Why Are Bills Introduced? (A Legislative Guide)

Why Are Bills Introduced? A Legislative Guide

If you have been following the HSCG’s Legislative Advocacy or the bills that have come out seeking to further regulate soap and cosmetics, then you know we have been seeing bills from different Members of Congress since about 2008.  In some terms we have seen as many as 3 active bills relating to soap and cosmetics at a time.  This brings us to the question, “Why are bills introduced”?

In order to dive into the question of why bills are introduced, we first need to have a general understanding of the life-cycle of a bill.  When I think about this my mind automatically goes the “Schoolhouse Rock” song, “I’m Just a Bill”.  (Click below if you’d like to watch the 3:02 minute video for a blast from the past!) Who doesn’t remember the Saturday Morning Cartoons with these little gems mixed in?  (Ok, perhaps I’m dating myself)

The legislative process is a long one – rarely are bills ever “fast-tracked” or pushed through.

To give you an idea of what that looks like: In each term of Congress (2 years), as many as 15,000 bills will be introduced by Members.  Less than 5% actually pass and become law.  In the last term of Congress (2013-2014), 10,637 bills were introduced, and only 296 or 3% officially became law.  (courtesy of govtrack.us)

Once a bill is introduced, it will follow this path to become law (for this example I have chosen a bill that originates in the House of Representatives):

1.) Draft – Bills are drafted by Members of Congress, groups or the Executive Branch.  Anyone can draft a bill but only a Member of Congress can introduce legislation.  When a Member of Congress introduces a bill, they become its sponsor.

2.) Introduction – Bills are then introduced by a Member of Congress (even if drafted by an outside source) and referred to a committee.

3.) Committee – The Speaker of the House sends the bill to a committee.  In the past, bills related to our industry have been  referred to the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the Senate HELP Committee (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions).

4.) Committee Action – Here is where a bill will either die (most do) or pass on to the next step (Rules Committee).  Many bills are left in committee with no action, they can also be tabled or amended.  If the committee fails to act on a bill, it is considered “dead”.  A bill can be introduced to a sub-committee for study and hearings.  A subcommittee may “mark up” the bill, in other words propose changes and amendments, prior to it being considered by the whole committee.

5.) Rules Committee:  Decides on debate on the subject matter in the bill and whether or not it will come up for debate at all.  The Rules Committee also decides whether amendments will be allowed and if so, how many.

6.) Floor Action – the House will debate the bill and could offer amendments.  A majority vote will allow the bill to move on to the Senate.

7.) Senate Introduction – A Senator introduces the bill and the Majority Leader refers the bill to committee .

8.) Committee Action – Here is where a bill will either die or pass on to the next step (Bill Called Up), the committee can pigeonhole, table, amend or pass the bill.

9.) Bill Called Up – Senate Majority Leader decides when the Senate will consider the bill.

10.)Floor Action – Here the bill is again debated, amendments may or may not be added.  If a majority votes in favor of the bill, it is returned to the House.

11.) Conference Committee – If the House decides to reject the changes made by the Senate, the bill goes to a conference committee of Members from both houses to hopefully work out the differences.  The bill is sent to Conference Committee when one chamber (House or Senate) makes significant changes.  Both Houses must approve the conference report before the bill can proceed.

12.) Vote on Compromise – Both Houses must approve the changes made by the Conference Committee, if they are able to, the bill goes to the President.

13.) Presidential Action – The President may sign (approve) the bill or veto (reject) it.  If signed, it becomes law.  If the President takes no action for 10 days, while Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law.  If the President takes no action and Congress has adjourned its session, the legislation dies, this is called a “pocket veto”.

14.) Vote to Override – If the President vetoes the bill, it can become law only if 2/3 of BOTH Houses vote to override the veto.

Now that we understand the legislative process and how a bill becomes a law, lets look at the reasons a Member of Congress introduces a bill knowing that only 5% of bills actually pass.

Members of Congress do not need consent or support from anyone to introduce a bill, many times a bill will have support but it is not a requirement.  Members introduce bills that they believe in and here are their top reasons for doing so:

>  The Member is speaking to their constituents or addressing concerns from their home district (or state).  Making good on the promises from their campaign or addressing an urgent or longstanding issue.

>  The Member is gauging interest and/or reactions from the public and people on both sides of the issue.  Many times their first draft of a bill isn’t their final draft, it is useful to know the thoughts of the public and what kind of feedback they will receive (positive or negative).

>  The Member may use a political tactic and take an unpopular stance on a specific issue to let their peers and constituents know how serious they are about it.

So, how do we know if a particular bill is viable watching the legislative process from the outside?  There are several things to watch after a bill is introduced to gauge whether or not it will move forward in the legislative process, or die.

>  Media – If a bill is getting relatively no press, either in news or online, then it stands to reason that it isn’t going to move forward.  This is not set in stone, but how the public responds to a particular piece of legislation can either help or hinder a bill’s chances of passing.

>  Co-Sponsors – When a bill is introduced, the Member that introduces it become the bill’s “sponsor”.  It is up to that Member to gain support of the bill by other Members and ask them to “co-sponsor”.  A bill with only a sponsor and no co-sponsors will most likely not move.  If a Member introduces a bill with a co-sponsor from the opposite party, the bill is more likely to receive attention, this is a bi-partisan bill.

>  Moving out of Committee – If a bill moves out of committee, either to a sub-committee or to the floor for debate and vote, it is making progress and has a better chance of passing.  A bill that sits in committee and does not move will most likely die in committee.  This is even more relevant as the Congressional Term comes to a close, a bill that is still sitting in committee as we draw closer to the end of term has little to no chance of passing.

The HSCG has been very active in legislative advocacy since about 2009.  We are currently under contract with a professional DC Advocate, Debra Carnahan of Carnahan Global Consulting.  With her assistance, we travel to Washington, DC 4-6 times per year to attend meetings with Members of Congress.  We are both addressing specific pieces of legislation that is aimed at our industry and educating them about the handcrafted soap & cosmetic industry and the people and businesses that make it up.

There are currently two active bills seeking to update The Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act of 1938.  To read more about these bills and our advocacy efforts, please refer to the legislative advocacy pages on our website.  As bills are introduced, it is important to remain calm, keep informed and engage Members when necessary.

The bottom line is that the HSCG needs to stay engaged with Congress to ensure that the small businesses of the handcrafted soap & cosmetic industry are well represented.  We take a calm, methodical approach and remain steadfast in our messages.  When new legislation is introduced that seeks to regulate our industry, we will be ready to engage Members and their staff so that the needs of handcrafted soap & cosmetic producers and businesses are protected.

Leigh O’Donnell

HSCG Executive Director

The Ultimate Guide to UPC Codes for Handcrafters

 

The Ultimate Guide to UPC Codes for Handcrafters

Happy post-holidays everyone! I hope that you all enjoyed a marvelous holiday season with your loved ones!

Today I will be bringing forth some info on something that we’ve been getting a lot of questions about recently… UPC codes!! I’ll admit that it may not sound like the most exciting topic in the world, but these little suckers will help you rock your craft business!


To shed some much-needed light on the subject I have recruited the help of our very own expert on labeling, regulations, and gmp (good manufacturing practices), Marie Gale!

This wonderful woman served on the HSCG Board of Directors from 2003-2004, then as the HSCG’s President from 2004-2009, and now currently acts as our subcontracted webmaster!  Needless to say, she’s been providing our members and the rest of the industry with invaluable knowledge for quite some time.

Click here to see Marie’s take on UPC codes, and to learn everything you need to know about using them for YOUR products!


If you’ve decided that UPC codes are the way to go for you and your business and are ready to take the next step, then check out this list of some of the internet’s top places that you can get your UPC’s from:

>> www.gs1us.org – The “top dog” of UPC code purchasing, and primary wholesaler where ALL UPC codes originate.

>> www.instantupccodes.com  (Reseller)

>> www.simplybarcodes.net (Reseller)

>>  www.codeupc.net (Reseller)

>>  www.nationwidebarcode.com (Reseller)

Do you already HAVE a UPC code and want to test it and look it up in an online database? Check out this UPC tool from Scandit.com!


Do you use UPC codes for your products? Do they work well for your business? Where did you purchase yours from?? Share your experience in the comments below!

Happy coding!

The What, Why, & Where of NAICS Codes

NAICS Codes 101

As a small business owner, you’ve probably heard of NAICS codes before but may not know what they are, what they’re for, or how to find out which one is right for your business.  Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know!

 


 

// What is a NAICS code? //

A NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code is a 6-digit code system that is used by business and government agencies (like the U.S. Census Bureau) for statistical purposes, and to classify business establishments into 20 industries depending on their economic activity in the United States. Essentially, it helps them to collect, record, and report economic data.

This system isn’t only used in the U.S., but in Canada and Mexico as well. In 1977 the NAICS replaced the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system, and is updated every 5 years in order to accommodate changes in business and industry classifications.

 


 

// Why do I need one for my business? // 

Some agencies at the state and federal level will require businesses to have a NAICS code for contracting and tax purposes, however there is no centralized database available to check which organizations or agencies actually do.  Another reason to know your NAICS code, is that some state governments will offer tax incentives to businesses from certain NAICS industries.

Let’s say you need to register for a sales tax permit in your state. Most likely, you’ll be required to supply it on the paperwork.  The gist of it is, it’s better to know it and not need it instead of being stuck without it!

 


 

// What do the numbers mean that make up the code? //

Each number in the code represents an indicator for different levels of classification.  For all of you soapmakers out there, we’re going to use the NAICS code for soap manufacturers, 325611, as our example to show you how the numbers break down!

>     32 –  The first 2 numbers are what indicate the “economic sector”. In this case, 32 (or any code starting with 31-33) indicates a “Manufacturing” sector.

>     325 – The third number of the code is what indicates what’s called the “industry subsector”. In this specific code, the 5 narrows it down to a “Chemical Manufacturing” subsector. (And yes, this is the subsector even though the soap that you make is a natural product due to the fact that lye, a chemical, is used in the saponification process.)

>     3256 – The fourth number is what refers to the “Industry Group”, again specifying even further. In this example, the 6 refers to “Soap, Cleaning Compound, & Toilet Preparation Manufacturing”.

>     32561 – The fifth number indicates the “Industry” itself. Here the 1 shows that it’s the “Soap & Cleaning Compound Manufacturing” industry.

>     325611 –  The sixth and final number will specify an industry that is specific to the U.S., Canada, or Mexico. For this specific code, the 1 is specific to the “Soap & Other Detergent Manufacturing” in the U.S.

 


 

// What if I qualify for more than one code? //

It’s actually a pretty likely chance that your business could qualify for more than one NAICS code, especially being a craft business!

Sticking to our soapmaker example, there are obviously a ton of different ways one could run their business. Some only sell online while others have a brick-and-mortar location. Some only sell at craft fairs or farmers markets. Some do everything! And yes, that means that some people will need to use different codes than others.

Being a handcrafter and depending on what type of form it is that you’re filling out and who it’s for, you may also need to know your “Retail Trade” NAICS code instead of a “Manufacturing” one like we used in the example above. These codes would start with a “44” or “45” to indicate the “Retail Trade” sector, instead of a “32” like before.

Codes in this sector aren’t product-specific like the “Manufacturing” NAICS code was.  Normally, the agencies (outside of the Census Bureau) don’t necessarily care what the product is that you’re making. (Unless it’s food meant for immediate consumption.) They only care about when/where you actively do your selling, and that’s what will usually determine which NAICS code you should use.

Let’s say you have a Private Label business (Private Label = When you purchase product wholesale from a handcrafter and then sell it retail under your own company’s label). Obviously, you wouldn’t fall under the “Manufacturing” sector type because you’re not making your own product. You would be included under the “Retail Trade” sector.

Some other specific examples would be if you ONLY sell online, ONLY at a craft fair, or some other direct-selling establishment. You would also need a “Retail Trade” NAICS code because you’re not conducting your business in the same space as you’re manufacturing product.

If you are someone who has their own storefront or studio where you both make AND sell your products, then 9 times out of 10 you’ll only have to worry about the NAICS code for the “Manufacturing” sector.

 


 

// Where can I get my NAICS code? //

If the codes listed at the end of this post don’t apply to your business, then you can find your NAICS code by visiting the US Census Bureau’s website, and entering in a keyword for what your business does. **Always use the search box with the most recent year. If nothing comes up for any of your keywords under that one, THEN try going to the next one down.**

If you find that that doesn’t work well for you, you could also use the NAICS Code Drill Down Table where it allows you to start by selecting the industry out of the list that is most relevant to your business, and then going from there.

If you’re short on time and don’t feel like looking anything up online, you can also give the Census Bureau’s call center a quick ring at (800)923-8282 and someone there could help you figure out which one would be best for you! (I spoke to a gentleman there earlier today – he was super nice and very helpful!)

 


 

// NAICS codes that may be relevant to you //

>     325611 – Bar Soap Manufacturing

>     325620 – Bath & Body Product Manufacturing (lotions, bath salts, scrubs, etc…)

>     339999 – Candle Manufacturing

>     454111 – “Electronic Shopping”; For those who only sell product electronically/online.

>     454390 – “Other Direct Selling Establishments”; For those who only sell at a temporary set-up. (Craft show tables, farmer’s market booths, street vendor trucks/wagons).

>     Click Here if you know what your business’s old SIC code was and need to convert it into the NAICS version.

>     Click Here if you need a list of industry options to choose which would fit your business best.

 


 

I know, it’s a lot of information! So please Please PLEASE drop a comment below if you have any questions & I’ll help you as best that I can! If there’s anything that I missed that you think should be included, leave a comment about that too!

Happy coding 😉