Three Bills on Toxic Chemicals Do Not Pass Because of Legislators’ Abstentions
In the last few weeks of the legislative session, the Legislature defeated three bills addressing substances thought to be harmful to health because they did not receive the minimum support required for passage after moderate Democrats abstained from voting, the Los Angeles Times reports. One of the bills would have banned the use of phthalates -- solvents used in some nail polishes, deodorants and lotions that are thought to cause birth defects and pancreatic cancer -- from all cosmetics. Another bill (SB 1168) would have required chemical companies to provide information on how to test for harmful substances they use, including carcinogens and substances that harm reproduction. The biomonitoring bill also would have tracked the toxins and studied links between environmental chemicals and increased rates of asthma, birth defects and autism. However, the measure did not have any "strict parameters, which put the chemical industry on high alert" because it could have led to bans and other restrictions on chemicals if any were found in samples, the Times reports. The third measure would have created a voluntary program to test breast milk for traces of toxic substances, but the bill "caused a rift among cancer activists because some said it might discourage breastfeeding," which both sides agreed was the best feeding option for infants "regardless of what tests might detect in mother's milk," according to the Times.
All three bills were opposed by the chemical industry and "moderate Democrats wary of over-regulating business," the Times reports. "Rather than directly opposing the measures, the members opted not to vote," according to the Times. Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) said that abstaining from voting "seems to be a pattern" among moderate Democrats, adding, "The Chamber of Commerce is dictating their nonvotes" (Banks, Los Angeles Times, 6/27).
An editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday examined 10 bills that were defeated last week because of lawmakers' abstentions from voting, including SB 1168 -- which received nine of the 10 votes required for passage but had four abstentions -- and a bill (SB 1192) that would have required health plans and insurers to cover treatment for illicit drug and alcohol abuse as they would other medical conditions. That measure received seven of the 10 votes needed for passage, and six lawmakers abstained from voting. According to the editorial, lawmakers "who are present and fail to vote should forfeit their day's pay and per diem" because abstaining from voting "has the effect of a 'no' vote -- without the political accountability" (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.