Lawmaking Insider: What It Takes To Put Laws Into Action

It takes hard work, collaboration, and patience to pass new laws in Oregon’s legislature. Sometimes, after years of trying, countless hearings, thousands of emails, and many meetings, we succeed–with gratitude for the help from OEC supporters. And when we are successful, we can transform the system to reflect Oregon’s values.

Oregon’s Toxic Free Kids Act is a notable example of our success. In 2015, we partnered with businesses, parents, doctors, legislators, and individuals – including many of you – to create one of the nation’s strongest consumer product safety laws. It was a hard won victory for Oregon’s kids, our families, and our economy.

Here’s the thing, though: Passing a strong law sometimes creates even tougher battles in the future.

The next step is to work out all the little details about how the law is going to turn into action. It’s a process called “rulemaking”, and it’s an exciting/laborious fun/frustrating and competitive process. In the end, many of the most important decisions about a law happen during rulemaking.

OEC was a part of rulemaking for the Toxic Free Kids Act all summer of 2016. I’m one among a group of 16 people tasked with advising the Oregon Health Authority on how they should create rules for putting the law into practice.

The intent of the law is simple: the Oregon Health Authority should be informed when a toxic chemical occurs in a children’s product, and the manufacturer should seek to either eliminate the toxic chemical or find a safer alternative. But the simple intent can be complicated when people begin negotiating over definitions, exceptions, processes, and other details.

OEC was the only advocacy organization on the advisory group, side-by-side with 10 representatives from industry associations or large corporations. These groups were pushing hard to weaken the law, giving manufacturers loopholes to escape participation.

One of the most aggressive industry associations trying to weaken Oregon’s law is the Toy Industry Association.

We fought their attempts to create legal loopholes that would allow manufacturers like Hasbro and Mattel to continue using toxic chemicals in products. We kept asking ourselves: why do these companies want to continue putting profits before protecting kids?

We won’t likely ever know the answer that question, but we do know that OEC will continue to fight for safer products for all Oregonians. And we’ll need your help, and the help of OEC’s partners, too. There will be an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the rules for Oregon’s Toxic Free Kids Act in October 2016. We need your voice to help stand up for a strong law and strong protections for our kids.


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3 Replies to "Lawmaking Insider: What It Takes To Put Laws Into Action"

    October 4, 2016 (5:12 pm)

    You ask why companies put profits before kids. Maybe you should stop trying to ascribe evil intent to your opponents and consider the possibility that you simply disagree about the health risks. It is not productive to vilify industry. Seek the best, unbiased health science and go from there.

    • Colin Price
      October 4, 2016 (7:03 pm)

      Thanks for your comment. We agree that Oregon should use the best available science on health risks and seek to take action to protect kids. Fortunately, that’s the approach that Oregon Health Authority has taken with this law to date. Many leading businesses, including our partners at Beautycounter and Staples, Inc., are having a positive impact on chemical and product safety. We like to highlight these kinds of examples:

      Unfortunately, there are some bad actors out there. These include a number of the industry trade associations that are fighting against protections for kids in Oregon despite the science. Some have a history lying about the risks of their products to human health. Here’s a great series on the topic from the Chicago Tribune if you’d like to learn more:

  • Margaret Puckette
    October 5, 2016 (3:12 pm)

    It is a no-brainer to demand that a child’s toy be completely free of toxins, but what about other toxic sources in the home? I’ve studied the herbicides and pesticides used in the nursery and landscaping industry and discovered something extraordinary and unexpected: they typically use less-harmful chemicals than the average homeowner, and often none at all because there are alternative safer methods. However, a child’s parents and neighbors can legally buy and apply pesticides with higher toxicity in and outside the home where children play. And TV commercials boast, “keeps on killing for up to one year!” These persistent chemicals affect everyone, even pets

    I believe OEC could use the Toxic Free Kids Act to leverage the removal of these harmful products from home improvement stores and even grocery stores where they are sold, and instead stock safer products that use natural and organic substances made for removing and preventing infestations. Along with this, people need to learn about the situation. The information is readily available, it just needs to be trumpeted far and wide.