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Biolab Bill Gutted! - We've been Betrayed - URGENT ACTION NEEDED!
by Jamadagni das
Email: visnusdream (nospam) hotmail.com
21 Nov 2005
This is part of the latest dispatch from Boston Mobilization.
email: eve.lyman (at) bostonmobilization.org
Click on image for a larger version
Biolab Bill Gutted!
Gloria Fox's groundbreaking bill to regulate hazardous Bioresearch labs has been hung-up in the joint House/Senate Environmental committee since June. Now, after months of stonewalling, the Environment Committee has drafted a "revised version" of Gloria Fox's bill. To call the draft a revision is really a misnomer. The draft completely guts every major provision of the original bill.
It takes out the moratorium on construction until regulations are in place, provides no enforcement mechanisms, no penalties if labs don't follow guidelines, removes the Community Oversight Boards, gives BU a free pass by exempting any BSL4 facility that has been sited before the effective date of the regulations from the siting requirements, etc. It's really worse than no bill at all.
This draft is completely unacceptable!
To make matters worse, the Co-Chairs, Rep. Frank Smizik and Sen. Pam Resor were both co-sponsors of the original legislation and are well known progressives. Despite continued efforts to push it along by revising the bill to meet the concerns of the Committee and the Massachusetts Public Health Association we have been able to get little feedback from the Co-chairs. They assured us they were concerned with passing a strong bill and gave no indication of serious concerns about the bill and no warning of what was to come.
NOW WE NEED TO LET SMIZAK AND DIMASI KNOW THAT THEY CAN’T SWEEP OUR CONCERNS UNDER THE RUG THAT EASILY!!!
They say this is a trial balloon to see if anyone will holler. These politicians pay attention if you call them! I am begging each and every one of you who receives this email to pick up your phone and call them TODAY!If you don't know what to say, a sample phone script follows:
Rep Frank Smizik – Brookline – Co-chair of the House Committee on Environment: 617-722-2210
House Speaker Sal DiMasi - 617-722-2500
Hello my name is _______, and I am calling to express my outrage at the proposed rewrite of Gloria Fox's bill to regulate Biological research labs done by the Committee. The rewritten bill is worse than no bill at all. Rep. Fox herself believes the Committee Re-draft is wholly unacceptable and does not recommend anyone to support it.
*End of Call*
I am shocked that major provisions intended to protect our safety were removed. Under the committee re-draft, BU will be allowed to experiment on the most deadly pathogens, such as Ebola, without serious regulations that have serious enforcement and oversight provisions. Don't you realize This is an issue that the people of Massachusetts really care about!?
I know Chairman Smizik is a co-sponsor of Rep. Fox's legislation. Did he change his position?
I urge you to ask the Environment committee to throw away the Committee re-draft and return to Rep. Fox's Sept. 20th re-draft that had input and full support from the Mass Department of Public Health.
(optional) The September redraft provides for serious enforcement mechanisms, independent oversight and consequences for violations. This proposed redraft does none of these important things.
- End of Call-
Additional talking points:
The committee re-draft guts major provisions in Rep Fox's legislation. Here are some of the most glaring examples:
It takes out the moratorium.
It provides no enforcement mechanisms.
It takes out language that will allow municipalities to prohibit BSL3 & 4 labs in their own communities.
It takes out all references to medical surveillance standards that would track potential laboratory acquired infections.
It politicizes the siting process – giving local boards of health the primary authority to grant building permits instead of the state Environmental Protection
Agency or the State Department of Public Health.
It removes all references to BSLs maintaining record keeping related to maintenance and operation of the facility.
Gives BU's Bioweapons lab a free pass by stating that any lab that has been sited "prior to the effective date of this section shall be exempt" from the siting requirements
No enforcement if labs do not develop and implement an emergency response plan. No independent review of emergency plans
No independent review of worker training plan
Raising the suspicions of those of us with conspiratorial leanings, the proposed re-draft (which hasn't yet been officially released) was circulated three days before the end of the legislative session and the day before the Boston Public Health Commission released its own proposed regulations. It's interesting that the city now supports stronger regulations than the committee draft version. It is important to note, however, that the city regulations are still much weaker than the original Fox bill.
To many of us, it's pretty apparent that Menino, DiMasi and BU have cooked this all up together to insure smooth sailing for the BU lab and Rep. Smizik from Brookline has followed his marching orders.
An important small victory in the midst of all this: Mike Cohen submitted an Article to Brookline Town Meeting (where Smizik is an ex-officio member) endorsing the original Fox bill. This article was passed by Town Meeting overwhelmingly Thursday night. (While Town Meeting members were informed about the gutted draft, we kept the emphasis on passing the motion endorsing the original bill.)
Where do we go from here?
In the next days, we will be letting all the legislative co-sponsors know what has happened as well as getting back in touch with all those who testified at the hearing on the bill last spring. There will be a wider coalition strategy meeting on Tuesday with activists and elected officials who have been supporting us to figure out next steps. We will keep you informed!
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