On August 14, 2008, former President George W. Bush signed into law the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-314), landmark legislation to reauthorize and strengthen the the CPSC. At the time, the CPSC was operating with a two-member quorum comprised of one Republican appointee, Commissioner Nancy Nord, and one Democratic appointee, Commissioner Thomas Moore. The small agency had fallen under attack for failing to fulfill its mission to protect the American people, and toys and other children's products were being recalled left and right. With only two members, decisions to act either had to be unanimous or no action could be taken.
What a difference a year makes.
For the past year, the CPSC has been working feverishly to implement CPSIA and interpret Congress' intent with respect to the law, which has resulted in some unintended consequences. In that timeframe, the CPSC has completed dozens of rulemakings and diverted resoures from numerous other activities to focus on these issues. Most importantly, the Commission is now fully operational with five duly appointed and confirmed commissioners. Under the leadership of newly confirmed Chair Inez Moore Tenenbaum, the CPSC is stepping into a new era and is expected to be more robust than ever before. Joining Chair Tenenbaum, Commissioner Moore and Commissioner Nord are the two newest members of the Commission, Anne Northup and Robert S. Adler.
On August 25, the CPSC held a public hearing with all five commissioners for the first time in years, examining its Fiscal Year 2011 priorities and agenda. The Commission heard testimony from nine individuals who outlined what they felt the CPSC should focus on during the upcoming year. Of particular note to the electroindustry were comments made by J. William Degnan, a member of the board of the National Association of State Fire Marshals, stressing the need for the CPSC to refocus some of its attention on fire and carbon monoxide hazards and to more fully participate in voluntary standards activities, including those for carbon monoxide alarms, arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), extension cords, and the National Electrical Code.
I was impressed by the commissioners' collective receptivity to the suggestions offered. There seems to be a true desire on the part of the commissioners to work constructively with industry to advance safety.