WASHINGTON - The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. will pull out all the stops this month to support its favored version of risk-assessment legislation in the U.S. Senate. Among SPI's plans are a call to members to contact their states' senators in support of the legislation. Debate on the bill is now expected to take place in June.
SPI has made risk assessment its top legislative priority this year. The Washington trade group's preferred bill calls for judicial review of regulatory agency decisions and repeal of the 37-year-old Delaney Clause food-purity rule.
The Senate Judiciary committee April 27 referred SB 343 to the full Senate. The bill, sponsored by Majority Leader Robert Dole, R.-Kan., is similar in character to the House version of the legislation, passed a month ago.
The Delaney Clause repeal, which could mean the Food and Drug Administration will allow negligible amounts of cancer-causing agents in processed food, appears only in SB 343.
SB 343 and the House version seek to assure government regulations are imposed at the lowest cost to the public - and protecting the public from risk should involve a cost/benefit analysis. The Senate version would affect federal regulation costing more than $50 million; and in the House, $25 million.
Proponents say power should be determined through ``pure science'' and mathematics rather than government bureaucrats.
Opponents contend agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency already adequately review hazards to the public and produce regulations on private business accordingly. Opponents also note SB 343 puts regulated industries in a position to write the rules that affect those industries directly.
Two other Senate versions of risk assessment legislation, by the government affairs and energy committees, may also be considered by the full Senate.
Lewis R. Freeman Jr., SPI vice president of government affairs, said the next step is for the Senate leadership to combine the three risk-assessment measures into one bill.
Freeman said until a version of the bill is passed by the Senate, it will be difficult to estimate the support of any risk assessment legislation by President Clinton, who would either sign or veto Congress' act on the subject. ``It's premature to estimate what the President will sign,'' he said.
Clinton, in a speech April 23, said he would support ``a reasonable bipartisan bill that says we ought to pay more careful attention to the cost and benefits of what we do.'' Clinton said he would oppose other risk assessment measures in Congress, which he said would make government regulation more costly by making risk assessment a job of the court system.
Freeman noted Clinton administration staff members were present during the Judiciary Committee hearing.