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

From The President – Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010

On July 20th, a new bill was introduced, H.R. 5786, The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 by representatives Schakowsky (D-IL), Markey (D-MA) and Baldwin (D-WI).

Read the entire bill here.  (47 pages)

This bill is intended to amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to ensure the safe use of cosmetics, and for other purposes.

IF the bill passed in this format, this is what if would mean for your business:

Who does this bill affect?

Any establishment located in any state that manufactures, packages or distributes cosmetics.

Any foreign establishment that exports cosmetics to the United States without further processing or packaging outside the United States.

How will it affect your business?

Mandatory Registration

Any establishment as defined above will have to register with the Secretary (the FDA) by providing the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Trade Names
  • Description of Activities
  • Number of Workers Employed
  • Gross receipt of Sales
  • Names and Addresses of any suppliers of ingredients

Any changes to the registration will be made within 60 days.

Once the registration is completed the establishment will be assigned a registration number.

The FDA will maintain a list of establishments that are registered and this list will become public information.

Any establishment that fails to provide complete information of fails to register will be removed or suspended.

(Currently the FDA has a Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP) this bill would make registration mandatory and require further information).

Registration Fees

A fee schedule will be determined by the FDA.  All companies with annual gross receipts of less than $1M will not be assessed a fee.

(Although the fees will not directly affect you, it may affect your suppliers or their suppliers and will have a trickle down affect to the end user).

Product Labeling

All products will be labeled with the name of each ingredient in descending order of predominance.  A contaminant or trace element is not required to be listed if the contaminant is present at levels below technically feasible detection limits.

All products sold in e-Commerce will now be required to have an ingredient list on the website as well as the product label.  This includes the establishment’s website as well as the websites of their distributors.

List of Ingredients

The FDA will keep a list of ingredients that are prohibited or restricted for use in cosmetics and continually update that list.  The list will be ingredients that are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, or have reproductive and developmental toxicity, based on information from the following:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer
  • The National Toxicity Program through the National Institutes of Health
  • The California Environmental Protection Agency
  • Other authoritative international, Federal, and State entities (as determined by the Secretary)

(It will be the responsibility of the manufacturer to keep up with what is on the list and what is added to the list, at this time it is not clear how this list will be maintained and in what format).

Safety Statements

Eighteen months after the date of enactment of the Act, each manufacturer shall submit a statement signed by the CEO, based on available information after a good faith inquiry, that –

  • The cosmetic and its ingredients meet the safety standard; or
  • There is insufficient data to determine whether the cosmetic and its ingredients meet the safety standard.

(This will be done for each product that you sell, it is not clear what is done in the case of a product that has insufficient data).

Registration of Products

Each manufacturer shall submit electronically each cosmetic manufactured in the establishment that is intended to be marketed in the United States a statement containing:

  • The registration number of the manufacturing establishment.
  • The registration number of the establishment responsible for distributing the cosmetic.
  • The brand name and the product name for the cosmetic.
  • The applicable use for the cosmetic.
  • The ingredient list as it appears on the cosmetic label of insert, including the particle size of any nanoscale cosmetic ingredients.
  • Any warnings and directions for use from the cosmetic label or insert; and
  • The title and full contact information for the individual responsible for submitting and maintaining such statements.

Any changes will be made in a timely manner and notification will be made to the Secretary.

Each statement will be assigned a cosmetic statement number by the Secretary upon submission.

(This means EVERY product that you manufacture and market to the public which will limit your ability to change and try new products on short notice).

Reporting of Adverse Health Effects

All reports of adverse health effects shall be made within 15 business days of the event.

The content of the report shall include:

  • An identifiable patient.
  • An identifiable report.
  • A suspect cosmetic.
  • A serious and unexpected adverse event.

Confidential Information

All information submitted to the Secretary shall be deemed public information and nonconfidential with the exception of the concentration of cosmetic ingredients used in a finished cosmetic.

At the 2010 Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, the membership passed a legislative advocacy statement:

“The position of The Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild is to act as an advocate in all areas that affect the manufacture, sale and distribution of handcrafted soap as defined by HSMG Policy 2005-04-28 Position Statement.  Handcrafted soap under these definitions can be either a soap or a cosmetic depending upon how it’s formulated and labeled.”

The FDA’s website has a page with a very good definition of whether your soap is a soap or a cosmetic.  To re-educate yourself click here.

It is the position of the HSMG that H.R. 5786, The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010

  • Is poorly written and confusing.
  • Places too much of a financial burden on small business.
  • Over regulates an already safe industry.
  • Destroys the creativity and flexibility of small handcrafted soap manufacturers.
  • Creates further job loss and loss of local revenue in already tough economic times.

Therefore, the HSMG is against H.R. 5786 The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 as written.

Leigh O’Donnell

HSMG President

President@SoapGuild.org

Important Legislative Update – From the President

Activities in Washington DC are back on the radar. Last week, I went to Washington DC on a fact-finding mission with Donna Maria Coles Johnson of The Indie Beauty Network and Lela Barker of Bella Lucce (IBN Member and cosmetics manufacturer based in South Carolina). We spoke with key people to try to determine current climate regarding cosmetics legislation at the federal level.

First let me say, the HSMG is opposed to cosmetics legislation both at the federal and state levels that does not provide an exemption for small business.

The HSMG supports any efforts to maintain and improve consumer product safety, but is definitely opposed to unneeded legislation that will burden our small business industry sector.

Over two days, we met and spent hours talking with The Personal Care Products Council, the FDA and staffers for four members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The discussions were lengthy and detailed and there was an excellent exchange of information.

Continue reading