In Washington, unlike the rest of the nation, competing realities are what we live with every day. As I was doing my daily reading, this came home to me in two articles. One is a report of the extraordinary number of new regulations coming out of the federal government. In the other, a former Administration official touts the feds’ record in reducing the regulatory burdens imposed by Washington. I wish to could say that reducing regulatory burden was important but here at the CPSC, that is rarely the case. Gosh, we couldn’t even agree on how to design a plan to look at the issue, much less do it. Here is a statement I recently posted about our failed attempt to do regulatory review.
Archive for the 'Rule Review' Category
The CPSC has continually ignored and otherwise shrugged off direction from the White House regarding good regulatory policy. The questions I have: Are we standing so far from the flagpole that we cannot hear the bugle? Or are we just marching to a different drummer? Either way, IF the White House were really serious about regulatory reform, then the CPSC’s continual disregard of Presidential executive orders should be of concern. That is a big IF—could it be that they are not serious?
Today, I wrote an op-ed about the CPSC’s repeated failures to take seriously the President’s regulatory reform directives. As a result we are shirking our responsibility to write rules that minimize the burden on the economy and marketplace and, consequently, consumers pay the price. You can read the piece online at the Washington Times.
Tomorrow is the 4th of July and fireworks will be part of many of your celebrations. The use of fireworks for festive occasions is centuries old, and so, too, is the risk in using them.
Consumers should use fireworks responsibly and the CPSC should make sure that our regulations help consumers have a safe and fun experience. This was brought home to me by a Wall Street Journal article last week noting that many states have eased fireworks restrictions. Therefore, it is even more important that CPSC’s regulations on fireworks be up-to-date and capable of protecting the public from risks inherent in modern fireworks. But, that is not the case.
The current CPSC fireworks safety standards were written many years ago and really need to be modernized. For example: under our current standard to determine if a Roman candle is overloaded with explosives, someone has to listen to how loud it is when it is exploded. If it sounds too loud, it fails. The only testing equipment—just our tester’s ear! Would you like your product tested so subjectively?
There has been talk about the need to update the CPSC fireworks standard ever since I got here. I have tried to spur action on this only to be told that other priorities take precedence. Yet with more than 9,000 injuries every year, you would think that we could find some time to work on this issue more effectively.
In earlier posts I have talked about the importance of reviewing existing rules to identify and correct those that are out of date, need revision or impose undue burdens. Unfortunately, so far our rule review exercise is one of minor housekeeping, not major repair. Serious rule review doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. If we were serious, we have a number of rules that need revision—the fireworks rule should be toward the top of the list.
In the meantime, here are some safety tips for using fireworks. And have a wonderful holiday!
Tags: consumer choice, regulatory regime, toy guns
Recently, I called for both major repairs and routine maintenance to our regulatory regime as the Commission plans a review of existing regulations. Last week, we voted unanimously to revoke certain caps and toy guns regulations that were made superfluous by newer regulations. (You can read my official statement on the vote here.) While worthwhile, this action was nothing more than tidying up our regulatory house. It had no substantive effect, so it did not improve safety, enhance consumer choice, or encourage innovation. Minor, routine maintenance is necessary to keep our rules up-to-date. But to truly reform and improve our regulations, we need to focus on rules that actually affect people.
Like many of you, I do basic housekeeping a few times a week. Then in the spring I get out the scrub brushes, hammer, and nails, and roll up my sleeves to do the major projects. To keep a house in good working order, you need both. The federal government also needs to do both major work and routine maintenance to keep a regulatory regime working at its optimum.
To be in good working order, federal agencies’ rules should be tailored to achieving their goals without unnecessarily burdening the public. I have long said this, so I was pleased when President Obama asked independent agencies, in a July 2011 executive order, to write plans to review their rules to identify and fix those that are outdated, inefficient, or needlessly burdensome.
The plan we adopt shouldn’t focus on the equivalent of minor housekeeping fixes when major house repairs are in order. Minor regulatory housekeeping should be part of our everyday activity. That doesn’t require a major plan; major repairs do. The Commission’s plan should be an “ambitious and unprecedentedly open process for streamlining, improving, and eliminating regulations,” to use the words of Cass Sunstein, director of the President’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The end of this process should be a regulatory regime that protects the public’s health and safety while ensuring that American consumers, employers, manufacturers, and innovators face the lowest reasonable burden.
Last fall, the CPSC asked the public for input on the elements of a rule review plan. The staff has now given us a draft plan that represents a starting point for Commission consideration. I have asked that the rule review plan be put on the Commission’s agenda so that we can discuss it collegially and openly as a Commission. We have a public meeting on another matter scheduled for late June. While I hope that we can take up a regulatory review plan sooner, at a minimum, I hope that this item can be added to the agenda for the June meeting.