- Redistricting, transit farebox, Court of Appeals, decriminalizing barbers, and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes] And I’m quoted on the highly unpersuasive “six-state compact” scheme, which amounts to an excuse for leaving gerrymandering in place [Danielle Gaines, Frederick News-Post]
- After scandal over falsified safety records, fired track workers sue Washington’s Metro on claims of discrimination and hostile work environment [Martine Powers, Washington Post]
- Chicago mulls ordering private shopkeepers to provide bathroom access to non-customers who say they’ve got an emergency need. Too bad its own CTA is no-go zone [Steve Chapman]
- Says a lot about why Obama CPSC ignored pleas for CPSIA relief: “US Product Safety Regulator Sneers at ‘Fabricated Outrage’ Over Regulations” [C. Ryan Barber, National Law Journal on Elliot Kaye comments]
- “Implied certification” theory, okayed by SCOTUS in Universal Health Services last year, enables False Claims Act suits hinging on controversial interpretations of regulation [Federalist Society podcast with Marcia Madsen and Brian D. Miller] “A Convincing Case for Judicial Stays of Discovery in False Claims Act Qui Tam Litigation” [Stephen A. Wood, WLF]
- Judge signals reluctance to dismiss hospital’s suit against Kamala Harris over her actions as California AG on behalf of SEIU in merger case [Bianca Bruno, Courthouse News via Sean Higgins/Washington Examiner, earlier]
- Safe Drinking Water Act along with other federal laws helped scare consumers away from public fountains and tap water, with unintended bad consequences for health and the environment [Kendra Pierre-Louis, Washington Post]
- Austin, Tex. ban on plastic bags isn’t working out as intended [Adam Minter, Bloomberg View]
- After BP’s $18.7 billion settlement with five Gulf states, here come huge private lawyer paydays [Louisiana Record]
- Energy efficiency in durable goods: mandates “based on weak or nonexistent evidence of consumer irrationality” with government itself hardly free of behavioral biases [Tyler Cowen]
- “How Trophy Hunting Can Save Lions” [Terry Anderson and Shawn Regan, PERC/WSJ]
- CPSC’s hard line on CPSIA testing of natural materials in toys based on “precautionary principle run amuck” [Nancy Nord]
- Is the ideal of sustainability one we ultimately owe to hunter-gatherers? [Arnold Kling]
Readers who followed Overlawyered in 2009-10 will recall that the closest this site has ever come to a crusade was in covering the truly horrible Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, enacted after a media-fed tainted-toy panic, a law that needlessly drove out of business many small retailers and manufacturers of children’s goods posing no hazard whatsoever to consumers. Some will further recall that the chief Senate handler of the legislation was Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), who cut a poor figure throughout as both ill-informed and dismissive about the side effects his own legislation was having.
Now Sen. Pryor is locked in a tight race for re-election with challenger Rep. Tom Cotton, and a group called the Arkansas Project has been reminding readers of Pryor’s record on CPSIA, digging up many new details in an August series written by Washington, D.C.-area policy analyst Marc Kilmer (who generously credits Overlawyered coverage as a source throughout). Most of the series can be found at this tag or via search. Here is a guide to individual installments in the series, supplemented by links to further coverage from our archives:
- Introduction, and some comments about dangerous toys (our overall coverage of CPSIA);
- Sen. Pryor’s role in the law, and its unreasonable testing burdens (our coverage of CPSIA and Congress, and the law’s testing burdens);
- The law’s awful effect on resale and consignment, and the closure of A Kidd’s Place in Conway, Ark (our coverage on resale);
- Why big toymakers (unlike small) are doing fine under the law, and some dubious claims of safety success (our coverage on toys);
- CPSIA’s role in saving kids from old books (our coverage of its effects on books and libraries);
- “Sen. Pryor Stops Kids from Eating All-Terrain Vehicles” (our coverage on minibikes and other motorized vehicles)
- How the law jumped the gun on phthalates, the bendy-plastic ingredient (our coverage of the law’s phthalate ban);
- Sen. Pryor’s non-response to the series.
Arkansas voters — and everyone who wants to learn how a Congress can fail spectacularly at its legislative responsibilities — should read this series in full.
Yes! Following an enormous outcry from cheese makers, commentators, and the general public, the agency beats a hasty retreat. Commentator/ Pepperdine lawprof Greg McNeil has the details at Forbes (and his earlier commentary on the legalities of the agency’s action is also informative). Earlier here.
In a classic bureaucratic move, the agency denied it had actually issued a new policy (technically true, if you accept the premise that a policy letter from its chief person in charge of cheese regulation is not the same as a formally adopted new policy) and left itself the discretion to adopt such a policy in future if it wishes (merely declaring itself open to persuasion that wood shelving might prove compatible with the FSMA).
This is also a lesson for people in other regulated industries. When government officials make pronouncements that don’t seem grounded in law or policy, and threaten your livelihood with an enforcement action, you must organize and fight back. While specialized industries may think that nobody cares, the fight over aged cheese proves that people’s voices can be heard…
There is a less optimistic version, however. It happens that a large number of editors, commentators, and others among the chattering classes are both personally interested in the availability of fine cheese and familiar enough with the process by which it is made to be un-cowed by claims of superior agency expertise. That might also be true of a few other issues here and there — cottage food sold at farmer’s markets, artisanal brewing practices — but it’s inevitably not going to be true of hundreds of other issues that arise under the new Food Safety Modernization Act. In a similar way, the outcry against CPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, rose to a politically effective level only on a selected few issues (publishers and libraries got a fix so that older children’s books would not have to be trashed; youth motorsports eventually obtained an exemption, and so forth) but large numbers of smaller children’s products and specialties whose makers had less of a political voice simply disappeared.
More: Andrew Coulson, Cato, and on the trade aspects, K. William Watson; Chuck Ross, Daily Caller (quoting me at length for which thanks). On the FDA’s new statement: “Typical bureaucratic doublespeak that seems meant to maximize uncertainty for the regulated community” [Eric Bott of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce] “This was the worst possible outcome. It reinforces elites’ view that regulators are reasonable and wise and will fix mistakes.” [@random_eddie] “Pay no attention to the Leviathan behind the cheesecloth” [Scott Lincicome, in an exchange after a writer at Slate observed that “Libertarians aren’t the only ones” who might want to keep board-aged cheese legal] (Vox, Reason, Carly Ledbetter/HuffPo; & welcome Instapundit, Alexander Cohen/Atlas Society, Q and O readers)
Will you be in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, February 5? I’m delighted to announce that Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids fame, whose work I regularly link in this space, will be speaking at the Cato Institute at lunchtime. I’ll be offering comments as well as moderating, and it’s free and open to the public. Register here. The event description:
Our children are in constant danger from — to quote Lenore Skenazy’s list — “kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.” Or so a small army of experts and government policymakers keep insisting. School authorities punish kids for hugging a friend, pointing a finger as a pretend gun, or starting a game of tag on the playground. Congress bans starter bikes on the chance that some 12-year-old might chew on a brass valve. Police arrest parents for leaving a sleepy kid alone in the back seat of a car for a few minutes. Yet overprotectiveness creates perils of its own. It robs kids not only of fun and sociability but of the joy of learning independence and adult skills, whether it be walking a city street by themselves or using a knife to cut their own sandwich. No one has written more provocatively about these issues than Lenore Skenazy, a journalist with the former New York Sun who now contributes frequently to the Wall Street Journal and runs the popular Free-Range Kids website where she promotes ideas like “Take Your Kids to the Park and Leave Them There Day.” Her hilarious and entertaining talks have charmed audiences from Microsoft headquarters to the Sydney Opera House. Please join her and Cato’s Walter Olson for a discussion of helicopter parenting and its unfortunate policy cousin, helicopter governance.
And don’t forget that next Wednesday I’ll be moderating a luncheon talk at Cato by another favorite author, Virginia Postrel, with powerhouse commenters Tyler Cowen and Sam Tanenhaus. Register here.
- Reminder: federal panel finally mulling reform of ultra-costly pretrial discovery, now’s the time to send comments [Kyl/WSJ, earlier]
- Michigan woman convicted of false rape claim had sent man to prison for 10 years in earlier case [ABA Journal]
- Strickland, key figure in disastrous CPSIA law and then chief at NHTSA, lands at BigLaw’s Venable [AutoNews, Detroit News]
- A religious accommodation too far? Devout student at secular university asks not to work with female classmates [York U., Ontario; CBC via @amyalkon, also related on Nova Scotia aikido class] Inviting shop clerks to set up “no booze/pork” check lines is a sensitivity too far [Andrew Stuttaford, Secular Right]
- “Top 2013 Jury Awards: Price-Fixing, Nursing Home Liability, Defamation” [Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg] Top legal ethics stories of 2013 [Legal Ethics Forum and followup on R v Farooqi & Ors]
- Liberate history-talk: “Another Battle Against Silly Tour-Guide Regulations” [Ilya Shapiro] Handing out $1,000 fines in Charleston, S.C. [Brian Doherty]
- “The line between Salon and Granma is getting awfully blurry” [@dandrezner; more about DoNotLink.com]
- The law blog that almost brought down ObamaCare [Trevor Burrus, Cato] “In Government, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure,” public policies being hard to adjust when they go astray [Peter Schuck, HuffPo]
- Sexual harassment claim: “Attorneys awarded more than 600 times damages in Calif. case” [Legal NewsLine]
- KlearGear, of non-disparagement fame, reaps the online whirlwind [Popehat, Public Citizen, Volokh, earlier]
- “What if American Exceptionalism, properly understood, really boils down to associational liberty?” [Richard Reinsch, Liberty Law] Do religious-liberty carve-outs in same-sex marriage laws go too far, not far enough, or neither? [Dale Carpenter et al. vs. Richard Garnett et al.]
- What jury didn’t hear in qui tam award against pipemaker JM Eagle [Daniel Fisher, more]
- Majority of appointed commissioners on Consumer Product Safety Commission is is no hurry to reduce inordinate CPSIA testing burdens, per retiring commissioner Nancy Nord (more);
- Woman who claims to own sun says she prevailed in lawsuit brought by man who claims to own universe [Lowering the Bar]
- California: “Governor [Brown] signs Prop. 65 toxic chemical warning reform” [Sacramento Business Journal] What finally passed was a minuscule tweak mostly aimed at the law’s application to food and alcohol [Bruce Nye, Cal Biz Lit] Court helps in baby food case [JD Supra]
- “Taxpayer-Funded Journal Walks Back BPA Cancer Claim After Statistical Meltdown” [Trevor Butterworth]
- Recalling when the federal government (along with the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations] funded an attack on the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause [Gideon Kanner, more]
- CEQA reform [Calif. enviro review] in baby steps at most for now [SF Chronicle, Mercury News, L.A. StreetsBlog, Daily News, PublicCEO, Planetizen]
- Under decisions by the CPSC interpreting CPSIA, you’re probably not going to be able to make your product for kids out of recycled materials [Nancy Nord]
- “EPA Fares Well in D.C. Circuit” [Adler]
- Mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods are a bad idea [not just me saying that, but Scientific American editors; earlier]
- Thank you, Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee, for getting Obama’s claim of warrantless domestic killing authority onto the media front burner — finally — through Sen. Paul’s filibuster last night. (More: Nick Gillespie, Conor Friedersdorf and background, Andrew Sullivan, Josh Blackman; Mediaite (Eric Holder sends letter, Rand Paul declares victory).
- Pending SCOTUS case of “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl” is not the first Indian Child Welfare Act fiasco [Ann Althouse] More on ICWA [NYT Room for Debate]
- Has ABA now enlisted in the crusade against Stand Your Ground self-defense laws? [ABA Journal] Reminder #371 that the Martin-Zimmerman case is not likely to hinge on Florida’s SYG law [Jacob Sullum; Jeralyn Merritt with more detail on latest developments]
- “Transparency in Government: Finding Out How Much the Government’s Mistakes Are Costing Us” [Hans von Spakovsky, Heritage]
- “New York, to Stem Civil-Rights Suits, Is Now Reluctant to Settle” [NY Times]
- CPSC adopts sweeping CPSIA testing and certification rule [Nancy Nord] Should the CPSC be structured as a multi-member commission? [Commissioner Nord at Cato’s Regulation magazine, PDF, and “Conversations with Consumers“]
- Illinois: “Small Town to Lose Its Only Sledding Hill” [Free-Range Kids]
- “Word of the day: Mendicant” [New York Times education blog; I’m quoted in]
- L.A. County assessor, though in jail, will keep drawing $197K salary plus raise [LAT]
- IRS lowers the regulatory boom on tax preparers [Institute for Justice video, auto-plays]
- On Wal-Mart Mexico bribery, NYT has a bit of a blind eye of its own [Stoll; earlier here, here, etc.]
- Another painful CPSIA regulation: CPSC on testing “representative samples” [Nancy Nord]
- “Popcorn lung” couple “won a $20 million judgment. Now, they’re broke.” [ABC]
- From Todd Zywicki: Libertarianism, Law and Economics, and the Common Law [SSRN via Bainbridge]
- If the courts disapprove of throttling internet speeds, what do they think of throttling class action claims redemption rates? [Ted Frank]