6th Annual DC Fly-In Brings Discussions on TSCA Reform, Global Trade and More to Capitol Hill

September 20, 2013 | Nearly three dozen representatives of small, mid-size and large toy companies attended the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) 6th annual Washington, DC Fly-In last week, where they met with Members of Congress and other policymakers and regulators on Capitol Hill to ask for bi-partisan support of a new federal bill to improve chemical safety; relief from third-party testing burdens; and assistance for the expansion of global toy markets through the reduction of trade barriers.

During the opening dinner on Tuesday, September 17th, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) described the effort he had undertaken with the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to modernize and update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976.  The Senator stressed that “strong federal preemption” is at the core of the bill, known as S.1009, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013

September 18th began with a morning panel discussion that kept the focus on TSCA reform.  The three panelists – representing a chemical industry trade group, an NGO and the government – all acknowledged that TSCA reform was “more achievable than it’s ever been” with the current package.  However, there were definite differences of opinion regarding wholehearted support for a preemptive federal policy to regulate chemicals in commerce that didn’t give state the ability to “make their own approach.”

During more than 50 meetings with Senators, Representatives and their staffs held throughout day, company participants explained how S.1009 could reduce the crippling effect of duplicative or contradictory chemical regulations at the state level and asked their representatives in the House and Senate for support of the bill.  Groups were organized to cover the spectrum of company size and type so that every member’s story emphasized different points, but the messages all stayed the same.

The day of meetings was capped off with a Congressional Reception attended by an estimated 150 Congressional staff and several Members of Congress.  During the event, Congressman Ron Kind and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn announced the formation of a bipartisan Congressional Toy Caucus to help advance discussions on toy safety, the value of play, the growth of small toy businesses, and the increase of free trade to foreign markets.

A breakfast meeting held on Thursday, September 19th included presentations from Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) chief of import safety, Ed Ryan and new Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle. 

Discussions with Commissioner Buerkle focused on the fact that, five years after the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), meaningful relief has still not come for too many small businesses that have been harmed by unnecessary and redundant third party testing costs. 

One company indicated that redundant and unnecessary testing requirements had taken testing costs for her company from $25K to $250K … a 1000% increase.

Toy industry representatives told the Commissioner that, during their meetings on the Hill on Wednesday, they had already asked their Congressmen to call for the CPSC to dedicate appropriate resources to the immediate analysis and implementation of the eight approved recommendations that had already been put forward to reduce the costs of third party testing.

“Streamlining testing requirements will provide a significant benefit to toy and other children’s product manufacturers – particularly smaller companies – by facilitating compliance and reducing redundant costs,” explained Ed Desmond, TIA executive vice president for external affairs, “which means companies will be able to devote additional resources to product innovation, business improvement and jobs.  All of which will bring more creative toys to market at better prices for consumers.”

“The best thing to help mitigate redundant testing is to do exactly what we did …. go to Washington and plead our case to any and every contact – Members of Congress, legislators, regulators or policymakers – who may be able to help move things along,” added Barbara Isenberg, President of North American Bear Company. “The event helped me understand what a chess game the political process is …. and that it can all move so slowly unless an effort is spearheaded.”

The 2013 Fly-In wrapped up with a Briefing on Capitol Hill that reiterated for Congressional staffers many of the topics that had been stressed throughout the Fly-In:  the challenges of forming a small toy business, redundant testing burdens, the importance of risk-based chemical regulations, and the need for governmental support of global market expansion programs.

“The issue briefings and meetings on Capitol Hill provided valuable information and insight into several topics critical to the toy industry,” said John W. Gessert, president of American Plastic Toys, Inc. vice-chair of the TIA Board of Directors.  “The inherent value of this event to the Association’s members continues to increase every year.”