Friday, December 21, 2007
Congress Makes Strides to Help Consumers, Marathon Not Over
Washington, DC—Congress and the Administration delivered consumers a few gifts, a few lumps of coal, and left a few cookies on the table in 2007, according to Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. The two great gifts this year—a historic energy bill raising miles per gallon standards and drug safety reform enabling quicker detection and warning of dangerous drugs both passed Congress and were signed into law by the President.
“The increase in the average miles per gallon standard and the FDA drug safety reform are both extraordinary victories for consumers and their wallets. They have been decades in the making,” said Gene Kimmelman, Vice President for Federal and International Affairs for Consumers Union.
The Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 includes some of the most significant reforms to drug safety laws in 45 years. The law requires results from most clinical drug trials be made public on the Internet, so consumers will have more knowledge, both good and bad about medications.
The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act will increase fuel efficiency standards for vehicles to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, the first increase in three decades. The legislation also calls for an increase in the use of ethanol as a motor fuel and requires new appliance efficiency standards, potentially saving consumers as much as $250 billion. It will cut gasoline consumption by 60 billion gallons, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 1 billion metric tons between now and 2020, according to an analysis released recently by Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America.
Other consumer-related gifts from Congress this year:
Pool safety— President Bush signed into Law the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007, named for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III who at the age of 7, died in a spa after the powerful suction of a drain entrapped her under water. The legislation establishes a safety standard for anti-entrapment drain covers.
Country-of-Origin Labeling –Both the House and Senate added country-of-origin labeling for beef and produce in their versions of the farm bill. The final legislation will need to be reconciled.
State Children’s Health Insurance Program — One significant disappointment was the President’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, leaving 4 million uninsured children in the United States–as they go through the holidays they are at serious risk of not getting medical treatment they might need.
Cookies left on the table:
Product safety—The U.S. House unanimously passed a bill that will make significant reforms to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the agency responsible for overseeing the safety of more than 15,000 products. The legislation includes a major provision to reduce lead in children’s toys and other products and establishes new testing requirements for children’s products.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark), the author of a Senate product safety bill that includes stronger enforcement provisions, has said he is committed to passing the Senate version in early 2008. Congress also increased the CPSC’s budget for next year, raising it to $80 million, $16.75 million more than President Bush’s request.
Child auto-safety—The House passed a measure to reduce the number of preventable nontraffic automobile incidents in and around cars. The Cameron Gulbransen Transportation Safety Act, named for a 2 year-old child who died when his father accidentally backed over him in his driveway, addresses three serious causes of preventable auto-related injuries and fatalities to young children: getting caught in an automatically closing power window; being struck by a backing vehicle because of an unacceptable blindzone; and placing a vehicle in gear that results in an uncontrolled roll away without having to depress the brake.
The measure was very close to passing the full Senate, and we hope for prompt attention in the New Year.
“We applaud our lawmakers for their efforts this past year to make consumers safer and save them money. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to resolve the unfinished business promptly when they return,” added Kimmelman.