In another nod to consumer protection, the House passed legislation last week that would ban infant formula containers with high levels of the controversial chemical bisphenol A, or BPA.
Other states, including New York and Wisconsin, have taken steps to limit exposure to BPA since the Food and Drug Administration reported concerns about its health effects. Many manufacturers already have voluntarily removed BPA from their containers.
Last year, the General Assembly banned baby bottles and sippy cups with high levels of BPA. The legislation this year is aimed at the liners of infant formula cans, including those provided to families enrolled in the state’s supplemental nutrition program, said the bill’s sponsor, Del. James W. Hubbard (D-Prince George’s).
“I want to make sure we’re not feeding them at the expense of poisoning them,” Hubbard said.
Lawmakers also are trying to ban cheap costume jewelry for children that contains high levels of cadmium.
The bill is in response to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall last year of thousands of charm bracelets with high levels of the metal, a carcinogen that might cause developmental defects. It follows the lead of at least seven other states, according to legislative analysts.
Another effort aimed at protecting toddlers, however, appears to have flamed out.
By 43 to 3, the Senate last week passed a bill that would ban the sale of so-called novelty lighters, which supporters said can be mistaken by children as toys with tragic consequences.
A similar bill, which is a priority for state firefighters, was rejected by a House committee.
Environmental advocates, meanwhile, are facing an uphill battle in trying to pass a bill that would affect a wide range of consumers: a so-called bag tax.
The legislation would impose a fee on disposable plastic and paper bags at Maryland’s retail stores. Funds raised from the 5-cent fee would help clean up the waterways of the Chesapeake Bay.
A similar measure took effect in the District last year, resulting in an 80 percent drop in the use of disposable bags.
“It’s working miracles in D.C.,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery).
But prospects for the tax this session seem dim, with neither the House nor Senate acting on the measure in committee before Monday’s deadline.
Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore), who chairs the panel that oversees environmental issues, said “it’s the wrong time” to pass such a bill. She pointed to a long list of other fee increases proposed to help balance the books in the spending plan for 2012. Opposition to the measure has come largely from bag manufacturers.
Legislators are also responding to the poor performance by Pepco and outrage from constituents after the late January snowstorm that left nearly 200,000 customers in Maryland without power for days. A Washington Post report found that the company ranks near the bottom in national surveys of reliability.
The House on Friday passed legislation, backed by O’Malley, that would require state regulators to create reliability standards for utility companies and impose penalties when they are not met. A similar bill is moving forward in the Senate.
On a lighter note, the House has approved legislation that would authorize restaurant owners with outdoor seating areas to allow customers to bring their dogs along.
The measure, dubbed the “Dining Out Growth Act of 2011,” passed 124 to 8 on Friday, and several delegates “woofed” in acceptance.