By John Lyon
Arkansas News Bureau
LITTLE ROCK — A bill to require the operators of public water systems to disclose information about chemical additives in drinking water failed in the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
In a voice vote, the committee turned back House Bill 1205 by Rep. Loy Mauch, R-Bismarck, a measure backed by the conservative group Secure Arkansas. Jeannie Burlsworth, the group’s chairman, testified that the bill would not put a burden on water system operators.
“What we’re asking for here is just a precautionary data sheet. I know the public is greatly concerned about what’s in their water,” Burlsworth said.
Testifying against the bill, Robert Hart, director of the state Health Department’s engineering section, said any additive placed in Arkansas drinking water is required to meet the standards of the National Sanitation Foundation and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Mauch’s bill would add unnecessarily to the responsibilities of water system operators, Hart said.
The bill states that the “General Assembly finds … that public policy discussions of the prospects of adding lithium to the public drinking water to alter human mood imbalances … have increased.”
Rep. Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith, challenged the declaration.
“Mr. Mauch, I’ve been a member of this body for four years. I’ve heard no such discussions of public policy discussions of this by the General Assembly,” she said.
Mauch said the bill does not claim the discussions have taken place in Arkansas. Pennartz said the bill does claim that the Arkansas General Assembly is aware of such discussions, which she said was false.
“Rep. Mauch, maybe you don’t understand your own bill,” she said.
Mauch told reporters later he was disappointed but would “rethink our strategy and come back again at a later date.”
“Representative Tracy Pennartz (D) was guilty of the same thing that she accused Representative Mauch of, which was not understanding the bill. This is a BILL not an ACT. Once the bill is passed and enacted, the “findings” would be a true statement. The “documentation” of what she kept asking for was being discussed at that moment, not in past legislative sessions. Being a senior legislator, she should have known this fact. It was obvious she was trying to intimidate freshman Representative Loy Mauch.”
— Jeannie Burlsworth,
Secure Arkansas Founder/Chairman