In 2013, the 126th Maine Legislature voted on three bills to protect public health from dangerous chemicals in everyday products, with mixed results. On the one hand, strong bipartisan support for protecting the health of future generations from toxic chemicals remains evident, especially in the House of Representatives, where 74% of legislators voted yes on LD 1181. By comparison, 79% of likely Maine voters supported such a policy measure, according to a related poll. However, we also saw a significant increase in political spending by the chemical industry in Maine to influence the 2012 election results and stifle chemical policy reform in the 126th Legislature. It looks like chemical industry money did play a role in the Senate’s failure to override the Governor’s veto of LD 1181. Fortunately, the overwhelming bipartisan support for banning BPA in baby food packaging (LD 902) shows that people power can triumph over corporate money.
Kid Safe Products (LD 1181)
An Act to Further Strengthen the Protection of Pregnant Women and Children from Toxic Chemicals Sponsored by Sen. Seth Goodall (D-Sagadahoc Co.)
This bill would have strengthened the Kid Safe Products Act, Maine’s landmark chemical policy reform originally passed by an overwhelming bipartisan margin in 2008. As amended, LD 1181 authorized broader chemical use reporting to give consumers the right to know which products in our homes, schools and childcare centers contain any of 49 chemicals of high concern. The bill would have also required $1 billion corporations to disclose which canned foods contain BPA, the hormone-disrupting chemical previously banned in baby bottles and sippy cups. The bill passed with strong bipartisan support in the House, but was vetoed by Gov. LePage. Sen. Tom Saviello (R-Franklin Co.), who vigorously opposed the bill in Committee, persuaded his entire caucus (except for Sen. Pat Flood, R-Kennebec Co. – thank you!) to vote no on overriding the Governor’s veto. Senator Saviello has taken more political contributions from the chemical industry than any other Maine legislator in history. In a shocking display of weak leadership, the Senate never once debated the measure, which fell three votes short of becoming law.
YES is the Pro Public Health Vote
Final Outcome: Bill vetoed by the Governor; veto override failed in Senate
House Roll Call Vote # 370 (June 19, 2013): Yes 108, No 37
Senate Roll Call Vote # 379 (July 9, 2013): Yes 19, No 14
BPA in Baby Food Packaging (LD 902)
Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Portions of Chapter 882: Designation of Bisphenol A as a Priority Chemical and Regulation of Bisphenol A in Children’s Products, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Environmental Protection. Sponsored by Rep. Joan Welsh (D-Rockport).
In a smashing victory for grassroots democracy, the Legislature unanimously authorized final adoption of a rule under the Kid Safe Products Act to ban the use of BPA in the linings of infant formula cans and baby food jar lids. Maine became the third state to take such action but the first to do so through administrative rulemaking under a comprehensive chemical policy. Maine was also the first state to base a chemical phase-out on a formal finding that safer alternatives were available and affordable (known as an alternatives assessment). The real credit, however, goes to the nearly 1,000 moms, physicians, scientists and others who launched a citizen-initiated rulemaking petition in 2012 that asked the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) to ban BPA in all packaged food intended for children under age 3, not just for infant formula and baby food but also for canned foods marketed by Campbell’s and others using animated cartoon characters. Sen. Tom Saviello (R-Franklin Co.) joined the chemical industry coalition in opposing the rule at BEP’s public hearing, just three weeks after he received a $2,500 political contribution from the chemical industry. Disappointingly, the Board dropped the canned foods ban. The LePage Administration also opposed the ban on BPA in baby food jars. In January 2013, the BEP ignored the Governor’s opposition and unanimously approved the provisional rule that went to the Legislature for final authorization. In Committee, Sen. Saviello moved for unanimous approval, and the bill sailed smoothly forward, despite the lack of support from Governor LePage.
YES is the Pro Public Health Vote
Final Outcome: Bill became law without the Governor’s signature
House Roll Call Vote # 111 (May 21, 2013): Yes 144, No 0
Senate Roll Call Vote # 97 (May 22, 2013): Yes 35, No 0
BPA in Food Packaging (LD 1050)
The food industry is gradually moving away from epoxy linings containing BPA for canned foods and metal jar lids, which contaminate the food contents with low levels of the estrogen-like chemical. But except for Eden Foods, no company discloses which canned foods are BPA-free and which contain the hormone-disrupting chemical. This bill, which was a little ahead of its time, would have required that all canned and jarred foods indicated on the label whether they contain BPA. In light of forward movement on related bills, and given that other states had failed so far to regulate BPA in canned foods, LD 1050 did not win majority support in Committee. Legislators who supported the proposed BPA labeling requirement voted no on the majority Ought Not To Pass report.
NO is the Pro Public Health Vote
Final Outcome: Bill failed
House Roll Call Vote # 129 (May 23, 2013): Yes 96, No 48
Senate Roll Call Vote # 133 (May 30, 2013): Yes 34, No 1