Well, it may be old news by now, but at 3:33 p.m. I got an email from CPSIA (I'm not special, just signed up for email updates here). It was a letter in response to the letter sent by Allan Adler and Ed McCoyd of the Association of American Publishers, dated Nov. 23. (wow, at that rate we may get a response to our many letters by Summer!) you can read it here
Or, allow me to summarize as I try hard to let the optimist in me win the wrestling match... It says that books (at least they clearly defined what a book is... really, that is a very important issue here) are exempt from the law. Well, sort of... or, they are for now, but there's no assurance that that won't change.
Reading it was like watching one of those wildlife videos from an African watering hole. (stick with me here) The lovely gazelle gracefully walks up to the edge to get a drink. "oh, pretty gazelle, quenching your thirst... how nice" but all the while you just KNOW there's a big, hungry crocodile below the surface. You want to enjoy the peaceful tranquility of the gazelle, but *SNAP* there goes its head... well, you know the rest.
So, the letter goes on for a couple of pages talking about all of the great exemptions and clarifications (oh, pretty gazelle) but it ends with the sharp-toothed paragraph:
"The views expressed in this letter are provided pursuant to my authority described in 16 C.F.R. 1000.7 and have not been reviewed or approved by the Commission. They are based on the best available information at the time they were written. They may be superseded at any time by the Commission, or by operation of law. Sincerely, Cheryl A. Falvey"
Well, Cheryl, what's taking you so long getting back to all of us if nothing you say actually means anything?
This is why the only solution here is for Congress to re-write the law making its intentions clear. Only Congress can do that. Apparently some of our Representatives are not aware of this process (based on my conversations with their aides). I'd like to suggest that they learn about it where I did, tv.
The real problem with all of this is that the bill was written (and voted on) in sweepingly vague terms and it appointed a committee (I don't think the "c" should be capitalized) of unelected officials to determine and administer what it actually says. Why not just save paper and say "do whatever you have to do to fix stuff"?
Should it be comforting to us that (as they say) they probably won't come after everyone, but it's that they can. Go about your business, 'cause the law only matters if you get caught. And trrrrrrust us. The assurance that we are safe is that they don't have the resources to police everyone. But if the fine is $100,000 per violation, that's going to beef up the budget significantly, yes?
Well, you don't want to read the rambling conspiracy theories of a sleepless future law-breaker. What I am hoping is that all of these groups (small manufacturers, crafters, publishers, libraries, homeschoolers, greenies) will continue to focus on this prescience setting, ambiguous law and what really needs to be changed. If we just let CPSIA shoot each one of with novice to shut us up, they can turn around and "supersede at any time" and we're all back where we started.
I am posting some more great links I've come across, so see above.
And below I am adding a sample letter (based on the sample letter from the Handmade Toy Alliance, with more emphasis on what I believe is crucial), just to make it easy for you to cut, paste, edit, personalize, print, sign and mail. Do with it as you please, but PLEASE do keep after your Representatives...
From: [your name and address]
To: [your congress person or senator]
Re: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) and its devistating impact as-is
Dear [your congress person or senator],
The economic crisis in our country is distressing to millions of Americans. That is largely why it concerns me that under the CPSIA, many small business owners will be driven out of business, deepening the crisis. The premise of self reliance and entrepreneurship on which this country was founded is in jeopardy.
Like many people, I was deeply concerned by the dangerous and poisonous toys that large Chinese toy manufacturers have been selling to our families. And, I was pleased that Congress acted quickly to protect America's children by enacting the CPSIA.
However, I am very concerned that the CPSIA's mandates for third party testing and labeling will have a dramatic and negative effect on small businesses whose safety record has always been exemplary. It will devastate small manufacturers and home businesses that create children's products such as clothes, handmade goods and toys for children, beautiful Native American artifacts, children's books, adaptive products for children with disabilities, and classroom and homeschool materials. These small businesses simply cannot afford the $300-$4,000 price tag per product that approved Third Party testers are charging.
With the economic crisis we find ourselves in, fewer families will be able to afford the higher costs of the goods of the goods that remain available. Any company that is able to remain in business will undoubtedly raise prices due to increased compliance costs. Everyone will have to pay more for the remaining available goods, deepening the effects of the economic crisis for millions of families as well as limiting the choices that parents can make for their children.
I am troubled that the law was written in such vague terms by Congress, and left to be interpreted by a committee of unelected staff. Any exemptions made or rules set by the CPSIA are of little consolation to those who will be most impacted, because those rules are subject to change without having to conform to the same standards that we expect of our elected Representatives in upholding Constitutional rights by establishing reasonable parameters of even the strictest law. I urge you to delay the Feb. 10 compliance date to give time for Congress to re-write HR 4040 in a way that clarifies its true intentions, taking into consideration the many recommendations that have been presented (including elimination of “redundant testing” in cases such as the higher standards set by GOTS certified materials and other voluntary Third Party testing that many in this industry already submit to, and an exemption to third party testing requirements for micro-businesses similar to the exemptions granted by the FDA for small producers under the food labeling laws). Small businesses are being damaged even as the date rapidly approaches.
These toy makers, crafters, publishers and small home based businesses have earned and kept the public's trust. They provide jobs for thousands and quality playthings and educational products for hundreds of thousands, and they deserve a permanent solution to these issues. Their unique businesses should be protected.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.