Thursday, December 12, 2013
At the start of the legislative session, no issue was more controversial than what looked like an assault on the Kid Safe Products Act.
Backers and critics of the Kid Safe Products Act were able to agree to a basic concept behind the law: No one wants to put toxic materials in toys.
Press Herald file
Now, a bill that will reform the act will go to the full Legislature with a unanimous recommendation from the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, where it can expect to find the same level of bipartisan enthusiasm.
What happened? First, there was a lot of hard work by backers of the 2-year-old state law and its critics. Both sides started by agreeing to the same basic concept behind the law: No one wants to put toxic materials in baby bottles and toys.
At the same time, businesses balked at a 1,700-item list of potentially dangerous chemicals that created a cloud of uncertainty. Some of the items were on the list because they had been listed as potentially dangerous somewhere else in the world.
The issue was made even more divisive when Gov. LePage insisted that science did not support restrictions on even the worst of the chemicals identified for restrictions.
By working together, lawmakers found a way to ease the business community's concerns without weakening the protections.
Instead of a list of 1,700 chemicals that could be targeted, the list was narrowed to 70. And each item on the list is there because there is strong evidence of its toxicity. The new bill's supporters include leading environmentalists as well as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, which also helped forge the deal.
"We said from the beginning this wasn't about choosing between the Kid Safe Products Act and our business climate," said Ben Gilman of the chamber. "It was about choosing both, and we believe this compromise put forward does that. It addresses our concerns and it was unanimously supported by the committee, and so I think it's a good victory for a healthy and prosperous Maine."
It's also an example of how members of the Legislature from both parties can peel back the rhetoric and find a way to enact laws that improve lives for the people of Maine.
Every issue may not lend itself to this kind of bipartisan compromise, but all policy debates should at least start with an outcome like this as their goal.