Senate Leaders Violate Constitution in Pushing Through Costly Food Safety Modernization Act

by Hans Bader on December 2, 2010 · 3 comments

in Health and Illness, Legal, Nanny State, Personal Liberty, Precaution & Risk, Regulation

The House and Senate passed different versions of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which would ratchet up costly regulations of farms and food processing.  (Greg Conko explains how the bill’s expensive and cumbersome red tape might thwart “firms from developing innovative new processes and practices that could deliver real food safety improvements.”)   But as Conko and law professor Jonathan Adler have separately noted, there is a constitutional problem with the bill.  As Conko notes, the “user fees added to the Senate version run afoul of a constitutional requirement that tax measures originate in the House.

Similarly, Professor Adler notes “that the Senate’s failure to follow constitutionally prescribed procedures could doom the food safety bill.   The bill includes fee provisions that constitute taxes and the Constitution requires that all tax bills originate in the House of Representatives, and it looks unlikely that House Dems will let the slip pass.  Based on what Walter Olson has written about the bill, this could be a good thing.”

The House version of the bill would “drive out of business local farmers and artisanal, small-scale producers of berries, herbs, cheese, and countless other wares, even when there is in fact nothing unsafe in their methods of production,” warned legal commentator Walter Olson at Overlawyered.   I earlier discussed the harms likely to result from the bill, and false claims made by the bill’s defenders, here.

Hans December 2, 2010 at 3:46 pm

The bill could actually harm food safety over the long run in some ways.

Even the Senate version of the bill, which is less extreme, could discourage "firms from developing innovative new processes and practices that could deliver real food safety improvements," says Greg Conko in his commentary at Forbes.

Hans December 2, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Even the Senate version of the bill "would leave tens of thousands of small and mid-sized farms and food stands to be crushed under the weight of rules designed for some of the world's largest food processors," Conko notes, even though it is less extreme in that regard than the House version of the bill.

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