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Legislative Notebook: House votes for safer children’s products

ST. PAUL — Minnesota state representatives voted Friday to protect children from some toxic chemicals.

They approved on a 113-13 vote a measure to ban companies from intentionally putting formaldehyde in child care products. They backed a second bill 115-11 to keep bisphenol A out of baby and toddler food containers in the state.

Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, offered the formaldehyde bill because the substance is toxic and can cause cancer.

"A 1-ounce dose will kill a human being," Persell said.

The bill deals with items such as skin care products.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said the Persell bill requires products to have a lower formaldehyde level than occurs in nature and lower than the federal government requires.

Persell, however, said his bill applies only to formaldehyde intentionally put into products.

The bill gives businesses until next year to remove the products from their shelves.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said the bisphenol A prohibition would be on top of existing bans on using BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. This would keep the chemical out of containers of formula and baby food.

Similar bills are awaiting Senate consideration.

Health bill passes

The state’s second-largest spending bill is headed to negotiations.

On a 36-28 vote, the Senate early Friday approved a health care budget bill spending $11.2 billion in the next two years, mostly to care for Minnesota’s elderly, disabled and poor.

"We had a tough target, but we managed to be creative, while reforming within the health and human service area and generating revenue in our budget area," said Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick. "We were able to mitigate cuts to those most vulnerable populations — our elderly and those with disabilities. In fact, in the end we were able to make some very critical investments."

To meet the smaller $153 million spending target handed to Lourey by Senate leaders, his bill makes cuts in some areas and raises $80 million by imposing a health maintenance organization surcharge for the next two years.

The MinnesotaCare state-subsidized health insurance program for the poor would gain 120,000 clients.

The Lourey bill now heads to a conference committee, where the bill will be merged with a House-passed bill by Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal.

Spill calls required

Spills of potentially hazardous chemicals must be reported to both the state and local authorities under a bill the House passed 125-1 Friday.

Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, said spills already must be reported to a state official, but local 911 centers also should be in the loop so they can better respond.

To respond to concerns that a citizen may not know he needs to call two places, Schoen’s bill also requires the proper state official to let the caller know he also needs to contact local authorities.

Reporter Danielle Killey contributed to this report.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.