and stop them from blocking the public release of safety information.
Whatever negotiators hammer out figures to pass overwhelmingly, leaders in both parties say, and would trigger the most comprehensive changes at the CPSC since the Reagan administration dramatically scaled back the agency in the 1980s.
Bush already has signed a bill that includes a $17 million funding increase for the agency in 2008, directed in part to bolstering efforts to monitor Chinese-made toys for lead and other hazards.
A number of lawmakers have pushed CPSC reforms for years without success. Their efforts gained steam in May when the Chicago Tribune detailed how the agency fumbled a recall of Magnetix, construction toys that contained dangerously powerful magnets. The agency didn’t effectively get the product off store shelves until after a child died and dozens of others were injured.
The legislative push also reflects concern over a wave of lead-tainted toys that became the latest in a series of Chinese-made products — from deadly pet food to food intended for people — sending shivers through American consumers.
The lead-related recall in June of 1.5 million Thomas & Friends railway toys shook the toy industry. By year’s end, the CPSC had announced 107 lead recalls for almost 17 million pieces of toys, jewelry, clothing and other items — as many recalls in a single year as the agency had announced in its entire three-decade history.
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who is chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the CPSC, convened several hearings on dangerous toys, including two days devoted to lead. He and other committee leaders led the House version of the CPSC reform bill to unanimous passage shortly before lawmakers left Washington for their year-end break.
That bill gradually lowers the allowable level of lead in children’s products from 600 parts per million to 100 ppm, which sponsors call the strictest standard in the world. The bill mandates third-party safety testing of toys either in a certified independent lab or, upon approval by the CPSC, an industry-funded lab. It requires tracking labels on children’s products to “enable the manufacturer and the ultimate purchaser to ascertain the location and date of production of the product.”
The measure also raises the maximum civil penalty for violating consumer safety laws to $10 million, up from $1.25 million, and it gives state attorneys general the power to pull recalled products from store shelves. The increased CPSC budget includes $20 million for testing-lab upgrades.
The House leaves several key details of the bill to the CPSC, including how to spend its additional money, how to certify toy testing labs and how often children’s products must be screened for safety.
How does theCenter Daily Timesarticle relate to this subject area of study? Be specific.
How could the toy industry have prevented Congressional interest in investing more in the CPSC? Be specific.