Daily Brief: Fight to keep toxic chemicals out of kids’ products renewed

Good morning. Today the years-long fight to strengthen Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act continues with a renewed effort to force manufacturers to disclose their use of phthalates in products for children and pregnant women.

Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, will introduce what she calls her Healthy Kids Bill this afternoon at a press conference in the State House. The bill would force the Department of Environmental Protection to include products that threaten the health of both children and pregnant women in any new rule regarding toxics.

In May of 2014, a group called the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine delivered more than 2,000 signatures to the DEP, urging the agency to order manufacturers to report any use of phthalates in their products. Phthalates, used in plastic items from shower curtains and inflatable toys to raincoats and hygiene products, are believed to cause hormone disruption and birth defects, among other things, though the U.S. Center for Disease Control is undecided on the issue.

In January, the DEP proposed to apply the rule to only products for children under 12 years old. Gideon’s bill would extend this rule and others to include pregnant women, in addition to children.

Elsewhere at the capitol complex, legislative committees are scheduled to consider and in some cases make recommendations on dozens of bills. The Criminal Justice Committee is considering a bill to require that anyone convicted of a sexual crime against a child in another country be included on Maine’s sex offender registry. That committee is also considering the creation of a Blue Alert system in Maine, which would provide statewide notifications whenever a law enforcement officer is attacked.

The Education Committee is looking at a measure that would require 10th graders in public schools to complete a test to determine their need for remedial coursework before enrolling in a community college in Maine. — Christopher Cousins

Keeping Medicare patients at home

Republican Sen. Susan Collins has teamed up with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, to sponsor the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act, which would expand access to home health care for Medicare beneficiaries. The bill would allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives to order home health services.

Under current law, only physicians are allowed to certify or initiate home health care for Medicare patients. Collins argued in a written statement Tuesday that oftentimes, physicians are a layer or two away from the patient and may not be the medical professional who’s most familiar with a patient’s needs.

The legislation is sponsored by an array of organizations, including AARP and the National Council on Aging. — Christopher Cousins

Jobs tour visits central Maine

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick and others will continue a statewide jobs tour today at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow followed by a roundtable discussion with business and higher education leaders at Thomas College in Waterville.

The tour is related to a number of legislative initiatives scheduled for debate this year in the Legislature, including Eves’ proposal to invest $5 million over five years to create at least 10 public-private partnerships to foster training in high-demand fields.

The roundtable discussion at Thomas College begins at 2:30 p.m. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Camera shy about $158,000

Since she took office, State Treasurer Terry Hayes has spent a fair amount of time and resources urging Mainers to check with her office to see if they’re entitled to any unclaimed cash. It’s as simple as visiting www.maine.gov/upsearch and typing in your name. I just did it and have a small check headed my way.

Anyway, someone in the treasurer’s office noticed an especially large chunk of unclaimed property and further investigation revealed that the person was owed $158,000.

A news release was issued about the claimant and Hayes even prepared one of those huge checks with the claimant’s name on it. Several reporters gathered in the Hall of Flags at the State House to meet the person … but she didn’t show. It turns out she didn’t want her windfall reported in the media, leaving Hayes holding a fake check and with no way to further spread the word about a program that saw a staggering 7,600 during just two weeks in February of this year.

I expect my unclaimed property amount to be quantified in two digits and not six, which I doubt will make Hayes want to put me in front of the TV cameras.

Phew. I didn’t want to do it anyway. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.