I was informed today that even though language was added that would have excluded fines to families living in lead smeltering towns, Lisa Taylor Martina (representing the St. Louis Lead Prevention Coalition) and Tom Kruzen still testified in opposition to the bill. This bill is now in jeopardy and may not being voted out of committee.
The bill was to address a "state" issue and was not specific to issue of St. Louis. The wording of the original bill would not have invoked any fines on the parents; only lead licensed contractors who fail to follow state laws regarding lead remediation.
The people who spoke out against the bill were apparently unaware of the content of the bill, or the procedures and protocol of presenting testimony during a senate hearing. Lisa Taylor Martina (representing the St. Louis Lead Prevention Coalition) spoke negatively of the bill's sponsor, Senator Maida Coleman and her motives in concerning the bill's passing. Several of the other senators on the committee had worked on the bill with the sponsor and represented bi-partisanship and were equally offended. Charlie Shield, the committee chair, procedurally took over sponsorship of the bill last year.
I can only wonder why the St. Louis Lead Prevention Coalition would publicly speak out against a bill that it had supported by letter one week prior. Not to mention the fact that last year the Coalition's Board had voted to support the bill. The same question has been raised by the Sen. Coleman who sponsored the bill, since she was not approached ahead of the hearing concerning any opposition the Lead Prevention Coalition may have had. The Coalition appears to have offended the bills sponsor and publicly humiliated itself in front of the senate committee. I am fearful that we have lost the confidence those who are willing to support lead issues impacting all of the children of the state.
My wife and I have been working with several stakeholders tied to this issue for over two years. With coaching from Wayne Munkel I had worked very hard to write a bill that would not only clear the legislative process, but would effectively protect the children of Missouri against the damaging effects caused by greedy and unscrupulous contractors. Last year this bill (with the same wording) was presented with no opposition, voted out of committee, and placed on the senate calendar. The bill was merely a victim of poor timing coming at the end of the session. Many people have spent time cultivating non-partisan support of this bill.
We are parents of children who were poisoned through the malicious actions by a lead licensed contractor who did not follow any protective measures when conducting lead abatement work on our home. This contractor was hired specifically for the purpose of making our home safe. We began with one child who was lead poisoned. Following the work of the contractor my three youngest children were lead poisoned and my wife suffered a miscarriage nearly halfway through her pregnancy. Following this incident, we became aware of other children who were harmed by the acts of unscrupulous contractors. We have been personally and deeply affected by the lead issue and have vowed to advocate change that would prevent other children and pregnant mothers from encountering the same fate.
If those committed to preventing childhood lead poisoning are unable to speak with a single voice we will diminish any power to create change necessary to fight this problem. The actions of those participating in today's activities have not only served to harm the cause to eliminate childhood lead poisoning, but have brought their motives into question. What did they have to gain from this action? Bringing down lead poisoning was certainly not part of their agenda.