Earlier this week, the United States Senate confirmed Peter Feldman to be a CPSC commissioner, to fill the seat vacated by Joe Mohorovic. Mr. Feldman’s term runs through 2019 and he also has been nominated for a full seven year term to begin thereafter. Hopefully, the Senate will quickly confirm him for this additional term. At the same time, one hopes that the Senate will also complete its unfinished work and confirm Acting Chairman Buerkle both to be permanent chairman of the agency and to an additional term.
Peter Feldman comes to the commission after many years of public service in the legislative branch. Most recently, he served as counsel to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, where his portfolio of issues included legislation and oversight of the CPSC. He brings a wealth of relevant and welcome experience to the agency.
Mr. Feldman’s arrival at the CPSC is especially timely since there has not been a full compliment of commissioners since 2017. He now joins another new commissioner, Dana Baiocco, who was confirmed this past summer. One of the first issues he will be called on to consider is the Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Plan setting out budget and policy priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
While the operating plan does not make dramatic changes in the direction of the agency, it does include a number of interesting and welcome activities that will put the agency on a more stable path. The plan reflects the acting chairman’s priority to update and expand the agency’s information gathering capabilities. For example, after several years of talk but no action, the agency will be looking at how the retailer reporting program can be revamped to provide meaningful and useful information about consumer injuries. Important work to better measure the effectiveness of agency recalls is included in the plan. The plan anticipates a briefing package addressing a pending petition on small powerful magnets and provides an opportunity to clean up the mess the agency created here in its zeal to put ends above means. The plan includes work to better monitor e-commerce platforms, where there is the potential for real harm to consumers but where the agency’s efforts to date have been not especially effective. Work on the Internet of Things and on other emerging hazards is also called out. Finally, in a truly refreshing change, the plan recognizes that stakeholder participation and involvement is both welcome and essential for effective regulating.
Acting Chairman Buerkle has provided needed steady and mature leadership to the agency. Under her leadership, Mr. Feldman has an exciting opportunity to work to carry out the priorities of the agency to protect consumers from unreasonable risks while assuring that public resources are not frittered away on ill-advised litigation and open-ended overly-broad regulatory activity.