Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's Earth Day

On Earth Day, we thought it would be fun (okay, interesting, at least) to look back at what we've done here in Washington to play a part in keeping our air, land and water clean and healthy.

Just this year, we led the way on banning the toxic chemical Bisphenol A from baby bottles, sippy cups and sports bottles. We were the second state to ban this chemical in sports bottles, and the fifth in children’s dishware. Representative Mary Lou Dickerson worked for over two years to help protect our children from this toxic estrogren-mimic. There's currently a big push to make this national law.

And remember the headlines a few years ago about the toxics being found in all kinds of children's toys and products? In 2008 we passed the first bill in the nation with strong standards for lead, cadmium, phthalates in children’s toys and products. Rep. Dickerson’s Toxic Toys bill was so successful that the next year the Federal Government passed their own version modeled on much of what we had accomplished.

This year we also passed the first law in the country that begins to phase out copper brake pads. Every time a car or truck hits the brakes, a little bit of copper dust falls to the roadway. Eventually that copper gets washed into our streams and rivers and damages our salmon runs. We’re hopeful that our efforts will help protect fish all across the country.

Another big win for the environment this year was the passage of the comprehensive producer responsibility program for mercury-containing light bulbs. This is the second such program to be launched in the whole country. People frequently toss their bulbs in their trash where the mercury slowly leaks into our groundwater supplies. Mercury harms the brain, kidney and liver, and Rep. Sam Hunt's legislation ensures convenient access to disposal in all areas of the state and holds the producers of these light bulbs accountable for paying for their safe disposal.

This is in addition to another trailblazing program passed a few years ago. Our state's E-Waste program was the first in the nation to provide manufacturer-funded free recycling of computers, monitors, laptops and televisions. The program went into effect last year and collected 38 million pounds of TVs and computers. Rep. Zack Hudgins helped lead this effort. Check here for drop-off information.

There's more we could highlight, but the point is that our legislators have long been champions of policies that not only protect our planet, but protect the health of the people who inhabit it.

For tips and ideas on how you can do the same, check here or head to an Earth Day event near you!

Calling all reform and accountability wonks

Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, chaired by Rep. Troy Kelley, met in Olympia. This is the bi-partisan group that meets regularly to discuss performance audits, program evaluations, and other studies geared to making our government more efficient, effective and accountable. Reps. Kathy Haigh, Sharon Nelson and Deb Wallace also serve on the committee.

Yesterday's meeting included a recap of JLARC-related news from the 2010 legislative session, including four new performance audit assignments: new stormwater permit requirements passed in the transportation budget, Medicaid cost-containment strategies, cost and use of helicopters in suppressing wildfires, and a review of the new lottery marketing strategy (as passed in this year's SB 6409).

The group also looked at two reports presented by JLARC staff: a preliminary report on Information-Sharing and Medicaid Reinstatement for Individuals Released from Confinement and the proposed final report on the Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of Accepting Bankcards at WSDOT.

These meetings are not for the casual observer, but if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of how our state government is trying to make things work better, have at it! You can watch the meeting here. JLARC's next meeting is May 19.