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.