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Wednesday October 18, 2017

Mohorovic Announces Resignation Effective October 20

Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic October 18 announced his resignation effective close of business Friday, October 20. This came at CPSC's decisional meeting on its phthalates rulemaking.


Mohorovic, a Chicago resident, cited a desire to spend more time with his family. He has regularly commuted back to that city on weekends and holidays during his tenure. In announcing his departure, he held up a card from one of his three daughters that included the phrase, "even though we don't get to see each other very often." He also explained that his recent anniversary celebration with his wife consisted of coffee before he had to leave to commute back to Washington. He noted that the sacrifice of public service can extend to families.


He is going to the law firm Dentons, where he will be a principal in the Chicago office of that firm's product safety practice. He is not a lawyer, but has product safety expertise not only from his time as commissioner, but from prior stints at Intertek and earlier as a commission staffer.


Although the immediate and short-term effect is a 3-1 Democratic edge, his departure sets up a 2-2 tie on the panel pending the announcement and approval of his replacement. Commissioner Marietta Robinson's term ends this month, and Dana Baiocco is the still-to-be-approved nominee to replace her (PSL, 9/25/17). Without Mohorovic – and once Baiocco is seated – the commission's Republicans will be she and Acting-Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle while the Democrats will be Commissioners Robert Adler and Elliot Kaye.


However, Mohorovic noted that the commission soon might have a Republican majority that would last seven years no matter who wins the 2020 presidential election. He called on his fellow party members to avoid a "tyranny of the majority," which he attributed to the Democrats on the panel and asserted has kept CPSC from its "full potential." He had raised that concern during the recent vote to grant a petition to launch a rulemaking involving flame retardants (PSL, 9/25/17).


Mohorovic was serving a term set to end in 2019 although he could have stayed an extra year to 2020 under a CPSC rule meant to avoid vacancies on the commission. Because the seven-year commission slots run regardless of whether they are filled, his replacement first would serve the remainder of his term and then there would be a year until the election to nominate that person for an additional seven years (to 2026/2027) or to find someone else, presumably a Republican.


Republican Buerkle's current term is over in 2018 (to 2019 allowed) although her two nominations for another seven years (to 2025/2026) and to become full chairman are awaiting Senate vote (PSL, 10/9/17). If approved Baiocco, also a Republican, could serve until 2024 (2025).


Democrats Kaye and Adler can serve until 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 respectively. The CPSA does not allow one party to hold all five seats, so their terms would be extended or they would be replaced by other Democrats.


Because Mohorovic's replacement would need to be re-approved or replaced near the 2020 election, Senate Democrats potentially could force the seat to remain open until after that decision if they take the chamber in 2018 and have a desire to block the nomination. There is precedence for that tactic.