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Legislative wrap-up: 1990 congressional action list; activity in the past year and in the next 12 months will focus on international trade, consumer product safety and disposability and solid waste.

Legislative Wrap-Up: 1990 Congressional Action List

activity in the past year and in the next 12 months will focus on international trade, consumer product safety and disposability and solid waste To best represent the legislative and regulatory interests of its member companies and to help assure that its members stay abreast of national developments, INDA constantly monitors legislation and regulations that impact on the nonwovens industry.

When a bill or regulation could have an adverse effect on the industry, INDA works with Congress and/or appropriate regulatory agencies to prevent enactment of the measure or, at least, minimize any negative impact it might have. Similarly, INDA encourages legislation and regulations that will promote the nonwovens industry while fostering public interest and safety.

This column outlines several bills pending in Congress that are on INDA's action list. Included is a brief summary of these measures, an overview of Congressional actions in 1989 and a look ahead to what we might expect from Congress in 1990. In a later issue I will provide a similar summary of the items pending on INDA's 1990 regulatory agency action list.

Among the bills currently under INDA scrutiny are measures that, if passed into law, would impact international trade of nonwovens, consumer product safety and disposability issues. All of these bills were introduced in 1989 and will be eligible for consideration during the coming year.

The 101st Congress

The 101st Congress convened in 1989 and its term will run until late 1990. Legislation introduced during this two year period can be considered at any time Congress is in session.

When Congress adjourns at the end of this two year session, however, any legislation that has not been passed by both the House and the Senate and sent to the President for his signature will "die." That is, no matter what stage of the legislative process it is in, any bill that has not been sent to the White House as of final adjournment by the 101st Congress will have to be reintroduced and consideration will have to begin from scratch when the 102nd Congress convenes in 1991.

The first session of the 101st Congress ended shortly before Thanksgiving, 1989, and the second session will begin later this month. In the first session, Congress had a remarkably unremarkable year. While grappling with the House ethics scandals, organizational changes and a new White House administration among other things, little was done legislatively.

"Must pass" legislation needed to fund the federal government was passed, but little else received attention. In fact, compared to the end of the first session of the 100th Congress--which was then noted for its low legislative action level--the 101st has been responsible for the enactment of about 20% fewer public laws.

This does not mean that legislation has not been considered during the first session of the 101st Congress. Quite the contrary. Between the House and the Senate nearly 6000 bills have been introduced to date and every one of them has been referred to one or more Congressional Committees for consideration. The vast majority of these bills, however, will never see any real legislative action.

Of the bills that have been introduced, INDA is currently working on several that could have a serious impact on the nonwovens industry if they become law. These measures fall into the broad categories mentioned earlier.

International Trade Agenda

Two bills of particular interest to INDA call for amending the Harmonized Tariff schedule to temporarily suspend duty on nonwoven fiber sheet. One of these bills has been introduced in the House of Representatives and an identical measure has been introduced in the Senate.

The House version of the bill has been sent to the Depts. of State, Treasury, Commerce and Labor, as well as the International Trade Commission and the U.S. Trade Representative for comment. So far, the International Trade Commission has given the measure a favorable comment, but comments from the other agencies have not been returned.

INDA is opposed to these measures. In fact, INDA opposed versions of this legislation that came before the 99th and 100th Congresses and INDA successfully lobbied key members of Congress to kill those measures before they could be enacted. Unfortunately, the issue has come up again with the introduction of these two bills. INDA will continue its fight to keep this legislation from being enacted into law during this session of Congress.

Product Safety Issues

Another measure of particular interest has been introduced in the House and has already been approved by the subcommittee to which it was referred--the key first step for most bills that have a realistic chance of eventually being passed into law.

The measure is a funding bill that would "reauthorize" monies for the continued operations of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). However, the bill also calls for a number of changes at the Commission, including an amendment to the Flammable Fabrics Act that would require the CPSC develop procedures to monitor manufacturer compliance with product safety standards.

In addition, the bill would allow "interested parties" to petition the CPSC to issue rules reducing risk of injury associated with a product. This provision would compel the CPSC to take action on products that it previously had determined to be safe.

Also of interest, the bill would require a review of the feasibility of making manufacturers pay the rulemaking costs if their products are subject to a consumer product safety rule. Such costs could conceivably run into tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars. Feasibility studies have been used in the past to justify controversial legislation enacted by Congress.

The measure was introduced by Rep. James Florio (D-NJ), who also championed the bill through subcommittee considerations. Last November, however, Rep. Florio was elected Governor of New Jersey and he will not be returning to Congress. At this time, therefore, the bill's future is uncertain. Congressional sources have indicated that the bill may be significantly amended during full committee consideration. There would also be opportunities to amend the bill if it continues through the legislative process.

INDA is opposed to any provisions of this measure that would adversely impact its members. For these reasons, should the bill begin to move in 1990 INDA will encourage Congress to remove the offending provisions or, if necessary, to kill the bill altogether.

The Disposability Issues

By the end of the first session of the 101st Congress, more than 70 separate bills had been introduced addressing the issue of solid waste. It is one of the hottest legislative issues.

Measures introduced to date offer a variety of "remedies" to the "problems" associated with solid waste and it is impossible to predict which way Congress will go with the issue. Some bills introduced so far would provide incentives to state and local governments to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's hierarchy of waste disposal (recycle, incinerate, landfill); other bills offer sanctions for not following the hierarchy. Some of these measures prohibit interstate transfer of solid waste, while others recognize that states develop better strategies for disposing their waste.

What's Ahead in Washington

One area that is almost guaranteed to see further legislative action is the issue of solid waste management. According to Dr. Ronald McHugh, a staff member of Sen. John Heinz (R-PA), who gave a briefing at the November joint meeting of INDA's Government Relations Advisory Board and International Trade Committee, the call is being raised in Congress to reauthorize the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

RCRA is broad legislation that affects, among other things, federal recycling and landfill programs. According to Dr. McHugh and many other Capitol Hill sources, Congress is likely to move a RCRA reauthorization bill in the spring or early summer of 1990. No matter what form this legislation eventually takes, INDA's member companies will likely be directly impacted by its outcome.

For this reason, RCRA reauthorization will be very high on INDA's list of important legislation in the second session of the 101st Congress. INDA will also be watching for movement on bills of interest outlined in this column and, as always, will continue to monitor new legislation as it is introduced to ensure that its members will not be caught with their guard down when legislation is considered on Capitol Hill.
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Title Annotation:Capital Comments
Author:Mayberry, Peter
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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