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Hearing of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - "Unintended Consequences of 2008 Law on Jobs and Small Businesses"


Location: Washington, DC

This is the first hearing of our Subcommittee for the 112th Congress. Over the months ahead, I plan to look at a wide range of issues that deeply affect Americans in their daily lives. One of the most important -- as well as one of the most vexing issues we face today -- is how to get our economy back on track. How do we create new jobs? How do we bring jobs which have been lost to foreign countries back home? How do we make "Made in America" matter again? I believe it's part of "our job" to take a close look at what's working and what's not working, and then see how we can "work" together to make a real difference in peoples' lives.

Today's hearing is about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act or "CPSIA." This legislation was truly a landmark in efforts to improve consumer product safety. It was the first reauthorization of the CPSC in seventeen years, and it modernized and strengthened the agency in many different and meaningful ways.

While CPSIA has many virtues, there are some unintended consequences of the law, as well. We have a responsibility to the American public to review those specific provisions of the law that have proven to be problematic and to fix them. Admittedly, it's a careful balancing act, and we have to be certain -- as the old saying goes -- not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

For thousands of businesses, who strive to be responsible, "let's do what's best for consumers" -- CPSIA has consumed an inordinate amount of their time trying to understand how each new regulation and standard will affect them. Unfortunately, many have gone out of business, attributing their demise to some of the burdens of compliance with the many provisions of the new law. We need to strike a careful balance. As a nation, we simply cannot afford to lose jobs or stifle innovation because of unnecessary regulations.

Frankly, many businesses never even heard about this law until well after it was enacted. Most were shocked to learn of the onerous requirements it would impose on them if they manufactured or sold any "children's product" -- even though they had never done anything wrong and never had a single product recall.

It began with the best of intentions. In 2007, the widely publicized toy recalls for violations of the existing lead paint standard gave way to a new prohibition on lead content in children's products. As interpreted by the Commission, this category goes far beyond just toys to cover sporting goods, library books, all-terrain vehicles, educational products, CDs, clothing and many other items.

The goal was a noble one: making products safer for our kids. But within just months of passage, both the Commission and the Congress realized that problems with the new law would need to be addressed. The Commission recently announced yet another stay of enforcement -- at least five now by my count -- that it deems necessary to avert potentially disastrous results. What's more, during the last Congress, numerous bills and legislative drafts were introduced -- including one by Mr. Barton -- to remedy some of the problems we already know about. I hope that our new members can quickly get up to speed on these issues, and -- working together -- we can come up with a common sense solution that's a win-win for everyone.

Today, the Commission has jurisdiction over literally thousands of different types of products. It's critically important that they should be able to prioritize their resources to address the products that pose the greatest risk to consumers.

As a mother, I have very strong, passionate feelings about protecting all children. But as a former small business owner, I know all too well how unnecessary regulations -- even well intentioned ones -- can destroy lives, too. This is a rare opportunity to put aside the differences that often divide this great body and put our heads together to make a good law even better.

It's up to us now. And, as we begin this important debate, I'm going to encourage everyone to remember what we all tell our own kids growing up: Keep your eye on the ball.

Mr. Butterfield, you are now up to bat.

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