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Henry Waxman

Just a reminder: Medicaid expansion is still a great deal

But only if you do it.

It's constitutional - deal with it

It’s constitutional – deal with it

We learned late last week that the decision by 24 states to reject Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion comes as a startling cost — $423.6 billion in lost federal funds from 2013 to 2022, according to researchers at the Urban Institute.

So how are states justifying their decisions to leave that much federal money on the table? One of their main arguments is that the federal government will eventually renege on its generous funding commitment to the Medicaid expansion. But based on the 49-year history of the Medicaid program, that claim doesn’t hold up, according to Urban Institute researchers in a finding that hasn’t received as much attention.

Here’s how Medicaid funding works: The federal government on average pays 57 percent of the traditional Medicaid program’s costs, while the states finance the rest (though the federal reimbursement rate varies by state). The federal match just for the Medicaid expansion population, however, is significantly more generous. The feds pay 100 percent of those costs through 2016, and the federal match rate is gradually lowered to 90 percent by 2020 and is supposed to stay there.

States opposing the Affordable Care Act have expressed skepticism that the federal government will be able to maintain such a high funding level amid future budget pressures. But the Urban researchers found that of the 100-plus cuts the federal government has actually made to the Medicaid program since 1980, lawmakers just once reduced the federal share of Medicaid financing — and that was in 1981. Other federal cuts have been to services, payments to providers, or in program eligibility.

“More recent budget bills actually raised the federal Medicaid share, even while making other federal Medicaid cuts,” Urban researchers wrote in the study, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Further, lawmakers won’t find much to cut if they looked to federal funding for the Medicaid expansion. Less than 7.4 percent of federal Medicaid spending over the next decade comes from the bonus federal match for the expansion population, according to Urban researchers’ calculations based on Congressional Budget Office projections.

Via Forbes, you can see that Urban Institute report here. Ed Kilgore adds a bit of extra context.

It should be mentioned that the 1981 match-rate cut (technically, a reduction in federal reimbursement for a limited period of time, not an actual change in the underlying match) was at the insistence not of deceptive liberals but of the sainted Ronald Reagan. Indeed, liberals, led by Henry Waxman, engineered a long series of “super-matches”–increases in the federal match rate for Medicaid coverage of specific services or populations–during the 1980s and 1990s.

The big thing to remember here is that liberals want expanded Medicaid coverage, and are willing to pay for it at the federal level. The whole bait-and-switch meme behind Republican resistance to the expansion at the state level lacks logical as well as historical support.

And that’s exactly why this isn’t a question of economics, where the answer is clear, but of politics, where it’s equally clear in the other direction. Like I said, just a reminder in case you still needed one.

What will climate change legislation cost?

My friend Robert Nagle surveys the literature on climate change, specifically analyses of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA), also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, and finds estimates for how much it will cost the average household on an annual basis. Not too surprisingly, it’s a lot less than what fearmongers like Rick Perry claim. He also notes that one study reports its “key finding is that clean-energy investments generate roughly three times more jobs than an equivalent amount of money spent on carbon-based fuels”. Check it out and see for yourself.

The effect of health care reform on Texas

Here’s an email from the Legislative Study Group, via State Rep. Garnet Coleman, who has been a constant source of health care reform updates:

LSG Policy Update: CBO Estimates of Impact of Healthcare Reform to Texas

With the United States House of Representatives poised to take a vote on health care reform [today], we wanted to provide you with some data on the expected financial impact on Texas state government.

Congressman Henry Cuellar provided us with a letter from Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Chairman responds to an inquiry from Congressman Cuellar on the fiscal impact of the Medicaid provisions in health reform on the State of Texas.

The House will take two main votes [today]: one on final passage of health insurance reform, and one on a sidecar reconciliation bill that improves upon the main legislation. Taken together, these measures will have an historic impact on our country and especially in Texas where almost 28 percent of the population is uninsured.

One important provision is the Medicaid expansion that will bring a million Texans living at or near the poverty level into coverage. Currently, Texas covers parents with incomes up to 26 percent of federal poverty level (FPL). The legislation will increase that to 133 percent of FPL while covering 100 percent of the costs of new enrollees until 2018, then stairstepping down the reimbursement level to 90 percent by 2020.

There have been various estimates of the proposed impact on the Texas state budget – Congressman Cuellar’s letter sheds some light on the projected state impact as viewed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). To begin with, the legislation under consideration would be in effect for ten years – through the end of 2019 – at which point Congress would have to reauthorize it. Going on the timeline of the bill (2010 – 2019), Texas should expect to spend around $1.4 billion over ten years, the bulk of which would not come until after the changes go into effect, after 2014.

This stands in contrast to estimates by HHSC you may have seen cited in the press that peg the cost at approximately $24 billion. That estimate is on a different timeline: going from 2014 – 2023, or four years past the legislation’s life. It also includes approximately $6 billion in possible cuts to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding that is generally used to compensate hospitals that perform uncompensated care. The HHSC estimate also does not include many of the provisions in the proposed reconciliation improvement bill – for instance, Medicaid DSH reductions are smaller in the Medicaid bill. The CBO projects a $1.2 billion reduction in DSH funds over the course of the legislation (2010-2019).

All told, Texans and Texas state government stand the chance to benefit greatly from federal healthcare reform legislation. Most of the 5.9 million uninsured Texans will gain health insurance, all insured Texans will gain protection from the worst practices of the insurance industry, and Texas will likely receive over $120 billion in federal dollars.

Economist Ray Perryman noted that spending on CHIP and Medicaid has a 3.25 multiplier effect – meaning every dollar spent generates 3.25 times that amount in economic activity. The legislation has the potential to create jobs and boost economic activity in our state while also ensuring the health and well being of all its citizens.

Thank you again to Congressman Cuellar for passing along Chairman Waxman’s analysis. You can view a pdf of the letter here.

So there you have it. Now pass the damn bill already, and let’s get on with it.

In case you were wondering why we have bad air quality in Texas

Ever wonder why we have such lax enforcement of environmental regulations here in Texas? One reason is because the people who head up the agencies that have the power to enforce those regulations are mostly charlatans and industry apologists. Go read Forrest Wilder’s account of a farcical “Cap and Trade Summit” at which the speakers and the audience was basically energy industry lobbyists, right-wing hacks, and the state officials who are supposed to be the ones responsible for making sure they all follow the law. You couldn’t make a stronger case for more federal involvement if you tried.

Voting right on climate change, part 3

Here we go again.

The late-stage whip count on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 has produced a particular political irony. A measure crafted by two Democrats in the House of Representatives — Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — over the course many years could hinge on the willingness of members of their own party to compromise.

At the heart of the issue is a belief among some progressives that the bill’s standard for carbon emission reductions have been set too low, and that the measure itself is too easy on both the coal industry and farmers. Already, according to Hill aides, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has said that he will not support the bill regardless of whether his own amendments are approved. High-ranking officials involved with whipping votes tell the Huffington Post that there are at least three or four other liberals who are withholding their support. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-T.X.) were two names put forward by multiple sources, the latter issuing a floor statement on Friday saying that without significant improvements he couldn’t support the bill. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) whose vote remains up in the air, is said to be leaning towards backing the measure, according a Democratic source.

For a bill that could be decided by one or two votes, holdouts could make all the difference.

“The irony here is that this bill, which people like Waxman and others have been working on for years, could be derailed, not by the right wing,” said one high-ranking Democrat, “but by members of their own party. This could be the classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

I’m going to say the same thing to Congressman Doggett that I said to Congressmen Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez: The right thing to do is to vote for this bill. We can always make things better going forward, but if we don’t take this first step now, after all this time, who knows how long it will take just to get this far again? Please do the right thing and vote for this bill, Congressman Doggett.

UPDATE: According to Politico, Rep. Doggett is now a Yes vote. Good for him.

UPDATE: Here’s Rep. Doggett’s statement.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) spoke on the House floor today about the pending climate legislation.

“I struggled deeply about whether to support this flawed bill, but I finally determined that voting for it was my best hope for making it better,” Rep. Doggett said.

“Earlier today I voiced my strong objections to this bill. I voted against the rule to permit this debate because of its rejection of some amendments that I thought would have improved this legislation.

“For three reasons, I’m voting for final passage. First, I’ve been listening to the debate; not so much to those who support a bill that I’m not all that enthusiastic about, but listening to the flat earth society and the climate deniers, and some of the most inane arguments I have heard against refusing to act on this vital national security challenge.

“Second, I believe there is still some hope to make improvements once it gets out of the House – better to have a seat at the table to try to influence the change that is needed in this legislation.

“Third, I am convinced that unless we act today, the Senate will not act, and unless we act in this Congress, we will not get the international agreements we need to address this serious challenge. I’m voting yes in the hope that we will have a better bill and we will have the international accord that we so desperately need to deal with this critical matter.”

To view a video of his floor statement, please click here.

We’ll see what happens in the Senate.

Did Tom DeLay do us a favor on climate change?

Via Yglesias, I see that one of the biggest impediments to a real solution for climate change is Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson, who is the chair of the Agriculture Committee. This has Chris Bowers thinking outside the box.

Here is how you pressure Peterson if you are a non-partisan green group: overtly target the left-wing voters in his district during a general election. Run ads that highlight Peterson’s terrible record on climate change and the environment, with a goal of pushing left-wing voters to either stay home or vote third-party (the latter is particularly viable in Minnesota, which is one of the most pro-third party states in the entire country). Make it clear that not only don’t you care if this results in Peterson’s defeat by an even more anti-climate change candidate, but that having an even more anti-climate change candidate defeat Peterson is actually your goal.

From the perspective of a non-partisan climate change organization, a relatively powerless, more conservative anyone is preferable to a very powerful, conservative, committee-chairing Collin Peterson. This is even the case if Peterson is replaced with an even more anti-climate change member of Congress. Given the wide Democratic majority in Congress, and given the specific case of Collin Peterson, exchanging a ten-term committee chair with a freshman member of the minority party results in a net loss of conservative power over climate change legislation. Further, such a radically aggressive act of pressure would demonstrate to the new Agriculture Committee chair that environmental groups are willing to take out anyone who fraks with climate change legislation.

It’s certainly provocative, and given that Peterson’s likely successor as Ag chair is someone with a better record on environmental issues, it’s at least something to contemplate. I’m not saying I endorse this idea – there are some pretty good arguments in the comments for why this could backfire, and for why there may be better alternatives – but it does get one thinking.

What it made me think about is the alternate reality in which Tom DeLay’s redistricting scheme never happened, and Texas’ Charlie Stenholm had ascended to the Ag Committee chair after the Democratic takeover of 2006. Would Stenholm be any better on the issue than Peterson has been? One can’t say for sure, and whatever Stenholm did in the past it’s entirely possible he’d be less obstinate and in denial than Peterson has been, but his voting record doesn’t offer a whole lot of hope. Given how much ground had to be ceded to the relatively much more liberal Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez to get them to support Waxman-Markey, it’s not hard to imagine that Stenholm would have been a fairly large obstacle as well.

If that’s the case, then my alternate reality is a more hostile place for climate change legislation, in that two powerful members of the Ag Committee could stand in its way. To effect the kind of change Bowers advocates, you’d need to remove both of them, as simply removing Stenholm would leave Peterson in place. But DeLay’s re-redistricting power play has already done the trick of taking out Stenholm, which means that however formidable Peterson is, he’s the last impediment to a better Ag Committee, and thus the task at hand is that much easier. Kind of weird to think about it that way, isn’t it? Now I’m not going to send Tom DeLay a thank-you note – even if I were inclined to actually give him credit for this, he’d never accept it. But I think it does go to show how unintended some consequences can be. Just a thought.

Green and Gonzalez get plaudits for climate change bill

After all the haranging I did on this, the least I can do is to note this.

The Obama administration joined environmentalists Friday in heaping praise on Texas Democratic Reps. Charlie Gonzalez and Gene Green for helping climate change legislation win approval by a congressional committee.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the pair “courageous” for joining 30 other Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in voting for the roughly 1,000-page bill late Thursday.

With a relatively close vote of 33-25, the support from Green and Gonzalez was key — one reason panel Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., spent weeks negotiating with them on a plan to cushion refiners from the proposal’s financial cost.

Waxman’s agreement to give refiners 2 percent of an annual pool of valuable pollution permits helped seal the deal.

Both lawmakers represent congressional districts with major refining operations. Green’s territory includes refining plants along the Houston ship channel. The headquarters of refiners Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp., are in San Antonio.

Gonzalez also secured changes designed to ensure a San Antonio power plant would eventually get some of the free permits — even though it won’t go online until late 2010.

Their support — despite the oil industry’s broad criticism of the climate change plan — could sway other oil-patch Democrats to back the bill when it is debated by the full House later this year.

Whatever the flaws of this bill, it’s vastly better than doing nothing, and it has enough support from environmentalist groups and progressive leaders to count it as a big win, with the hope for more improvement in the future. For that, I thank Reps. Green and Gonzalez for their work. May they inspire some of their “centrist” brothers and sisters in the Senate to get on board as well.

More on Gene Green and climate change

Here’s a followup story on the eventually successful negotiations among members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the cap-and-trade bill.

Climate change legislation moving through Congress would give refiners free permits to emit greenhouse gases under a compromise engineered by a Texas Democrat whose Houston district includes many petrochemical plants.

Rep. Gene Green led the push for refiners along with Democratic Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, who represents San Antonio — home to the corporate headquarters of refiners Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp.

The two lawmakers got the deal added to a climate change bill agreed to by most Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and backed by the measure’s two sponsors, Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Green and Gonzalez also scored a major concession sought by oil companies when committee leaders scrapped a proposal that would impose steadily stiffer limits on transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions — and make the industry pay for allowances to cover the excess pollutants released when their fuel is burned.

Half a loaf is better than none. Half a loaf is better than none. Half a loaf…you get the idea. I think if I say it a few dozen more times, I’ll be able to say it with conviction.

The Waxman-Markey bill, which the Energy and Commerce Committee is slated to consider next week, would cap carbon dioxide emissions at 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

Power plants, refiners, manufacturers and other operations could exceed the limits by buying and exchanging emissions allowances on a new carbon-trading market.

To defray costs for some polluting industries, Waxman and Markey agreed to give away more than half of those allowances in the early years of the so-called “cap-and-trade” plan, with the bulk of them — 35 percent — going to local electricity distributors.

An additional 15 percent would be donated to trade-sensitive industries, and 3 percent would be given to automakers.

Eventually, companies would be weaned off the free allowances and would then have to buy the permits from the federal government at auction.

Under the deal with Green and Gonzalez, refiners would get 2 percent of the free allowances starting in 2014 and ending in 2026.

On Friday, that agreement was being attacked by both oil industry leaders, who said it wouldn’t offer enough economic protection, and environmentalists, who complained it was an unnecessary giveaway.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said the 2 percent free allowances is “inequitable” because it falls short of the roughly 4.3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions estimated to come from refiners.

The result, he said, will be “greater costs on consumers and producers of oil and gas.”

Yeah, dire warnings by a to-be-regulated industry about passing the cost along to the consumer is pretty much the last refuge of the scoundrel. The consumer is already bearing the costs of the pollution, in the form of adverse health effects and the eventual catastrophe that global warming will bring if it’s not checked now. It’s just that those costs are indirect, and they provide no incentive to ameliorate the underlying causes of those costs, which if dealt with would serve to lower them. So with all due respect to Mr. Gerard, I consider his words on this to have as much credibility as a Wall Street financier’s words arguing against tighter regulation of that industry on the grounds that it could damage the economy. A statement from the organizers of Friday’s rally about that event is beneath the fold.

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Voting right on climate change, take two

Yo, Democrats. You were given a mandate this past November. Please act like it.

Democratic leaders pushing to cap greenhouse gas emissions were working Wednesday to appease key lawmakers who want to ease the financial burden that the climate change plan would impose on consumers and refiners.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who plans to formally introduce his climate change bill today, said that he expects a new compromise deal will have enough votes on his 59-member House Energy and Commerce Committee to be approved by the panel next week.

But Waxman spent much of Wednesday huddling with wavering Democratic lawmakers on the panel to shore up support for the measure. The skeptics included Texas Democrats Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez, who want concessions for refiners in the Lone Star State, and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., who wants tax relief for low-income households to defray expected higher energy costs.

The cornerstone of the bill is a plan to cap carbon dioxide emissions blamed for contributing to global warming.

Under the compromise, greenhouse gas emissions would be capped at 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 — a looser standard than the 20 percent reduction Waxman had originally sought. That proposed cap is more rigorous than the 14 percent goal President Barack Obama has sought or the 6 percent target advocated by some committee Democrats.

To exceed the limits, power plants, refiners, manufacturers and other industries would have to buy emissions allowances on a new carbon market. But after weeks of negotiations, committee Democrats have agreed to give away 35 percent of the allowances to electric utilities, 15 percent to trade-sensitive industries such as timber and steel manufacturing and a small number to the auto industry.

Still undecided was the question of how many allowances should be given to refiners, with the final number likely to rest between 1 percent and 5 percent.

Green, the unofficial leader of a group of oil-patch Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, was pushing the higher number.

He said he wanted to vote for a bill that limits CO2 emissions, “but does it in a way that is reasonable.”

“There’s some flexibility” in the allowance allocation, Green said, “but 1 percent is not in the ballpark.”

After meeting with Waxman and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Gonzalez said he was “feeling really good” that he would get enough concessions for refiners and would vote for the legislation.

As Yglesias notes, even with all the concessions, this is still a decent bill. Could be a better one, but it could have been a much worse one, too. It’s still a big step forward. Yet it’s frustrating to realize how much has been given away, in a way that will place a larger share of the cost of these necessary changes on those who can least afford it.

We’ve discussed this before. Rep. Green is a fine Congressman, who has groomed a large number of very capable proteges. He’s also an electoral juggernaut, and you don’t get to be that way without being responsive to your constituents. So if you live in CD29 and you want Rep. Green to do the right thing, it’s up to you to tell him so. A diverse group of activists will be gathering in his district today at noon to urge him to support climate change legislation. Click on to read about this and participate if you can.

UPDATE: Looks like we have a deal.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., signed off on the compromise with Texas Democrats Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez. The cornerstone of their deal was a commitment to donate at least 2 percent of valuable carbon dioxide emissions permits to refiners.

The compromise on refiners — tentatively agreed to late Thursday but still subject to last-minute negotiations — could help Waxman and Markey steer their contentious climate change measure through the 59-member Energy and Commerce Committee next week.

The measure also is buoyed by a new agreement among many committee Democrats on core parts of the bill, including a plan to freely give away more than 50 percent of those emission allowances to electric power distributors, trade-sensitive industries and automakers.

“We are now one huge step toward creating a 100-year solution to the carbon problem … that will protect consumers,” Markey said.

[…]

Green of Houston and Gonzalez of San Antonio said that with the changes aimed at helping refiners and other modifications, they expected to vote for the legislation next week.

The pair, whose districts are home to the plants and headquarters of major U.S. refiners, had been pushing for 5 percent of emission allowances to be given to the industry.

Under the deal Green and Gonzalez reached with Waxman and Markey, the free allowances for refiners could begin phasing out as early as 2014; refiners would eventually have to purchase all of the allowances they need from the federal government in an auction.

By contrast, the free allowances for electric utilities would phase out over five years beginning in 2025.

Green said the deal also would delay the implementation of a proposed low-carbon fuel standard until at least 2023 — a change from Waxman and Markey’s initial plan to phase in the standard as early as 2014.

The low-carbon standard, designed to promote advanced biofuels made from plant materials, would require escalating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels.

I’ll need to see what the reviews are of this, but it sounds like a positive step. Getting this passed in the first place is the big thing; it can always be tweaked later. Kudos to all for working through this.

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Voting right on climate change

It is, of course, a good thing that President Obama has Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress as he tries to get his agenda implemented. That doesn’t mean he’ll have smooth sailing, of course – between the weirdly ahistorical insistence on a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate to pass anything and the outsized influence of the so-called “moderates”, the upper chamber has been his biggest obstacle so far. But the House can be a challenge as well, as we see in this piece on Rep. Gene Green and the fight over climate change legislation.

A 17-year veteran of Washington politics known for his low-key style and behind-the-scenes approach to legislation, Rep. Gene Green has seen his popularity skyrocket in recent days — at least with lawmakers eager to write new climate change rules.

The celebrity status comes courtesy of Green’s role as one of a handful of moderate Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee. His support is crucial to advancing a sweeping energy and climate change bill.

Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., are courting the Houston Democrat and other wary lawmakers to build backing for their legislation that would cap carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming. Under their bill, power plants, manufacturers and other industrial operations could stay within the new limits by buying and trading emissions allowances, or permits, to spew the pollutant.

The good news for Waxman, Markey and other proponents of the so-called cap-and-trade plan is that Green believes “the United States has to lead” in limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The bad news? Green worries about the potential price tag for oil refiners along the Houston Ship Channel he represents.

“I’d like to vote for a bill,” Green said. “But I’m not going to vote for one unless I think it’s going to be good for the area I represent.”

His eastern Harris County district is home to five refineries and “more chemical plants than I can count.”

Green has told congressional leaders and President Barack Obama that some carbon dioxide emission allowances will have to be given for free to refiners in order to win his support .

Green isn’t the only member of the Texas delegation to present a roadblock. San Antonio’s Rep. Charlie Gonzalez has voiced similar concerns, and gotten some heavy pushback in his district for it. VoteVets.org is now running a TV ad in San Antonio urging Rep. Gonzalez to support forward-thinking legislation on climate change. A different ad with the same kind of message is running in Houston – I saw it on KTRK the other night – asking people to call on Rep. Green. Public Citizen, which is among those leading the charge on this, responds to Rep. Green’s concerns. I can appreciate his position, but it’s important to remember that the cost of doing nothing will be far more substantial than any cap-and-trade implementation. Taking action now, however painful it may appear to be, will be cheaper and easier than putting it off and having to take more drastic action later.

Handmade Toy Alliance wins a stay

Some good news from last week for the Handmade Toy Alliance – they got a one year reprieve on enforcement of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Federal regulators on Friday postponed some testing requirements that would have forced many companies to pay ten of thousands of dollars to check children’s products for lead content, giving manufacturers and retailers a one-year reprieve.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission deferred the deadline, originally Feb. 10, by which manufacturers and importers of children’s goods needed to test every item to ensure it didn’t contain more than 600 parts per million of lead. They also have an extra year to test for phthalates, chemicals often used in plastic.

[…]

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was passed by Congress last year after dozens of toys were recalled. It called for manufacturers to test products by Feb. 10 and for retailers to dispose of products that had not been tested by that date.

The two-member commission voted to stay those requirements for a year, after toy makers, publishers and clothing manufacturers voiced their concerns. The commission had already clarified a portion of the law that could have forced thrift stores to dump all of their children’s clothing; the move in effect exempted them.

Also on Friday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said he was planning to introduce legislation next week to exempt some small businesses from the law and require the commission to distribute a compliance guide, among other things.

The commission has been bombarded with thousands of calls, e-mails, letters and visits from people upset about the law, Martyak said. Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) and Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) also sent the commission a seven-page letter chastising it for the “great deal of confusion and misinformation” that had arisen over the law.

The industry is still waiting for guidance on whether toys and clothing made from natural materials will be exempted from the law entirely. And there are exceptions to the stay: Manufacturers still must test products for small parts that may break off, lead content in children’s jewelry and lead paint. They also must ensure that cribs conform to standards set by the law.

“It looks like a positive step, but there’s still a lot of legalese,” said Dan Marshall, founder of the Handmade Toy Alliance, which was created to inform small toy companies about the law and advocate for them.

You can see a copy of the stay order here (PDF). This is good news for the craftspeople, but it’s only a delay, not a resolution. If nothing happens, they’ll be in the same position in a year’s time. Congress has a lot of work to do this year, but I hope they make time for this as well.

One of the things that may perhaps come out of this experience is a better understanding of how laws intended to regulate big businesses need to take into account the way smaller businesses operate as well. This Business Week article discusses that, while this DC Examiner piece takes a more cynical look at the sausage-making process that led to all this. And finally, where there’s crime there’s defense attorneys, and so we have Mark Bennett examining the criminal liabilities under the CPSIA. May it never come to that for the HTA’s stakeholders.

And now the real work begins

Yesterday was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? (Well, for most of us, anyway.) I suspect there was a pretty big dip in productivity right around 11 AM at most workplaces. But now that the pomp is over, it’s time to get down to the hard work of fixing everything that’s gotten screwed up over the past eight years, and Lord knows that’s a long list. President Obama seems pretty determined, the public is largely with him, and even Congress appears to be ready to move forward. It’s going to be busy around here.

I should note that my cousin Jill’s crusade, along with the Handmade Toy Alliance, to revise the way the Consumer Products Safety and Information Act (CPSIA) was to be implemented for small businesses, made it to the top ten list at Change.org. They’ve also got some momentum in Congress, as you can see in this letter (PDF) from Rep. Henry Waxman and others to the chair of the CPSC. I’m feeling optimistic about their chances to get this resolved.