Becky Gillette of the Eureka Springs Independent has written a very good article about Senate Bill 299, the new 2017 Fluoride bill. Secure Arkansas supports SB 299, and we’ve included the article in its entirety below.
Secure Arkansas has contacted Senator Bryan King, the sponsor of this bill, and we are waiting for it to be amended. There is no reason for the Arkansas Senate Committee on City, County, and Local Affairs to hold this up and oppose local control of water fluoridation. It will be introduced in committee on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.
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“King says to tell legislators to clean up the water”
by Becky Gillette of the Eureka Springs Independent
February 22, 2017
Sen. Bryan King of Green Forest said Monday that voters interested in reversing the decision about fluoridation of public water supplies to local residents are advised to contact members of the Arkansas Senate City County Local Committee to express support for local control.
Senate Bill 299 filed by King is titled: An Act To Amend the Law Concerning Water Districts; To Allow Voters to Elect “For” and “Against” Water Fluoridation.
The bill has to pass out of the Senate City, County and Local Affairs Committee in order to be considered by the entire Senate. Previously the Arkansas House passed legislation to provide local control over fluoridation decisions, but that legislation failed to pass out of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
Proponents of local control have pointed to thousands of dollars in campaign contributions by dental groups supporting fluoridation to members of the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee as a reason for not being able to get it out of committee. Fluoride opponents are hoping for a more fair hearing with the City, County and Local Affairs Committee.
Fluoridation of water at Carroll Boone Water District began in July 2015 as a result of a mandate by the state legislature that all public water systems with more than 5,000 customers fluoridate drinking water supplies. Residents of Eureka had opposed fluoridation for more than 30 years, with the city twice voting against fluoridation.
King said that he may be one vote short of getting the five votes needed out of the eight members of the City, County and Local Affairs Committee. He said if area voters want to have a voice about fluoridation, they need to contact members of the committee.
“Getting legislation out of a committee is like fishing,” King said. “You are not going to catch a fish unless you put a hook in the water. If people don’t contact members of this committee, there is no chance of changing someone’s mind. Getting five votes will be an uphill battle. Try to get the committee members to be open-minded about it. Ask them to give people some local decision making power.”
Sen. Alan Clark, who is chair of the committee, said he doesn’t know what the chances are that the bill will make it through his committee.
“Obviously, bills like that before have failed, but I personally can’t see what the problem would be with local control,” Clark said.
Contact information for the committee:
Supporters of fluoridation state it is an inexpensive way to help protect children from cavities, which is particularly important for low-income children without access to dental care. Opponents point to studies indicating fluoride causes brain damage leading to lower IQs in children, causes dental fluorosis, and is linked to thyroid and other health problems
Fluoridation opponents say fluoride chemicals are industrial waste byproducts contaminated by lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, barrier, copper, nickel and selenium. An article in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health said the contaminant levels of lead, arsenic, barium and aluminum in fluoride additives could vary widely from batch to batch. The study concluded that “such contaminant content creates a regulatory blind spot that jeopardizes any safe use of fluoride additives.”
King said the fluoridation issue is important not only his constituents in Carroll County, but also in other areas of North Arkansas where two water districts has refused to fluoridate and are being sued by the Arkansas Department of Health.
Andy Anderson, chair of the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority, said their board voted unanimously against fluoridation and has contended that it is a wholesale supplier of water that has just 18 customers. The state fluoride mandate applies to public water systems with more than 5,000 customers.
“We only have 18 customers and none of those 18 customers serves 5,000 people,” Anderson said. “All of the 18 have said they do not want it. Several have said if fluoride is added to the water, they won’t pay the bill. Everyone here is opposed to it.”
Ozark Mountain Public Regional Water Authority serves parts of Boone, Newton, Searcy and Marion counties. Currently it is in a lawsuit filed by the state to force the water authority to fluoridate. Anderson said a court date hasn’t been set yet for that lawsuit. He said he supports local control on fluoridation decisions, but feels legislators in Little Rock have little concern about the issue.
Anderson said the legal fight is being funded by “a concerned citizen to help with our legal expenses. This individual does not receive OMRPWA water but wanted to help battle the injustice. Every donation to our legal fund is welcome. We are currently short in our legal fund, so help get the word out in Boone, Marion, Newton, and Searcy Counties. Our legal expenses are not being paid by our revenue funds. Let them know that we are in this fight for the benefit of our customers and their customers.”
A court date has been set for April 17 for the Madison County Regional Water District, which also has been sued by the state for refusing to fluoridate water supplies.
The present bill would require either a majority of the water board to vote against fluoridation or the issue be put to voters if a petition is signed by 35 percent of qualified electors in the water district. King said he has heard concerns that 35 percent is too high a threshold and is considering lowering that in an amendment. Voter-initiated constitutional amendments in Arkansas require the signatures of 10 percent of registered voters.
King said he was also looking at other possible amendments to improve the legislation.
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