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When Chairman Hal Stratton stepped down from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in July 2006, he left the agency with just two commissioners. Without a three-member quorum, the agency is unable to sue a manufacturer or demand a recall, allowing dangerous products to remain on the market. The Consumer Product Safety Act stipulates that in the case of a vacancy, two members can constitute a quorum for six months, but the Bush administration declined to appoint a third member for much of 2007. This lack of authority became glaring in the case of the Kazuma Meerkat 50, an all-terrain vehicle designed for children.

Despite finding the Meerkat plagued by failing brakes, the CPSC could only issue a news release deeming the product “defective and dangerous.” In August 2007 Congress passed legislation to grant the two-member quorum another six months, but the agency still refrained from taking any serious action against the product. After the six-month time period expired, the seat remained vacant, and the agency was left, yet again, without a quorum to enforce safety standards or hold manufacturers accountable. A CPSC spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment, but acting chairwoman Nancy Nord maintained that “the agency was able to make progress on a number of fronts” while without a quorum.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was signed into law on August 14, 2008. It allows for a temporary two-member quorum to carry out official business for one year and also expands the commission to five members instead of three to prevent a future lack of quorum. The third commissioner seat remains vacant.

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