Emil Jones’s Lead Foot

“As it finished up business for the spring session, the Illinois House passed the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, which would require manufacturers to affix a label to any product used by children that has more than trace amounts of lead,” the Tribune editorial page notes today. “It’s widely known that high concentrations of lead can cause serious health problems.

“The House voted 105-1 to protect children.

“The Senate? The Senate didn’t bother. The bill stayed in the Rules Committee.”

Yes, Emil Jones – once again – is to blame. But first: Who was the lone House member who voted against the children?

The Trib didn’t tell you; that’s why you read Division Street! And believe me, a little thing like that isn’t easy to track down in a state like this.

The envelope please:

D’oh! I’m seven phone calls in and I haven’t even determined that the vote took place. According to the General Assembly’s electronic records, the bill was sent back to the House rules committee. I’m awaiting calls back from the offices of Speaker Mike Madigan and chief sponsor Rep. Harry Osterman. I will find that lone House member who voted against the children, I swear! Unless I find that the Tribune totally blew it. Updates as they occur.

MIKE FORTNER! (See Rich Miller’s comments below. Thanks, Rich. And now confirmed by the office of Rep. Harry Osterman, by the way.)

Meanwhile, a spin through the ProQuest newspaper database as well as the usual Web googling finds a near-news blackout on this story. Just think of everything else that isn’t being covered while media moguls like Sam Zell “right-size” your democracy.

The Tribune editorial page, however, is no newspaper-come-lately to the topic. Last month the paper wrote that “The bill, which is being pushed by state Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, is likely to come up for a House vote in the next few days. It would arm parents with information to decide which products are safe for their children.

“It should be approved, but its chances look a little shaky. Toy manufacturers, merchants and industry trade people have lined up against it. They argue that the bill – which covers toys, clothing, jewelry, decorative objects, furniture or anything else that can be chewed on by children – is too broad. They say that too many warnings might cause parents to suffer from label overload.”

And that might seem like a compelling argument, but it’s effectively rebutted in one of the few other mentions of the bill (all editorials) I found, an editorial in the State Journal-Register of Springfield that says in part:

“State law limits lead content in toys to 660 parts per million, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children’s products contain no more than 40 parts per million.

“Madigan’s proposal, contained in House Bill 5789, would require children’s items that contain more than 40 parts per million of lead to carry a warning sticker.The toy industry has vigorously opposed this bill.

“Two weeks ago, the Illinois House Consumer Protection Committee heard from Carter Keithly, the head of the Toy Industry Association, who said this bill is too broad. One argument the industry has made is that the federal government is likely to soon pass a law that will allow no more than 100 ppm of lead, superseding Illinois’ current law. Adding a state law, the industry says, will only complicate things.

“We certainly favor tighter lead controls at the federal level, and 100 ppm is an admirable goal. But it is more than double the pediatricians’ recommendation, and we don’t think requiring a warning sticker is too onerous a burden for manufacturers.”

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One response to “Emil Jones’s Lead Foot

  1. The bill’s contents were moved to SB 2860. The IL Manufacturers Assn. was apparently no longer absolutely opposed because its newsletter praised AG Madigan for negotiating a narrower bill.

    The lone No vote in the House was Rep. Fortner. Reps. Pihos and Durkin voted Present.

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