Hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee - Child/Consumer Product Safety Panel I
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REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank you and the committee staff for the excellent work on this bill.
You know, having worked in retail and marketing and with consumer products, and sitting on this side of the aisle, I have a tendency to kind of take Reagan's view about the nine most feared words in the governmentspeak is "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
But as we look at consumer products, we do know that that is supposed to be the job of this commission. And we have -- I've always been very slow to move forward. And Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the way the subcommittee has worked and has looked into the shortcomings of consumer health and safety laws.
And this has been illuminating for many of us, and I appreciate the efforts that have gone into looking at the Consumer Product Safety Council, looking at the testing problems that exist, the transition in the flow of goods from manufacturer to market, and how they are assessed and in the manner, the timely manner, I will say, in which they're assessed, looking at the bureaucracy that exists within your walls and how that needs to be reformed and reshaped, addressing jurisdiction and the scope of your work, and how that plays forward; communication, or lack thereof; practices in best, or lack thereof, of practices in how we work with you.
And Chairman Nord, we thank you and your team for being willing to talk with us as we work to address these problems that our constituents and many of our constituent companies bring to us. So we thank you for your willingness to work on that, and we do know that the legislation under review today is a product of an effort to shine the light on what has caused some misgivings and some questions in the marketplace.
The CPSEC, as we all know in the private sector, are partners. They are indeed partners and should continue to be partners in ensuring a safe and healthy marketplace for all consumer goods. That is a big part of your scope of work, and the incidents that we've reviewed by the subcommittee over the past 10 months have truly shown us that there is a breakdown in this system. And as we know, it is -- it mounts to being basically a breach of the public trust not only for consumers, but also for retailers who are accepting those products into their flow of goods into the marketplace.
Now our bill -- and I understand the number on it is H.R. 4040. I thought -- I looked at the number and I thought, "Mr. Chairman, we maybe should have had it be H.R. 2020 if that one is available," because we hope it will sharpen the vision and will give a clearer view of what is happening in the stream of moving forward with items in the marketplace. The legislation mandated third-party testing and certification of all products intended for children aged six or under. I think it's critical. Leading American retailers and manufacturers are already employing this practice in the international market and it's high time to institutionalize this now-voluntary standard.
The legislation also authorizes $20 million beyond -- between Fiscal Year '09 and '11 for the renovation of the CPSC's beleaguered test lab. And I have not personally visited this facility. However, from the witness testimony we've had from public interest groups and also from Chairman Nord, it suggests that the labs cannot meet the needs of the American consumers in the current state. So it is time to reinvest, to update and to add new technologies and protocols that will aid the professionals that are working in this.
We thank the commission. Mr. Chairman, I thank you, the subcommittee staff, our Ranking Member Stearns and the staff, and I yield the balance of my time.
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REP. BLACKBURN: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. I thank you, and I thank Mr. Burgess for allowing me to go ahead so I can make my meeting.
I want to follow up on a couple of things and just get a little bit more depth. And I thank you, Ms. Nord, for your patience with us today.
We've talked a little bit about the third-party testing. And I wanted to know if you could tell us how many companies are using this third-party testing, how many companies under your jurisdiction. Can you give us a number, of the number of companies that are using this?
And the other part of this question is, as we've worked through this process, I've wondered about the number of companies that import component parts and then do the assembly in the U.S. Are they going through this third-party testing? And can you give us that information?
MS. NORD: With respect to how many companies are doing third- party independent testing today, it really depends on what kind of product we're talking about. With respect to toys, you have seen that grow dramatically. And indeed, the toy industry, along with the American National Standards Institute, have put in place an industry- wide plan to --
REP. BLACKBURN: Okay, let me stop you right there, then, if we don't have a number. What I would like to ask you all to do -- and I'm not trying to be make-work on this -- but you've got some working groups that have all worked on this legislation. If you can (halt ?) these groups and give us an idea of how many companies are using the independent testing, how many are manufacturing the component parts, doing the assembly here, which we know there are lots of toy companies that do that, and then give us an idea of their use of the independent testing, and then be able to let us get an idea of how successful that has been.
I hope they're reporting the data back to you and that you have access to some of this data. I think it would be helpful to you, and I know it would be very helpful to us. We've discussed this issue a lot. You've come before the committee quite a bit, and I wish that you had that information to tell us if the companies feel like they're successful. If they're failing to report data to you, I think we need to know that.
You know, it's -- once we do this legislation, knowing that that testing works is going to be more than a theory. It's got to be more than a theory.
MS. NORD: Of course.
REP. BLACKBURN: So if you will work with us on that. Another thing. The $20 million to update the labs -- I want you to speak for a minute. Is that sufficient? And what span of time -- what is your timeline for updating these labs and employing some of the new technologies that should yield better results, quicker turnarounds, et cetera?
MS. NORD: I'm hopeful that we will be able to do this in a quick timeline. We have got a proposal right now with GSA to look at real estate solutions to our laboratory problem. If we stay where we are, we're going to have to basically demolish it.
REP. BLACKBURN: And is the $20 million sufficient? Your timeline in your proposal -- does that cover it?
MS. NORD: I think $20 million should --
REP. BLACKBURN: It -- okay.
And then Section 103 of the bill, the labels -- and I think Ms. Schakowsky is the one who talking about that -- and you mentioned you needed -- if the rulemaking authority was workable, that it would be practicable, I think was your comment to us. And what I'd like to ask you is if you would consider this -- if the commission would consider this a new mandate and then for our small business manufacturers -- our small toy manufacturers, if you look at it as a -- an unfunded mandate in that regard. If you would just speak to that -- and if you need to get back to me in writing, I think that's fine, too.
MS. NORD: Well, I think the underlying intent of the provision is very good. It's very useful to be able to track products back to where they were manufactured. So that, I'm very pleased with. But again, I think the commissions needs the rulemaking flexibility to deal with --
REP. BLACKBURN: Okay.
MS. NORD: -- that issue and others that will come up implementing this.
REP. BLACKBURN: So we need to put a little bit more attention on that one is what I'm hearing you say. Okay.
Section 209 -- to require a manufacturer to provide notice of recalled products on its website, to make radio and TV announcements including in languages other than Spanish -- is there any other agency that has had this authority or this mandate and -- you know, has NHTSA done this? Are you in new territory here or do you have something you're going to lean on for guidance?
MS. NORD: I am not aware of other agencies that do this to this extent. Of course, NHTSA is dealing with a very heavily regulated product, so it can talk to its --
REP. BLACKBURN: Okay.
MS. NORD: The company's --
REP. BLACKBURN: All right. Let me -- my time has expired, so let me cut you off.
Mr. Chairman, if I might, if counsel could provide us some guidance on that section -- 209, I think that might be helpful as we move forward with our discussion. And I yield my time back.
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