Saturday, January 31, 2009

CPSIA Cracks of Light and Glimmers of Hope

So much has happened in the last 24 hours that it is hard for me to get my head around it all and write something cohesive. There have been two big breaks for businesses of all sizes in the fight against the CPSIA. First came from the Commission itself in the form of a "stay of enforcement". It seems as though we have definitely made ourselves heard. A staff of 15 has been taking literally thousands of calls regarding the testing and other requirements of the CPSIA and have been tsunami'd by cases requesting exemptions. This has forced the commission to take a year to review the data, set forth better guidelines for compliance, and try to deal with issues of enforcement.

The second, even more important development is a piece of legislation that will be introduced by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) amending the current legislation to include four important changes.

1. Allow small manufacturers to use the testing and certification that their component suppliers have done to certify that the components do not contain an impermissible amount of lead.

2. Exempt thrift stores, yard sales, consignments shops and other re-sellers from the prohibitions in the act.

3. Prevent retro-active enforcement of the act.

4. Provide a Good-Faith Exemption. A one-time exemption from penalty if your product is found to be in non-compliance, but you were acting in good faith.

While this doesn't go all the way to fixing what is wrong with the law, it certainly will be a marked improvement from what is currently written.

Now here comes the important stuff: Mr. DeMint is in the minority party in the Senate. He is going to need bi-partisan support to get this through, and you can bet the consumer groups that brought this law to bear are going to be plenty vocal about why this law shouldn't be changed. I know I am going to call my representatives in Washington and tell them to support this amendment!

In another development more personal to me, I spoke with Ms. Lauren Oppenheimer, the Legislative Director for Rep. Hodes (D-NH) yesterday. She couldn't have been more understanding of how this law is going to impact businesses throughout New Hampshire (and indeed the country). She also apologized profusely about the misinformation that came out of Mr. Hodes' office, and was deeply troubled that they had added to the confusion in any way. She assured me that our voices are being heard loud and clear (go team!) and in fact Rep. Hodes along with all of the Northern New England House Delegation had sent a letter to Commissioner Nord in an effort to clarify these rules as they apply to business.

Whew! Thanks to so many who have made these improvements possible, but let's not back down. I appreciate the stay of enforcement (although I've already tested my products with an XRF gun) but let's not lose sight of the fact that the fight isn't over. Moreover, just because there is a stay of enforcement doesn't allow anyone the right to sell products that may be over the limit for lead. The stay does nothing for the threshold limits set forth in the law and better to be safe than sorry.

Now off to call my reps...or better yet, as I'm headed to Fort Lauderdale for my day job, I think I'll take the day off...

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