I’m In Washington, DC, For Meetings To Discuss H.R. 5786: Here’s What I Plan To Say

by Donna Maria on August 2, 2010 · View Comments

Last night, I arrived in my hometown of Washington, DC for meetings today with legislative staffers in the offices of Reps. Jan Schakowsky, (D-Il), Ed Markey, (D-Ma) and Tammy Baldwin, (D-Wi), the co-sponsors of H.R. 5786. I am joining Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry in Bellingham, Wa, Kayla Fioravanti of Essential Wholesale in Portland, Or, Lela Barker of Bella Lucce in Irmo, SC, and Leigh O’Donnell, president of the Handcrafted SoapMaker’s Guild. (You can read about previous trips to DC to advocate about new laws affecting small cosmetics companies here, here and here.) Along with my colleagues, I am carrying at least these four important messages to lawmakers:

  1. Cosmetics made by small companies are already safe. IBN members and companies like them started their businesses so they could provide consumers with an alternative to products made by large, multi-national companies that do not have one-on-one-relationships with their customers. They created their businesses so they could use readily available natural ingredients like lavender essential oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and Dead Sea Salts — the very ingredients consumers want more of in their products. These and ingredients like them are regarded as safe already because they have already been reviewed and determined to be safe for use in cosmetics. Since they are already using safe ingredients in their products, there is no need for a law like this, which reaches far beyond what is necessary to address ingredient safety questions, and which, if passed, will serve only to make it impossible for them to use the ingredients their customers love in the products their customers use safely already.

  2. The testing, reporting and registration requirements contained in H.R. 5786 (read about registration here) are not carefully tailored to accomplish legitimate legislative purposes. You can read more about this here. To force small businesses, who already report information about their gross sales and workers to other (state and federal) government officials, to have to report them to the FDA does nothing to enhance the safety of the products they are making. In fact, the unnecessary paperwork distracts them from devoting attention to safety. Having to invest in tests for ingredients, detectable trace elements in ingredients, resulting combinations of ingredients and MORE is cost prohibitive, and results in no benefits to consumers, especially since the ingredients they are using are already safe. Almost nothing in the reporting and registration requirements in this bill helps anyone make safer cosmetics.

  3. The product labeling requirements in H.R. 5786 are cost prohibitive and unnecessary, and will frustrate consumers. Making small companies produce labels for products that require one folded mini-page and hang tag after another will frustrate both the small companies and the consumers buying their products. Small companies have been at the forefront of reminding consumers of the importance of reading ingredient labels. To now give them a booklet with each product they buy is a waste of paper, money and other resources that small companies have precious little of. And consumers will be frustrated at the suggestion that, to be “safe,” they have to read all of that information. H.R. 5786 also calls for companies to give all of this information to their wholesale customers who may sell their products online.

    Those companies are also required to put this vast array of ingredient, component and testing information on their websites as well. This adds another potentially unacceptable level of regulation on small businesses, since they will now probably also be responsible for monitoring whether or not their wholesale customers are complying with laws this bill would impose on them to put massive amounts of unnecessary scientific information on their websites.

  4. H.R. 5786 is tantamount to a legislative pink slip for members of the Indie Beauty Network and companies like them. Small cosmetics companies’s beauty businesses are not just businesses, they are jobs — jobs many of them created for themselves when the nation’s economy is offering little in the way of traditional jobs. They are American manufacturers, and our nation needs them now more than ever.

    The special interest groups, using insider Washington, DC lobbying firms, that wrote this bill like to talk about “cosmetics businesses” as if they are anonymous, nameless, faceless, monolithic, publicly traded mega-companies that care so much about money, and are poisoning you each time you brush your teeth or take a shower. What they are saying is absolutely untrue.

    Forcing fear, uncertainty and doubt into the minds of our elected officials, who are responsible for paving the way for the American people to successfully provide for their families, is a despicable thing to do.

    America’s small cosmetics companies are owned by real men and women who have children, pets, mortgages, elderly parents and groceries to buy just like everyone else. Their companies are not buying for them fancy cars, diamond rings and mansions. They are paying their bills, providing for their children and keeping them out of bankruptcy court

    If passed, this bill will put thousands of people out of W-O-R-K, not out of business.
  5. H.R. 5786 does not contain any meaningful way for small business owners to compete on a level playing field. While the bill exempts companies from paying annual user fees (which are, interestingly, unspecified in terms of amount) unless their gross annual sales exceed $1M, that exemption is meaningless. There is no exemption from reporting to the FDA when they hire a new worker, or registering the names and addresses of all of their vendors, for example.

    There is no way to help them comply with onerous pre-market testing requirements. Small companies should not be required to absorb these kinds of costs because they are not necessary in order for them to make safe cosmetics.

    I have heard the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics say not to worry, because the bill will change and large companies will be made to share their testing and ingredient data with small companies. But even if that requirement becomes a part of the bill, it will dump a mountain of unnecessary scientific paperwork on small companies who do not have the resources to hire a chemist to analyze it. And what if, by some scientific misunderstand or misreporting, the information provided by the large company is incorrect? Under this bill, a small company that had nothing to do with creating the information would be on the hook for that error. Additionally, small companies would surely have to constantly pester the “chosen” big companies to ask questions and make sure the required data was provided each time they changed a product formula to add a new ingredient or remove an old one.

And, I should also ask — who is going to pay for all of this? Under this bill, companies making over $1M a year are being forced to subsidize an entire industry and that is just ridiculous.

These are just a few of the points I am looking forward to raising as I make myself avaialble to the decision-makers on Capitol Hill as it concerns H.R. 5786. I look forward to speaking with the staffers of our elected officials, and to the opportunity to work with them to assess the issues fairly and with an open mind designed to acknowledge and respect the hard working American’s families whose livelihoods would be devastated by passage of this bill.

Join Us For A Tweetup!

If you’re in the DC area, why don’t you join us TONIGHT for a fun Meetup! We’ll be at Famous Luigi’s on 19th Street. I used to work right across the street from this Washington, DC, landmark and I can vouch for their reasonable dinner prices and delicious pizza and other Italian dishes. I can also vouch for their tiramisu and carrot cake, but let’s not go there right now. Check out Luigi’s dinner menu OpposeSCA and IndieBusiness. Feel free to ReTweet the information shared so your colleagues, customers and friends can remain up to date.

Sign The Petition

If you haven’t done so, please join thousands of others and sign the Petition opposing this bill, and ask your customers, friends, family members and business colleagues from all walks of life to do the same. Ask them how they would feel if they had to comply with requirements like these where their industry was concerned? Let them know that it could be cosmetics today, and their products tomorrow!

Question: What else should I tell them the legislative staffers while I’m there? Oh, and can you join us for dinner?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 kellyanntaylor August 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Praying that you find open doors, open hearts, open discussions, and FAVOR FAVOR FAVOR!!!!!

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