By  on May 6, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Obama nominated Inez Moore Tenenbaum to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday, and said he intended to increase funding for the agency and add additional commissioners.

Tenenbaum previously served two terms as State Superintendent of Education in South Carolina. Backed by the domestic textile industry, she ran and lost as the Democratic candidate in a tight 2004 Senate race in South Carolina against Republican Jim DeMint.

In the administration’s budget, expected this month, CPSC would receive $107 million, a 27 percent increase over the previous budget. The increase falls short of an objective Obama outlined during his campaign to double the agency’s funding, but according to White House officials, it is almost three-quarters of the way toward that goal. He will also expand the commission later this summer from three commissioners to five.

The recently enacted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act mandated tougher lead standards in children’s products, including costume jewelry; increased the age level that defines children’s products to 12 years from eight years, and raised fines for violations to a maximum of $15 million from $1.8 million. The penalty for individual violations, assessed per product, went to $100,000 from $5,000.

Supporters of the legislation argued that to strengthen product safety in the wake of high-profile recalls from China, CPSC needed additional funding and personnel. The business community has said the new law has negative financial consequences and has called for delayed implementation.

The administration also nominated Robert Adler to fill one of the two new commissioner slots. Adler is a law professor at the University of North Carolina with expertise in consumer protection and product liability. Tenenbaum and Adler need to be confirmed by the Senate.

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