Sullivan, Mo. Skydive Crash Report Out

NTSB Identification: CHI06FA210
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 29, 2006 in Sullivan, MO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 1/29/2009
Aircraft: de Havilland DHC-6-100, registration: N203E
Injuries: 6 Fatal, 2 Serious.

The Safety Board’s full report is available at http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/publictn.htm. The Aircraft Accident Summary Report number is NTSB/AAR 08/03/SUM.

On July 29, 2006, about 1345 central daylight time, a de Havilland DHC 6 100, N203E, registered to Adventure Aviation, LLC, and operated by Skydive Quantum Leap as a local parachute operations flight, crashed into trees and terrain after takeoff from Sullivan Regional Airport, near Sullivan, Missouri. The pilot and five parachutists were killed, and two parachutists were seriously injured. The flight was operated under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
the pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed following a loss of power in the right engine due to the fracturing of compressor turbine blades for undetermined reasons. Contributing to some parachutists’ injuries was the lack of a more effective restraint system on the airplane.

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Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

STATE BUDGET TROUBLES WORSEN

Updated January 29, 2009

STATE BUDGET TROUBLES WORSEN
By Elizabeth McNichol and Iris J. Lav

States are facing a great fiscal crisis. At least 46 states faced or are facing shortfalls in their budgets for this and/or next year, and severe fiscal problems are highly likely to continue into the following year as well. Combined budget gaps for the remainder of this fiscal year and state fiscal years 2010 and 2011 are estimated to total more than $350 billion.

States are currently at the mid-point of fiscal year 2009 — which started July 1 in most states — and are in the process of preparing their budgets for the next year. Over half the states had already cut spending, used reserves, or raised revenues in order to adopt a balanced budget for the current fiscal year — which started July 1 in most states. Now, their budgets have fallen out of balance again. New gaps of $46 billion (over 9% of state budgets) have opened up in the budgets of at least 42 states plus the District of Columbia. These budget gaps are in addition to the $48 billion shortfalls that these and other states faced as they adopted their budgets for the current fiscal year, bringing total gaps for the year to over 14 percent of budgets.

The states’ fiscal problems are continuing into the next two years. At least 41 states have looked ahead and anticipate deficits for fiscal year 2010 and beyond.[1] These gaps total almost $88 billion — 16 percent of budgets — for the 34 states that have estimated the size of these gaps and are likely to grow as gaps are re-estimated in the next few months.

Figure 2 shows the size and duration of the deficits in the recession that occurred in the first part of this decade, and estimates of the likely deficits this time.

This recession is more severe — deeper and longer — than the last recession, and thus state fiscal problems are likely to be worse. Unemployment, which peaked after the last recession at 6.3 percent, has already hit 7.2 percent, and many economists expect it to rise to 9 percent or higher, which will reduce state income taxes and increase demand for Medicaid and other services. With consumers’ reduced access to home equity loans and other sources of credit, sales taxes are also likely to fall more steeply than they did in the last recession. These factors suggest that state budget gaps will be significantly larger than in the last recession. Based on past experience and the depth of this recession, it appears likely that all but a handful of states will face shortfalls in fiscal year 2010 and these deficits will end up totaling about $145 billion. If, as is widely expected, the economy does not begin to significantly recover until the end of calendar year 2009, state deficits are likely to be even larger in state fiscal year 2011 (which

begins in July 2010 in most states).[2] The deficits over the next two-and-a-half years are likely to be in the $350 billion to $370 billion range.[3]

Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 2:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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KUDOS – WPD!

Recently I wrote an editorial responding to a citizens concerns about property taxes and what a city councilman’s roll in taxes are. (See: Councilmen Think About Taxes?)

It seems that I praised every department in Washington…. except for the Washington Police Department. What an extraordinary oversight on my part. And while the WPD knows the affinity I have for them, it is only fair that I state publicly what they know privately. Without civil order being the first order, nothing else functions.

As an example of their professionalism, I was recently told a story from a father of a teen that lives in my ward. His teenager had been recently pulled over for exceeding the speed limit, by 15 mph. The boy probably continued a little further than the average person would have and could have added a heap of trouble to his simple speeding violation.

The officer, one of the newer members to the force, called the father to the scene, where a long and respectful conversation ensued. The officer made a decision to let the teen off with a warning. Consequently, the teen learned a big lesson about responsibility and the father gained a new respect for the Washington Police Department.

The officer displayed sage wisdom and judgment beyond his years. The parent was spared a huge increase in insurance premiums and possibly having his child’s driving privileges revoked.

I am very proud of this police force.

Thanks Chief Hahn and company.

Guy W. Midkiff

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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$7500 and Economic Stimulus Package

UDATE: Feb 19, 2009

See the following websites for information on the $8000 housing tax credit:

http://www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com/

http://www.mhdc.com/homes/tca/index.htm

UPDATE: Feb 15, 2008

Congress has finally passed the stimulus bill.  As mentioned before, below are the details.

1.) First time home buyers will receive $8,000

2.) A first time home buyers is anyone who has not owned their primary residence in the last 3 years

3.) This is for any home purchased from January 1, 2009 till December 31, 2009

4.) The $8,000 will not have to be repaid

5.) Mortgage Revenue Bonds are allowed so that the cash is available at closing

6.) If the home buyer leaves the house within 3 years, the $8000 would have to be repaid

President Obama will be signing the bill on Monday.

End of latest update.

The federal government has created a $7,500 tax credit for first time home buyers. In the new economic stimulus package being voted on today (Wednesday) in the house, the bill would strip the requirement to repay the $7500 tax credit. The senate bill that will be debated next week also strips the repayment requirement and in addition extends the deadline to purchase a house from June 30, 2009 to September 1, 2009. I will keep you informed as to how the votes turn out and if these provisions stay in the bill. Coupled with the new program from the state, Missouri will be the only state in the nation to be in a good position to start using these tax credits immediately.

LATEST UPDATE: 2/7/09

The senate is currently debating a stimulus package with the following included:

1.) Raises the $7,500 Tax Credit to $15,000

2.) Extends the date from June 30, 2009 to September 1, 2009

3.) Tax Credit will not have to be repaid

4.) All homebuyers will be able to use this tax credit

The senate is set to conclude debate on Monday with the official vote being Tuesday.  They will then send this back to the house to try and iron out the differences.  The House and Senate Leaders hope to have this on the President’s Desk by Monday, February 16th.

Many buyers are currently aware of what is going on in Washington.  They are hesitant to make a move until they know what is going on with this bill.

General Info:

Link to Expanded Use brochure.

This new stimulus package will NOT be retroactive as to the repayment portion of the tax credit. If you bought a house in 2008 (on or after April 9th) you will be able to receive the up to $7,500 tax credit which you will have to repay over the next 15 years.

This new bill only deals with homes purchased in 2009.

(Data Supplied By: the Franklin County Construction Industry Council)

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 11:08 am  Comments (6)  
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Sweep of school finds no drugs

I recently spoke with the Washington Police Chief, Ken Hahn, about the prevalence of drugs in our public schools. I was concerned because there had been 4 of our youths die, in the last year, due to heroin over doses.

If there is a silver lining to drug use, the drugs were not bought and sold in our community, but instead purchased by the youths, out of town and brought here for their personal use.

As a follow-up, a random screen was recently completed at the High School, and no drugs were found. The screen included a drug sniffing dog. This is a very promising sign.

We also, recenlty, lost some of our youths in car accidents. I understand neither youth were wearing safety belts. Seat belts save lives – period. Drill the habit into your childrens heads from day one. No seat belt, no keys.

Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 1:22 pm  Comments (2)  
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Resolution: Objections to SB 6

RESOLUTION NO. ___________INTRODUCED BY COUNCILMAN___________________

A RESULTION AUTHORIZING THE NOTIFICATION OF THE MISSOURI HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND MISSOURI SENATE OF OBJECTIONS FROM THE WASHINGTON CITY COUNCIL TO SENATE BILL NUMBER 6, INTRODUCED BY SENATOR JOHN GRIESHEIMER ON DECEMBER 1, 2008.

WHEREAS, current State law requires consent from a majority of the elected members of the City Council to approve any ordinance, resolution and motion that will require expenditure of City funds; and

WHEREAS, on December 1, 2008 Senator John Griesheimer pre-filed Senate Bill number 6, which proposes to change the voting powers of city mayors. SB #6 would remove the provision that a mayor could only vote “in case of a tie” and then allows a mayor to vote when the following occurs:
1) The vote of the council has resulted in a tie;
2) One-half of the council elected have voted in favor of an ordinance, resolution, or motion even though there is no tie vote; or
3) A vote greater than a majority of the council is required; and

WHEREAS, government works upon a foundation of checks and balances on each branch. A mayor, as the city’s chief executive, has his powers limited by state laws and further by city ordnances passed by a majority of the elected council. Should SB #6 become law, a majority of the elected council will no longer be required to approve controversial issues. Power will significantly shift from every city council in Missouri into the hands of the mayors; and

WHEREAS, without a check and balance on a mayor by the council, or council by a mayor, abuse of power will occur. Some argue that a mayor is prevented from voting on a tie because someone on the council fails to attend a meeting and vote. However, a tie seldom occurs unless there is a controversial issue under consideration. The people’s best interest always wins when a majority of the elected council agrees. Allowing a mayor to decide what is best over the people’s elected representatives is an abuse of power.

NOW, THEREFORE. BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the City of Washington Missouri as follows:

SECTION 1: The City of Washington wishes to file a formal objection to changing the powers of a Mayor as defined in Senate Bill Number 6 and future companion House Bills. We ask that these bills be voted down and rejected by both the Missouri Senate and Missouri House.

Passed: ______________________________

ATTEST:____________________________ ___________________________________
President of City Council
Approved:___________________________

ATTEST:____________________________ ___________________________________
Mayor of Washington, Missouri

Published in: on January 21, 2009 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Council Rejects Expansion of a Mayors Powers

Last night the Washington City Council passed a resolution expressing disapproval with Missouri Senator John Greisheimer’s bill, (SB 6) that dramatically expands a Missouri Mayor’s power.

The resolution was pasted 5 to 3, with the mayor threatening to veto the bill, asking the city attorney to look into whether or not a veto was legal.

Some of a mayors current powers:

  • Appoint vacated seats on city council.
  • Appoints members to all city committees and boards (over 100 people).
  • Veto Powers (Takes 6 votes to override a veto.)
  • Only City Official that can sign contracts.
  • Votes to break a tie.
  • Controls city council meeting agenda.
  • President of city council.
Published in: on January 21, 2009 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

SB 6 Modifying Mayors Voting Power

SB 6 –
Griesheimer – Modifies when a city mayor shall vote on ordinances, resolutions, and motions before the city’s governing body. Currently, the city mayor presides over the city council, but only votes in case of a tie. Under this act, the mayor would vote: 1) when the vote of the council has resulted in a tie, 2) when one-half of the council elected have voted in favor of an ordinance, resolution, or motion even though there is no tie vote, or 3) when a vote greater than a majority of the council is required.

While I have not had an opportunity to speak with Senator Griesheimer, on the surface it would appear that this bill will not serve the best interest of the citizen. I will do more homework on this bill, but it would appear to tip the balance of power dramatically favoring a city mayor. Mayors already have considerable power, being able to appoint members to committees, city administrative jobs, and appointments to vacated city council seats.

Making life easy for mayors is not always in the best interest of the democratic process.

UPDATE: I have been informed by the Washington City Attorney that the St. Clair City Attorney had asked Senator Griesheimer to propose a law that would expand a Mayors authority because St Clair’s city council (consisting of only 4 members) had a difficult time getting enough councilmen to show up and vote on ordinances. This is why the new law is being offered.

I find it baffling that such a far reaching bill would be suggested simply because one city is having a difficulty passing laws. St. Clair should consider adding more members to their council instead of asking for a law that would change the entire dynamic of the local Missouri political system

Guy Midkiff

Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Council Think About Taxes?

The following was an editorial sent into the Missourian asking what the city council thinks about taxes. I have included my response in the form of a letter to the editor which has yet to be included in the Missourian:

What Does the Council Think About Taxes?

By: John Ritson Sr., A Senior Citizen

01/13/2009 e

To The Editor: Let’s hear from the council people!! As most of us taxpaying property owners are disgusted with the “unfair” taxation on devalued property and seemingly lack of concern by those in charge, we should hear what our council people think about the present situations. After all, if they truly are thinking about and representing their constituents of the four wards in Washington, I feel we have the right to know how they feel about an unfair practice, even if it is required by a stupid law. Hopefully, they haven’t forgot what most of us learn in American History classes, something called the cry of “taxation without representation!” So, before we start hearing about the next local election, maybe we might just get some insight on how these council people think about fairness when it comes to the process of levying taxes.

My response, January 14, 2009:

Dear Mr. Ritson, Sr

I certainly can empathize with your feelings that keeping property tax rates steady in the face of falling property values is “unfair.” Unfortunately, some citizens feel that government should provide our cradle-to-grave needs. This philosophy comes at a price. When the economy is doing well, this works OK, but when the economy falters the tax payer and business owners get pinched.

The reality is that per every $100 of assessed property value, $5.89 is the total tax levy. Of that total amount 68 cents goes to the City of Washington – the only amount your elected city council person has control of. $3.86 of the tax goes to the school district – by far the lions share of all property taxes. As you can see, our portion of the total pie is but a fraction of the full about. Of the City of Washington’s portion, 15 cents goes to the Fire Department, 9 cents goes to the Library, and the remainder goes to the General Fund for operating the city.

Regarding the setting of the 2008 tax levy, the City Council was split down the middle on voting in the new tax levy. I voted against setting the levy at 100%, along with 3 other of my colleagues. (The eMissourian is an excellent resource for searching city news. To read the entire story, search the eMissorian for: “Mayor Breaks Tie to Set ’08 Tax Levy, By Ed Pruneau, Missourian Managing Editor 08/19/2008.” ) But I can say with confidence that the Mayor, City Staff, and City Council remain vigilant in protecting tax dollars and have recently come up with new ways to increase the efficiency of government operations.

From my perspective and limited control, you are receiving a pretty good value for your property tax dollar. We have a premier Volunteer Fire Department, Water Department, Sanitation Department, along with streets, parks and the library. We have some of the cheapest and cleanest water in the nation. We have a state-of-the-art water treatment plant that will come on line very soon that can scale to future growth for a generation or more.

And no I am not up for re-election.

Sincerely yours,

Guy W. Midkiff
Ward III, Councilman
City of Washington

Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm  Comments (1)  

H.R. 4040 : Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008

Concerned individuals may contact senators and representatives and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

H.R. 4040:Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008

To establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children’s products and to reauthorize and modernize the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

View Votes (Missouri members: U.S. House of Representatives roll no. 1185)

Missouri
Yea MO-1 Clay, William [D]
Yea MO-2 Akin, W. [R]
Yea MO-3 Carnahan, Russ [D]
Yea MO-4 Skelton, Ike [D]
Yea MO-5 Cleaver, Emanuel [D]
Yea MO-6 Graves, Samuel [R]
Yea MO-7 Blunt, Roy [R]
Yea MO-8 Emerson, Jo Ann [R]
Yea MO-9 Hulshof, Kenny [R]

View Votes (Missouri Members: U.S. Senate roll no. 193)

Missouri
Yea MO Bond, Christopher [R]
Yea MO McCaskill, Claire [D

Concerned individuals may contact senators and representatives and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

YOUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK
Is Feb. 10 financial doomsday for thousands?
New law could force companies into ruin
Posted: January 08, 2009
12:13 am Eastern

By Chelsea Schilling
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

Jacobsen Books in Clinton, Wis.

A new government regulation scheduled to take effect next month has thousands of retailers, thrift stores and small businesses worried they will be forced to permanently close their doors – and destroy their merchandise.

The law is expected to have such a devastating impact that Feb. 10 is now unofficially known as “National Bankruptcy Day.”

Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, or HR 4040, a retroactive rule mandating that all items sold for use by children under 12 must be tested by an independent party for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable.

All untested items, regardless of lead content, are to be declared “banned hazardous products.” The CPSC has already determined the law applies to every children’s item on shelves, not just to items made beginning Feb. 10.

The regulations could force thousands of businesses – especially smaller ones that cannot afford the cost of lead testing – to throw away truckloads of children’s clothing, books, toys, furniture and other children’s items and even force them to close their doors.

Will Obama bring the end of prosperity? Get the book that shows how higher taxes will doom the economy – if we let it happen.

Children’s books

Valerie Jacobsen and her husband, Paul, support their family of 13 by selling literature at Jacobsen Books in Clinton, Wis. Her family has contracts with local libraries to buy and sell overstocked books – an arrangement that draws income for both parties.

However, Jacobsen told WND that lead testing is estimated to cost $100 to $400 for each of her used children’s books because she does not buy in bulk, and each batch of merchandise is required to be tested.

“There’s a big difference between me and Wal-Mart or Toys ‘R’ Us,” she said. “They’ll have a batch of 50,000. Everything I have is a batch of one because I don’t know its history. I’m looking at a testing cost of about $1.2 million. I would normally sell my full inventory of all children’s products for probably $15,000. So, it’s effectively a ban.”

Valerie Jacobsen

The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that lead testing requirements apply to children’s books, cassettes and CDs, printed game boards, posters and other printed goods used for children’s education. While it does claim some printing inks will be exempt, paper, cardboard, bindings, glues, laminates and other inks are still subject to regulation and require testing.

Jacobsen said that unless the new law is repealed or substantially modified, it could devastate her family business.

“I don’t want to stop selling children’s books on Feb. 9,” she said. “I need that income. We provide a lot of reading for a lot of little kids. I went into this business because I thought that books were good for children’s mental development. That opinion hasn’t changed. And the government’s ruling is essentially saying they’re hazardous for children’s mental development because they might contain lead. We just have no evidence that they do.”

Children’s second-hand clothing

Jacobsen said she often shops at second-hand stores for her 11 children because she can buy quality clothing at low prices.

“Over the years I have always tried to make the most of our money, so we’ll go to Goodwill,” she said. “To be honest, I’d rather go to Goodwill and get a brand-name item that’s hardly been worn and pay $3.99 for it than to go to Wal-Mart and pay $13.99 for something that in six weeks from now is not going to worth anything.”

But now some thrift and consignment stores are in a panic over the new regulation because it extends to children’s clothing, shoes and other items as well.

Cindy Retmier owns a consignment store called Jordan’s Closet in El Dorado Hills, Calif. She told KXTV News 10 that the law could close her business.

“[W]e’ve been passing kids clothing down for centuries,” she said. “Now all of sudden you can’t do it because there might be too much lead in one item out of a thousand? I mean it’s ridiculous they’ve taken it to the extent they’ve taken it right now.”

Goodwill

She estimates testing for each of her clothing articles to run between $300 and $1,500. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it may consider exempting clothing and toys made from natural materials such as wool or wood, but paint and dyes on the products are still required to be tested.

“We only sell stuff for an average of $10 so, of course that doesn’t make sense,” Ritmier said.

Even Goodwill Industries told the station it may be forced to stop selling clothing and other children’s items if testing is too expensive. The move could affect consumers who donate items for tax write-offs if the stores are not able to sell them.

“A huge hit for us and a huge hit for consumers that are trying to save a dollar in this economy,” Goodwill’s Mark Klingler told KXTV. “We’ll have to analyze it. It may involve not selling if we can’t realistically test everything.”

Likewise, Shauna Sloan, founder of the Salt Lake City-based Kid to Kid Franchise, which sells used children’s clothing in 75 stores across the country, told the Los Angeles Times his business could end.

“We will have to lock our doors and file for bankruptcy,” he said.

Small toy businesses

All children’s toys and furniture also fall under strict requirements for independent lead and phthalate testing. Some small toy businesses say lead testing alone costs more than $4,000 per item – a price some say only large companies like Mattel and Fisher Price can afford to pay.

“The only people who can do that now are the ones who actually put this scare into effect and actually caused the problem,” Amy Evan’s, owner of Baby’s Boutique in Chico, Calif., told CBS’ KHSL.

Shelsie Hall told KXTV she makes hair bows and jewelry for children and sells them online to support her family.

Now her small business is threatened by the measure because those products must be tested.

“[M]y items sell for $4 to $10 and I make a lot of different things. So I couldn’t just test one; I would have to test every item,” she said.

One blogger who identifies herself as “Tina” has a home-based business making and selling cloth diapers online. She said a U.S. lab quoted a price of $75 to test each component of her diapers.

“I have at least two different fabrics, thread, snaps and elastic in a diaper,” she wrote. “$375 to test each different combination of fabrics/snaps/thread/size combinations? That is insane.”

She continued, “I am but one of many micro-manufacturers who will be forced to give up the American dream of owning my own business because of this legislation.”

Tina said retailers purchase inventory with loans secured by the value of that inventory.

“What happens to these lenders
and retailers when the value of that inventory goes to zero?” she asked. “It is conceivable, at least to me, that retailers will be the next group in front of Congress asking for a bailout.”

The act’s broad wording could extend to children’s items sold on eBay, Craig’s List, Amazon. Critics also say landfills will be hit hard if stores, distributors and families simply throw their untested items away rather than face prosecution. And new clothing, toys, furniture and books at large retailers could become more expensive to cover third-party testing costs.

Tentative exemptions

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission administers the law, it may only be changed by Congress. Some exemptions approved Tuesday by the commission’s two members, but not formally adopted, include the following:

* Items with lead parts that a child cannot access;
* Clothing, toys and other goods made of natural materials such as cotton and wood; and
* Electronics that are impossible to make without lead.

But the tentative exemptions do little to reassure most businesses and families who will be affected by the law. Final rules are not scheduled for approval until after Feb. 10, when the rules take effect.

Taking action

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Il., sponsored the measure along with 106 co-sponsors. In the House of Representatives, 424 members voted for the act, nine voted “present” and a single member voted against it – Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

In the Senate, the totals were 89 for, eight “present” and three against – Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

President George Bush signed it into law on Aug. 14, 2008.

The measure raises the CPSC budget each year until 2015, at which time the agency’s budget would be $156 million. It also allows state attorneys general to take civil action against those who violate the strict regulations.

While some may continue to sell their children’s products and disobey the law, Jacobsen told WND she’s not taking any chances at her bookstore.

“Would I ever get caught? Probably not,” she said. “But they are talking about $100,000 fines and jail terms of up to five years. I’m not comfortable operating with that law on the books.”

Instead, she said she will fight the measure and raise public awareness.

“I’m planning to put a chain across our children’s department and put up a sign that says, “Banned hazardous material,'” she said. “I’ll ask my customers as they come in to please write their congressmen, call senators and get the word out there. I will tell them, ‘I can let you in now,’ but four weeks from now, I won’t be able to do that.”

Jacobsen’s plans don’t stop there.

“I am going to go to my legislator’s office, and I’m going to take my children’s books there,” she said. “I’m going to ask him, ‘Do you want me to put these in the landfill? Do you want me to burn these?’ What am I going to do with them? I can’t just warehouse them until they come to their senses.”

U.S. Capitol

She suggested the public begin writing and calling lawmakers and demanding exemptions to the law.

“I think the whole thing should be trashed, personally,” she said. “It was so short-sighted. People who were doing the importing of lead are going to be rewarded when little companies like mine go under. When you take everything on a retailer’s shelf and tell them they cannot sell it, that’s bankruptcy.”
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Pelosi’s Toy Story – WSJ

In the tale of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” a child’s stuffed toy can only become “real” once all its fur has been loved off, and it’s missing a button or two. If only. Under a new law set to go into effect February 10, unsold toys, along with bikes, books and even children’s clothing are destined for the scrap heap due to an overzealous law to increase toy safety.

The damage comes from new rules governing lead in children’s products. After last year’s scare over contaminated toys made in China, Congress leapt in to require all products aimed at children under 12 years old to be certified as safe and virtually lead-free by independent testing. The burden may be manageable for big manufacturers and retailers that can absorb the costs of discarded inventory and afford to hire more lawyers. Less likely to survive are hundreds of small businesses and craftspeople getting hit with new costs in a down economy.

Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren’t certified as safe. When Congress passed the legislation in August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boasted that “With this legislation, we will not only be recalling, we will be removing those products from the shelves.” Yeehaw. While large retailers may ask manufacturers to take back uncertified products, independent stores may be stuck with inventory that is suddenly illegal to sell. One Web site, NationalBankruptcyDay.com, is cataloging the costs faced by small businesses.

Small batch toymakers, many of whom make old-fashioned wood and sustainable products, say the testing requirements — which can cost thousands of dollars — are unaffordable. At Etsy.com, a Web site where entrepreneurs can sell their handmade items, many expect the new law to put them out of business. Also ensnared are companies that make products like bikes or childrens books. Because they aren’t toy companies, many were caught by surprise when it became clear the law would apply to them. The only lead that can be found on childrens bikes is on the tire, where it poses no risk to a child not in the daily habit of licking the wheels. And while childrens books may contain no more noxious materials than paper and ink, under the new rules they would still need a test to prove it.

Responding to the uproar, CPSC has issued a rule-making notice that would exempt natural materials from having to be certified as lead-free — but it will need to go further to avoid an economic trainwreck in February. The real responsibility lies with Congress, which rushed through “kid-friendly” crowd-pleaser legislation without considering the consequences. Despite warnings from small businesses, Illinois Representative Bobby Rush and California’s Henry Waxman pushed provisions that now require pulling products from the shelf. Mr. Waxman demanded lead standards without allowing compliance to phase in.

Now even their allies are skittering away from strict enforcement, fearing the looming fiasco could force Congress to amend the bill. Last week, consumer groups that once flogged the law, including Public Citizen, Kids in Danger, and the Naderite U.S. Public Interest Research Group, wrote a letter urging the CPSC to “take the initiative . . . by providing prompt, common-sense, and explicit interpretations regarding exemptions to CPSIA.” Now they tell us.

Congress has beaten down the CPSC for allegedly not doing enough about toy safety, but last year’s toy law was an election-year overreaction by Congress. The Commission needs to implement the rules without putting more companies out of business in an already tenuous economy.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.

********************************************************************************

More news on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
05:52 PM PT, Jan 7 2009

Goodwill Many consumers and small businesses are up in arms about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. The law was passed last year to try to stem the tide of toy recalls. But in requiring that anyone selling children’s products ensure that the products have been tested for lead content, lawmakers may be putting thrift stores and clothing makers out of business, retailers say.

There are signs of a reprieve, though. On Tuesday, the two-member Consumer Product Safety Commission, which interprets and enforces the law, gave preliminary approval to four exemptions to the law. They involve products made from natural materials, electronics and products that have lead that is inaccessible to children. But no final changes will be made before Feb. 10, and that’s the date after which all products not tested for lead content will be considered hazardous.

Now Congress is getting involved again. Gus Bilirakis, a Republican congressman from Florida, sent a letter today to the chairwoman of the CPSC expressing his concern that the law will have a negative effect on thrift and consignment stores.

“I have heard from retailers in my district who are greatly concerned that they will be forced to stop providing such products on Feb.10, 2009, because they lack clear and consistent guidance on how to meet the new law’s mandates,” the letter says. “These constituents have indicated that they may be forced out of business because of their inability to comply with the law’s third-party testing requirements.”

Whether his letter will prompt a change in the law is unknown, as the CPSC can only interpret the law, not change it. It is up to Congress to make any major changes to the law.

Meanwhile, we’ve been deluged with questions about whether people can still sell children’s clothing on eBay, who enforces the law and what retailers can do about it. Look out for a Q&A on these matters and more in an upcoming edition of the Los Angeles Times.

Alana Semuels, LA Times

Concerned individuals may contact senators and representatives and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.