HFA opposes Massachusetts bills

The Home Furnishings Association has asked Massachusetts legislators not to approve House and Senate bills restricting the use of certain flame retardants in upholstered furniture and mattresses.

An identical measure was passed in the final hours of the 2018 legislative session but vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker in January. There was no opportunity for an attempted override.

The new bills, S 1230 and H 3500, are both under review in the Joint Committee on Public Health. HFA CEO Sharron Bradley wrote the following to the chairs and members of the committee June 7:

Adverse impact on business

“The Home Furnishings Association is an association of furniture retailers across the United States, including many in Massachusetts. I am writing on behalf of our Massachusetts members to express concerns about S 1230 and H 3500, which could have an adverse impact on their businesses.

“The specific problem with the legislation is the inclusion of antimony trioxide among the list of restricted chemical flame retardants. We believe this would limit manufacturers’ ability to comply with federal flammability standards, leading to the sale of products that may be less protective against the risk of residential fires. It is our understanding, based on a review of scientific studies by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, that the use of antimony trioxide in mattresses is safe for manufacturing employees, consumers and, ultimately, recyclers.

“We also suggest that, despite the law’s intent, suppliers outside of Massachusetts would continue to ship noncompliant products – ordered online – directly to the homes of Massachusetts residents, outside the commonwealth’s power to effectively police this commerce. Those unregulated products would be cheaper, putting furniture retailers in Massachusetts at a competitive disadvantage.

Federal action is better

“Our members operate brick-and-mortar stores, many of which are family owned and generations old, in cities and towns across Massachusetts. They provide employment, pay taxes and contribute to their communities. They want to sell safe products but also want to compete on a level playing field in a constantly changing retail environment. They should not be asked to bear the burden of excessive or unwarranted regulation, which this proposed legislation poses.

“At the same time, HFA strongly supports bipartisan SOFFA legislation (Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act) currently under consideration in Congress, which would “set a national furniture flammability standard that will reduce the need for harmful flame retardants in furniture,” according to its author, U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.). Congressional action is the best way to go, as opposed to the proliferation of inconsistent legislation in several states across the country.

“For these reasons, we hope you will not advance S 1230 or H 3500.”

Contact your representatives

In January, Baker cited several faults in the bill, including that it “would make Massachusetts the only state in the United States to ban certain flame retardants in car seats and the non-foam parts of adult mattresses, products already subject to federal flammability requirements.”

HFA encourages furniture retailers in Massachusetts to send their own messages to their representatives in the legislature opposing S 1230 and H 3500.

Doug Clark is content manager and government relations liaison for the Home Furnishings Association. Contact him at 916-757-1167 or dclark@myhfa.org.

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