Tag Archives: Congress

If Big Business Wrote a Letter to Santa Claus this is What It Would Say

If Big Business wrote a bill to help itself get rid of regulations it didn’t like, what would that bill look like?

We don’t have to guess anymore. This week, a group of legislators introduced the Regulatory Improvement Act, a bill designed to “improve” our nation’s regulatory system, remove “government bureaucracy and red tape,” and help businesses avoid the “burden” of complying with safeguards and standards that protect our health, safety, environment and workers. Their solution? Have politicians appoint a panel to recommend regulations for Congress to ax in a rushed process.

The bill sets up a so-called “Regulatory Improvement Commission” tasked with an already predetermined outcome. That outcome is deregulation, plain and simple. Deregulation, you probably remember, led to the financial crisis of 2008. In a time when we’ve seen so many instances of industry bad actors — including at least 13 deaths due to faulty GM ignition switches that company officials knew had problems, years of toxic air pollution and water pollution from giant companies, and financial service companies like Sallie Mae taking advantage of our veterans — should we really be thinking about how to remove vital public protections for our health, safety, environment and financial security?

The commission’s mandate would be to modify, consolidate or repeal existing regulations to reduce compliance costs for business, completely ignoring the tremendous societal benefits that standards and safeguards give to the American people.

While it takes years for a federal agency to get a final rule out the door after numerous periods of public comment and review, this commission could erase this beneficial work within months. The review process is blatantly tilted toward benefitting corporate interests rather than the public interest. The procedure for how public comments on the commission’s reports are received, and even the way the commission is tasked with writing its reports on regulations are all slanted to examining the burden on businesses, never the benefits to the public. For instance, even the “costs” associated with doing taxes counts as a burden!

Supporters argue that the commission can review only those regulations finalized more than 10 years ago. Just think of how much progress we have made in the past four decades from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and much, much more. Regulations created from these and other laws would now be at stake.

And if there is an outdated regulation that could be removed, would it be worth all of this effort? There may well be a regulation pertaining to floppy disks, fax machines or pagers—but no one uses them anymore, and those regulations aren’t costing us anything to have written down somewhere. Is it worth setting up a new commission to remove superfluous regulations like that? Besides, most agencies already look back at existing rules – in a process that is far more careful and less politicized than the one this bill proposes.

And after all this, the commission is completely unaccountable to the public. The bill expressly states that the commission is exempt from the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (which requires public accessibility to meetings, open meetings and written advanced notice of a meeting a minimum of 15 days prior). According to the Regulatory Improvement Act, if just one member of the commission objects to a meeting being public, that meeting can be held in private.

Our vision for regulatory improvement

Nowhere does the Regulatory Improvement Act provide a way to update standards, make them stronger or more effective. If we were to write our own Regulatory Improvement Act, we would call for a regulatory review process that focuses attention on the need for stronger controls on corporations and expanded protections for the public.

Just because something is repeated often does not make it true. There is not an overabundance of regulation in this country. In reality, too much of our regulatory system has today slowed to a crawl, thanks in part to Big Business pushing at every point in the process to slow or stop new standards. They lobby against new laws; they lobby against new rules that agencies write under the existing laws; and then they lobby against strong enforcement of the rules that do get through.

By updating safeguards to better protect the public and making sure corporate bad actors are held accountable, our vision of regulatory improvement will be creating a system of standards and safeguards that better protects health and safety and puts everyone on a more equal footing, creating a fair economy for all.

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The Real “Tsunami” in Federal Regulatory Policy

(This post originally appeared on CPRBlog, the blog of the Center for Progressive Reform)

By Rena Steinzor, President of the Center for Progressive Reform | May 22, 2014

The federal regulatory system is in crisis. For the past several decades, a damaging set of mandates has continued to pile up on the books—mandates that threaten to stifle critical progress and undermine the nation’s ability to compete in the world economy. Even today, out-of-touch policymakers are attempting to add still more of these mandates, without regard to their direct, indirect, and cumulative costs to society. One might say that we are facing a tsunami, a flood, or even an avalanche of these mandates. Continue reading The Real “Tsunami” in Federal Regulatory Policy

Words from a Champion: Guest Blog by Congresswoman Schakowsky

The following post is from Congresswoman Schakowsky and originally appeared at kidsindanger.org  

Congresswoman Schakowsky joined KID and others to mark the fifth anniversary of this landmark safety bill.  She offers these insights.  

This month we mark the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the most significant product safety reform since the creation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1972.

I am proud to stand here today with Rep. Bobby Rush, as a cosponsor of his legislation which brought us needed reforms to the Consumer Product Safety Commission five years ago. I would also like to recognize Nancy Cowles and Kids in Danger, an organization whose efforts enabled us to be where we are today.

For far too long, the CPSC had been severely understaffed and ineffective in stopping dangerous products from making their way into our homes. Five years after CPSIA, the CPSC has made great strides to protect our children from dangerous cribs, lead-laden toys and untested designs.

Nancy Cowles of Kids In Cars and Rep Schakowsky (D-IL)
Nancy Cowles of Kids In Cars and Rep Schakowsky (D-IL)

As I said five years ago at the time of the signing, “Every child in America will be safer now that the bill has become law. The new law will make sure that our children are no longer used as test dummies because children’s toys and products will have to be pre-tested and meet higher standards.”

And through hard work and much oversight, the words are true today. We have gotten the lead out of toys; made sure children’s products are tested for safety before they are sold; created the first public database of product injury data; and provided funding and authority for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to vigorously enforce consumer protection laws and keep dangerous products out of our ports, stores and homes. Together those provisions have remade our product safety system.

I am particularly proud of the durable infant and toddler products rules that have saved countless lives since the CPSIA was enacted. Those provisions stem from a bill I sponsored since 2001 named after Danny Keysar, whose parents founded Kids in Danger after his needless death.

“Danny’s Law” requires strong standards for infant and toddler durable products – cribs, strollers and high chairs for example – that families depend on for the care of their children.  It also facilitated easier product registration by mail and over the internet so that parents can more easily learn of a recalled product.  And it required that those older cribs that don’t meet the new standard would be removed from our child care facilities.

Prior to the CPSIA, dozens of babies were killed when poorly-made and designed cribs literally fell apart in use – entrapping babies against detached drop-sides, failing mattress supports and broken side slats.  Just from 2007-2011, more than 11 million cribs were recalled.  Because of Danny’s Law, the world’s toughest crib standard went into effect in 2011 and today’s families and caregivers can be sure the crib they are buying will keep their baby safe.

Along with tough federal standards, outreach and education are vitally important.  Groups such as Illinois Action for Children and facilities such as the Carole Robertson Center for Learning are helping to address that need, educating caregivers and helping to replace all those older cribs.  I applaud your hard work and dedication to this issue.

As a mother and a grandmother, I’m proud that we were able to work together to protect our children from unsafe products by creating the strongest product safety reforms in recent history.

As we move forward, we need to keep our eye on the ball and make sure that the improvements we’ve worked so hard to accomplish remain intact.  I will continue fighting for adequate funding, resources, and regulations to ensure the CPSC can continue to do its critical job, and I know I can count on all of you to do the same.

OMB Watch — President Obama: You Had Me Until Fracking

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his support for the development of clean energy sources that will create jobs and protect the environment. But while developing clean energy is essential for moving us into the 21st century energy marketplace, the way we build our clean energy future also matters. We must develop energy without harming public health and the environment.

photo by pingting via flickr

A natural gas extraction process, commonly referred to as fracking, was cited in last night’s State of the Union as an example of clean energy. But using fracking to extract natural gas is anything but clean. In fact, the process produces more greenhouse gas emissions over time than traditional methods of oil drilling or coal mining, according to a Cornell University Study. In addition, fracking poses a great risk to public health and property, as evidenced by the multiple documented cases of severe water contamination near fracking sites, including water than can be actually set on fire as it comes out of the faucet.

Though Obama pledged to “develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk,” it is unclear as to how this would be accomplished. A loophole in the 2005 energy law (often called the Cheney or Halliburton loophole) granted oil and gas industries an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. This means the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot require drilling companies to disclose the toxic chemicals used in fracking, or limit their activities in order to protect drinking water. And, following an order from Congress, the EPA has not yet finalized an important national study on the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water. Thus, the public remains in the dark about the chemicals used in fracking, as well as the risks they pose to their drinking water.

Read the full story here.