Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sippy Cups vs. Jobs - A False Choice

MUST WE CHOOSE JOBS OVER KIDS-SAFE SIPPY CUPS?
Rally for Maine
Hundreds of Mainers Rally February 14 to Oppose Environmental Rollbacks
While many Mainers were enjoying a romantic and chocolate-laden Valentine's Day, hundreds of their neighbors spent the day at the State House, where the Regulatory Fairness & Reform Committee met from 9 am until nearly 7 pm taking testimony on LD 1 and the Governor's Phase 1 regulatory reform plan, including a 48-page amendment that was handed to the Committee during the public hearing. The testimony was overwhelmingly in opposition to the Governor's plan, echoing what we heard at 7 regional hearings over the past 3 weeks - watch the videos here.  
On Monday, the Committee heard from the Governor's legal counsel, Dan Billings, who made it clear that while several of the most controversial rollbacks in in Phase 1 were left out of the amendment (for example, the Kids-Safe Products Act, banning Bis-A from sippy cups, clean air protections, eliminating LURC and zoning 3 million acres for development), Governor LePage has NOT backed away from these rollbacks and will be supporting legislation to implement them as we go forward.   
Even the "slimmed down" 48-page amendment has plenty of controversial provisions, including rolling back waste disposal rules to federal standards, which could allow heavy metal-contaminated garbage incinerator ash to be used in road paving.  The Secretary of State  offered his own novel plan giving him unilateral authority to temporarily halt any regulation deemed an undue burden on business.  This authority is currently reserved to the courts. The Secretary's proposal also raises separation-of-powers constitutional questions, since he is elected by the Legislature and would have authority under his plan to override Executive Branch decisions, something the Legislature is proscribed from doing without enacting new laws. 
Governor LePage's amendment still would make federal law the default standard and includes abolishing the citizen Board of Environmental Protection.  As I've noted before, his spokeswoman stated that to create jobs, Maine should adopt Mississippi's 6-page hazardous waste rules instead of our more complex regulation.  The Mississippi River is #1 on the most polluted rivers list, and that state's lax standards haven't translated into jobs - Maine's December unemployment rate of  7.3% is below the national average, while Mississippi topped out at 9.7%.   
As former Speaker Hannah Pingree points out, the Kids-Safe law is based on science and its repeal wouldn't create a single Maine job.  If we could just stick to cutting out red tape and helping businesses navigate government, as the BDN suggests, we could accomplish a lot.  Instead the Governor is recklessly bulldozing decades of bipartisan policy that protects Maine people and supports our tourist, fishing, forestry and other industries - and the "Maine Brand" that makes our state so special.  Choosing between safe sippy cups and jobs is a false choice and one we should reject - while we redouble our efforts to improve the economy through strategic investments and tax, health care, education and energy policy changes as outlined in the Chamber of Commerce report Making Maine Work

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