Last fall, the Progressive States Network began supporting state and local efforts to ban toxics in children's toys and products. Our Dispatch highlights the problem and how states are responding. In sort, the extent of the problem was shocking. When the Washington Toxics Coalition and others tested 1,200 popular children's toys for toxic chemicals, they found that more than one-third of the toys contained lead and other toxic chemicals, including cadmium and arsenic, were found in a number of toys.
In January, as the sessions were starting to get underway, we hosted a nationwide conference call with state legislators and advocates on toxic toys. Maine sponsor Hannah Pingree joined Ivy Sager-Rosenthal from the Washington Toxics Coalition and Tom O'Brien from the United Steelworkers to talk about efforts at the state level to ban toxics in children's products and toys
Since that time, Progressive States Network has worked with advocates in legislators in several states to introduce and help pass legislation. We submitted written testimony in support of the bill in Hawaii and provided fact sheets and op-eds for legislators in Connecticut, Illinois, Florida, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. We are also helping legislators in Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin who are in the final stages of introducing bills. We also joined our partners, the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut, at a press forum in support of Rep. Roy's HB 5601, which not only bans toxics like phthalates and bi-sphenyl A, but also sets up a continuous monitoring protocol to keep testing toys and products and ensuring long-term safety for Connecticut's children.
Earlier this year, a bi-partisan effort on Michigan SB 174 banned children's products and toys with lead content higher than 0.06 percent and last fall, California AB 1108 was the first to ban phthalates in children's toys and products. Looking around the legislation currently pending in states, there are three general categories of bills that are being introduced on toxic toys:
States banning other toxics in children's toys and products: Hawaii HB 2449, Massachusetts SB 545, Maryland HB 56, New Jersey AB 2332, New York AB 6829, Rhode Island HB 7813, Vermont HB 666, West Virginia HB 4084
States creating monitoring mechanisms to identify toxics and require safer alternatives: Connecticut HB 5601, Illinois HB 5705, Rhode Island HB 7098, Maine LD 2048, Minnesota HF 2100, Washington HB 2647
The bills that create monitoring mechanisms take consumer protection one step further by continually ensuring that toys and products are monitored and tested for toxics. The Washington model also puts the information on a website so that parents can access it and see what toys are harmful. The Maine model creates an interstate clearinghouse that allows states to share information about toxics and safer alternatives.
General investments in our infrastructure are poor across the board, but there has also been a strong, overt bias against public transit projects especially at the federal level with the Bush administration proposing to slash mass transit funding in its last budget, including a 40 percent cut in funding to Amtrak. In 2004, spending by federal, state and local governments on transit projects was overwhelmingly in favor of highways and bridges. Highway and bridge spending averaged over $70 billion while non-vehicular transit received just $9.2 billion.
The truth of the matter is that people do not share the federal government's hatred of public transport. Over half of Americans polled said they would take mass transit if it were more easily accessible from their homes or where they work. Two in three (65%) said the rising price of gasoline makes them more likely to consider using mass transit and 44% would be willing to pay higher taxes if they knew all the added taxes were being spent on improving or creating public transportation where they live.
Moreover, a recent report by Environment Maine shows that transportation (cars, SUVs, and other vehicles) is the leading contributor to global warming. However, the report also shows that the New England states that have made significant investments in transit are curbing emissions of global warming pollutants and use less gasoline. Indeed, the availability of transit allows for fewer vehicle miles traveled and, as a result, states like New Jersey, Connecticut and New York are among the greenest states in the country.
Transit projects also have significant workforce development opportunities. The Transportation Equity Network (TEN) is one of the leaders championing mass transit projects and their benefits. The recently released Road to Jobs study highlights the disparity in job opportunities between white males and African-Americans, Latinos and women. According to the report, in every area studied, white males dominated construction work regardless of the racial and gender makeup of the local workforce as a whole. The study found that more than 42,000 African-American workers were missing from the construction workforce and while women make up half of the population, they hold 6 percent or less of the construction industry jobs. This is despite the fact that there are significant labor shortages in the construction industry that will get worse in upcoming years.
TEN has had a series of victories that are listed in more detail in our Dispatch. Most recently, MI-VOICE in Michigan successfully wrote a JOBS NOW agreement to provide $15 million over 4 years for job training through the Road Construction Apprenticeship Readiness Program. The JOBS NOW campaign aims to provide thousands of high paying jobs for low-income people, minorities, women and ex-offenders through alliances with minority contractors and unions to secure workforce development agreements and policies in at least eight states.
Transit projects are currently moving in the states, including:
Minnesota's legislature overturned the governor's veto and implemented a 10-year $6.6 billion transportation funding measure that would raise gas taxes and invest in the states infrastructure. HF 2800 had broad support from unions, environmental advocacy groups and the Chamber of Commerce and will create jobs, increase safety, fund better local public transit, and reduct gridlock on the state's roads.
Illinois struggled with threats of service cuts to Chicago area mass transit before finally coming to an agreement between the governor and legislature. The agreement (HB 656) provides long-term funding and support for mass transit and will allow senior citizens to use main line and fixed route public transit service for free. The long-term funding also guarantees that the Chicago area transit will not have to cut services, raise fares or lay-off workers.
West Virginia introduced a bill (HB 2044) to study ways to develop mass transportation systems.
New Jersey introduced SB 1223, the "New Jersey Transit Villages Act" to, among other things, encourage municipalities to promote mixed-use development in close proximity to mass transit and increase transit ridership.
Indiana introduced HB 1245 to provide that a public transportation corporation located in a county having a consolidated city may receive 3 percent of the county's certified distribution of the county option income tax revenue each year and provides that regional transit authorities may establish transit development district to improve transportation infrastructure and can capture a part of the sales tax collected in the transit development district.
Maryland has a bill, HB 563, to study the feasibility of constructing light rail facilities in the Annapolis and the greater Annapolis area.
Connecticut HB 5041 creates the Department of Public Transportation, Aviation and Ports that will coordinate and develop comprehensive public transportation.
Utah SB 246 will be introduced on planning and financing of light rail providing access to airports.
Washington HB 3311 provides regional transit authorities with a funding source, instead of requiring voters to approve funding for transit project through ballot initiatives.
Minnesota SF 378 provides funds for a feasibility study for engineering a light rail transit corridor on I-494.
HI- HB 2527 requires the department of land and natural resources to
establish as system of green ways and trails and requires the Office of
Planning to coordinate smart growth planning.
NY- AB 1106 enacts the "New York State Smart Growth Compact Act."
VT- HB 863- stimulates the creation and preservation of affordable housing and smart growth development.
CT- HB 5641- allows municipalities to establish conservation development zones to promote smart growth.
Clean, Renewable Energy and Climate Change
There are numerous bills moving in the states to promote clean energy. We've highlighted a few of the more innovative and far-reaching ones:
CO- SB 184- provides clean energy loans for financing energy efficient home improvements.
CT- SB 389/ HB 5787- SB 389 creates Renewable Energy Investment Fund, HB 5787 authorizes two billion in state bonding to be used by a new Department of Clean Energy, which would administer the Renewable Energy Investment Fund.
MA- HB 4373- creating green communities through investing in renewable energy projects.
VA- SB627- establishes a Climate Change Commission to develop a Climate Change Action Plan.
HI- HB 2103- requires environmental impact statements to address climate change.
CA- SB 1550- develops a climate change disclosure standard and requires corporations to disclose climate change impact.
CA- AB 3018- creates the Green Collar Jobs Act of 2008.
WA- SB 6580- aims to decrease number of vehicle miles traveled and establishing Green Jobs training programs.
RI- HB 7884- creates the Global Warming Solutions Act to require greenhouse gas emissions reporting, target reduction levels, and look into economic development opportunities that will facilitate investment and implementation of global warming solutions.
Progressive States Network, Protecting our Children: States Take Action Against Toxic Toys
Washington Toxics Campaign - Healthy Toys
HealthyToys.org - Consumer Action Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys
Center for Health, Environment & Justice and their site PVC: The Poison Plastic
United Steelworkers - Stop Toxic Imports
Behind the Buyouts - ToysRToxic
California Center for Environmental Health
Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse and model Toxics in Packaging Act
Progressive States Network, Mass Transit Projects Provide Transportation Equity and Workforce Development
U.S. PIRG, Finding Solutions to Fund Transit
Environment Maine, Cool Moves, Transit in New England and its Role in Curbing Global Warming Pollution
American Public Transportation Association, Presentations from Policy Forum: Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Energy Conservation: Public Transportation's Strategic Role.
Road to Jobs
U.S. Department of Transportation, Comparison of Spending and Investment Scenario Estimates, 2006.
Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, Why a Lack of Transportation Choices Strains the Family Budget and Hinders Home Ownership
Transportation Equity Network
Metro Equity Campaign
Job Access and Reverse Commute Program
American Public Transportation Association