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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Consumer Product Do You Feel Safer Commission

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Bigger Budget? No, Responds Safety Agency, by Stephen Labaton, NY Times: The nation’s top official for consumer product safety has asked Congress in recent days to reject legislation intended to strengthen the agency, which polices thousands of consumer goods, from toys to tools.

On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.

Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.

The measure is an effort to buttress an agency that has been under siege because of a raft of tainted and dangerous products manufactured both domestically and abroad. ...

Ms. Nord’s opposition to important elements of the legislation is consistent with the broadly deregulatory approach of the Bush administration... Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said that Ms. Nord had not coordinated her effort to kill the legislation with the White House. But he said that the administration shared many of her concerns and that Allan Hubbard, President Bush’s top economic adviser..., was preparing to send a letter to Congress “that is probably even more forceful than Ms. Nord’s.” ...

Ms. Nord, who before joining the agency had been a lawyer at Eastman Kodak and an official at the United States Chamber of Commerce, criticized the measure... Some of Ms. Nord’s complaints were similar to the ones that business groups and manufacturers have raised, including that the legislation would be unnecessarily burdensome. But in other areas, like whistle-blower protection, her complaints went beyond those of industry. ...

Consumer advocates also said they were stunned by the letter. ...

The agency has suffered from a steady decline in its budget and staffing in recent years. Its staff numbers about 420, about half its size in the 1980s. It has only one full-time employee to test toys. And 15 inspectors are assigned to police all imports of consumer products under the agency’s supervision...

    Posted by on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Regulation | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (9)

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