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E-M:/ Preemption Alert, March 2006

March 2006, Issue 2

States have long been the laboratories for innovative public policy. Over the last three decades, states have become more active in passing strong laws to protect the environment and consumers. This state initiative has given rise to a disturbing and growing trend: the increasing willingness of the federal government to preempt the right of states to enact stronger laws to safeguard their citizens. The State PIRGs’ “Preemption Alert” is a periodic newsletter designed to highlight federal efforts to preempt state environmental and consumer protection laws.

In this issue:

“Merry Band” of Industry Lawyers Seeks Weak Laws: Commentary on a recent Los Angeles Times article detailing the link between well-connected industry lawyers and government officials crafting environmental and consumer protections.

Protecting Consumers from Unsafe Products: The Consumer Product Safety Commission finalized a new mattress flammability rule that immunizes mattress manufacturers from state common law, including tort law, if their products meet the new federal standards.

Protecting Americans from Predatory Lenders: A new study by the Center for Responsible Lending shows that state laws enacted to prevent predatory mortgage lending reduce abusive loan terms without impeding access to credit. Two House bills threaten to nullify these strong state mortgage laws and replace them with a weak federal standard. Meanwhile, the House Financial Services Committee has approved and the Senate Banking Committee is considering bills to preempt the usury ceiling in the Arkansas Constitution. The Senate Banking Committee also is considering a proposal to preempt stronger state rent-to-own laws.

Guaranteeing the Safety of America’s Food Supply: On March 2nd, the House will vote on a bill blocking states from enacting food labeling standards that are stronger than federal law.

Protecting Americans from Toxic Chemicals: Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) introduced her bill to implement the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants as an alternative to Rep. Paul Gillmor’s bill (R-OH), which threatens to nullify state bans on toxic flame retardants and other chemicals. The House Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials has scheduled a hearing on these bills for March 2nd.

Reducing Smog-Forming Pollutants in Paint: New York State has sued EPA to obtain data on smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contained in paints, stains and varnishes. Paint manufacturers have been fighting in court and Congress to stop states from regulating VOCs in paint products.

Coming in the Next Issue: A preview of a few issues we will cover in depth in the April issue of Preemption Alert.

Preemption Tracker: The latest list of pending federal rulemakings and bills in Congress that could preempt state laws.

 Click here to download a copy of this Preemption Alert. (321 KB, PDF)

The State PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups) are state-based, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations.  The State PIRGs’ mission is to deliver persistent, result-oriented activism that protects public health and the environment, encourages a fair, sustainable economy, and fosters responsive, democratic government.  In some states, the PIRGs’ environmental work is housed in partner organizations: Environment California, Environment Colorado, Environment Maine, Environment North Carolina, Environment Texas, and PennEnvironment. U.S. PIRG is the national advocacy office of the State PIRGs.  Created by the State PIRGs in 1984, U.S. PIRG advocates on the behalf of the state organizations on federal policy issues. 


Jason Barbose
PIRGIM Field Organizer

103 E. Liberty St., Suite 202
Ann Arbor, MI 48104