03.05.08

The Cornyn Amendment #4094 To The “CPSC Reform Act”

I understand that an amendment is pending to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Reform Act we are considering that would tie the hands of State Attorneys General who seek to protect their citizens from harmful products.  I applaud the efforts of Senator Pryor for including in this legislation the power for State Attorneys General to enforce consumer product safety violations.  We should not gut that important enforcement provision by immunizing corporate bad actors for the reasonable costs and fees it takes States Attorneys General to bring these actions.  Striking lines 5, 6, and 7 of the pending bill would do just that. 

Now, I understand that Senator Cornyn’s floor statement in support of his amendment mentioned nothing about reasonable fees and costs incurred by the State Attorneys Generals offices.  Rather, he focused on contingency fee agreements that some State Attorneys General decide to make with private lawyers to enforce laws.  Setting aside the contingency fee argument for a moment, I want to highlight that his amendment would do more than just micro-manage the types of staffing decisions State Attorneys General enter into.  We must not strike the lines of this bipartisan legislation that make corporations found liable for violating consumer laws responsible for reasonable costs and fees incurred by States.

The purpose of Senator Cornyn’s amendment is to tie the hands of State Attorneys General by prohibiting them from entering into certain types of contracts with private lawyers.  I remember a time when principles of federalism and deferring to State governments meant something in this great chamber.  State elected officials are accountable to their citizens.  If State voters did not like the way a State Attorney General was staffing cases, they could decide not to re-elect him or her.  Senator Cornyn’s amendment would make that staffing decision for all State Attorneys General, which I believe is unwise, especially in the context of unsafe products that have the potential to harm consumers.   

I will oppose this amendment because it undermines the important enforcement role of State Attorneys General. 

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