Let’s try this again: Washington state Senate passes a bill limiting the use of BPA

Mothers take great care to provide the best for their children, choosing nutritious formula and food for their young. So why is a chemical that may hinder a child’s development allowed in baby bottles and sippy cups?

That was the sentiment behind a 36-9 vote in the Washington state Senate today for a bill (SB 6248) to ban bisphenol A, or BPA, from food and drink containers for young children. Similar legislation passed the House earlier this week 95-1, but that bill (HB 1180) went further by also banning the chemical in bottles containing sports drinks such as Gatorade.

BPA is widely used in shatterproof plastic containers for food and drinks, as well as a plastic lining in cans for food and soda. Studies have shown that when these containers become hot, whether through microwaving or by pouring hot liquid into them, BPA can seep into the food or drink. This is also occurs when the plastics get scratched over time.

Federal safety regulators have expressed concern about the harmful effects the chemical could have on fetuses and young children’s brains, reproductive systems, pituitary glands, and behavior. The chemical has also been linked to a variety of cancers, diabetes, and obesity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration “believes there are great causes for concern, especially among the youngest,” said Rep.

Red tents for the homeless in Vancouver – while the world is watching

With 500 people in metro Vancouver, B.C., hunkering down without a roof overhead nightly, an advocacy group wants to distribute red tents to the city’s homeless to make shelter on the sidewalks — at the height of the Olympic games festivities.

The Tyee reports:
Picture homeless people camped on downtown sidewalks. Big yawns inside bright red tents as the sun rises on another Olympics day. Early next month, Pivot Legal Society hopes to ask city council’s permission to start handing out 500 collapsible shelters to Vancouver’s most needy. Pivot’s rights activists want to confront a city enthralled by Olympic jubilation with the reality of local poverty. And test the limits of constitutional law.
British Columbia Supreme Court rulings have upheld the right of the homeless to camp in public spaces when there is no other shelter. So Pivot is offering donors the right to “sponsor” a tent for $100 and shelter a homeless person. With world attention about to be focused on Vancouver during the Olympic games, the timing of the Red Tent campaign is no accident.
“We want the media to experience the most liveable city in the world and also see the contradiction — that this is a city that has a chronic problem with poverty and homelessness,” Pivot Executive Director John Richardson said. “We want them to ask, ‘What is the Canadian government doing about this?'”
— Rita Hibbard

38 million pounds of electronics recycled in one year in Washington – now go get that iPad

In the Good News for Your Friday category comes this bulletin:

More than 38 million pounds of electronics otherwise headed for the landfill have been recycled during the first year of a new program in Washington state.

A similar program in Oregon collected nearly 19 million pounds of electronics in its first year. Go Washington recyclers! And you go Oregon recyclers too! Reports the Associated Press:
State Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant calls the E-Cycle Washington program “even more successful than we had hoped” and notes the total doesn’t include the thousands of still-working electronics units donated to charities.
The program, which keeps tons of heavy metals out of the environment, is paid for by manufacturers, and products can be dropped off at authorized collection points, which are listed at the program’s Web site, and are searchable by county.  The Oregon E-Cycles program also provides free recycling of electronics at statewide collection points.

— Rita Hibbard

Support for tax to pay for stormwater pollution appears lukewarm… so far

A proposal to increase the tax on petroleum, pesticides and other chemicals is being floated in Olympia as a way to raise as much as $250 million to clean up polluted stormwater. But so far, support the for the idea among leading lawmakers appears lukewarm at best.

Environmentalists are pushing the idea, which would mostly tax oil refineries to clean up stormwater runoff, the largest source of pollution to Puget Sound and other waterways in the state. The measure would sink money into the general fund initially to help meet the state’s $2.6 billion budget shortfall, with stormwater pollution getting a bigger share in future years. As key as stormwater cleanup is to the health of Puget Sound, the measure faces an uncertain future.

Voices to be heard: young adults gather at Seattle art gallery to discuss tuition crisis

Gathered in a packed art gallery on Capitol Hill in Seattle, was a group of mostly young adults. They sat on stairs, the floor, and they stood. All eyes rested upon a pull-down screen that was displaying President Obama’s State of the Union address.

They did not assemble merely to watch the president speak from the nation’s capital, but to also discuss what was going on in their own capital, Olympia. The topic of the evening – higher education.

The event, “Olympia – In a Can,” was organized by the group the Washington Bus, a politically progressive non-profit organization aimed at raising political awareness among young adults.

Joining the group via Skype, were Rep. Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver, chair of the Higher Education committee, and Rep. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, vice chair of the Finance committee, to discuss and answer questions regarding funding for higher education in Washington. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties the legislators didn’t get to share much.

Filling in the gaps were Maggie Wilkens with the League of Education Voters, Mike Bogatay with the Washington Student Association, and David Parsons with the UAW Local 4121.

With the $2.6 billion deficit that the state faces, “cuts to higher education are inevitable,” explained Wilkens to the audience.

Oregon voters say yes to tax increases to save schools and public services

In a vote closely watched by other states with budget woes, Oregon voters chose to impose corporate tax hikes and an  income tax increase on the wealthiest of taxpayers to prevent mammoth cuts to public education and other state services. It had been eight years since Oregon voters last approved a statewide tax increase, and it was greeted with relief by education and public service advocates, The Oregonian reported.
The double-barreled victory is the first voter-approved statewide income tax increase since the 1930s. Other states, facing similar budget woes, are watching the outcome closely because Oregon, after all, is a state that capped property taxes and locked a surplus tax rebate program into the constitution.

The last time voters approved a tax increase was 2002, when they agreed to bump up tobacco taxes to help pay for the Oregon Health Plan. Voters rejected income tax increases twice in recent years.
Not only did the tax measures pass Tuesday, but they passed easily — by 54 percent. Multnomah County — home to Portland — went heavily for the measures, but support was also strong in more conservative parts of the state.
Campaign ads by supporters highlighted banks and credit card companies and showed images of well-dressed people stepping off private jets.