Lead in jewelry bill vetoed
Spitzer says legislation would not protect children.

September 4, 2007

ALBANY -- Gov. Eliot Spitzer has vetoed legislation to limit lead in costume jewelry, particularly products marketed to children, saying it would be difficult to enforce and ineffective.

"I am constrained to veto this bill because it would not effectively protect children and others from the hazards posed by lead in jewelry, and it would be a mistake to provide a false sense of security to consumers and parents, especially given this bill's problematic enforcement scheme," he said in a written explanation of his action.

Spitzer said he was not convinced the lead limits specified in the bill would sufficiently protect children and others. The authority to impose civil penalties would be difficult to enforce because they would be allowed only when there were "knowing" or "intentional" violations. It is unlikely a jewelry distributor or seller would know the lead content of products since the legislation would not require that lead content be disclosed or that products be tested. Manufacturers are often located overseas.

The governor wrote that the goal of the legislation is laudable and said he directed his commissioners of health and environmental conservation to work with legislative sponsors on a revised bill.

News of the veto -- one of 23 issued last week -- drew criticism from many advocacy groups. They suggested Spitzer use his existing authority to set lead standards for consumer products when no federal standards exist, rather than wait for the Legislature.

The New York Public Interest Research Group, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Sierra Club said in a statement that the bill was the result of a compromise between advocates, retailers and manufacturers, and efforts to make it stronger likely would be unsuccessful.

"Children are at risk and potentially may be poisoned between now and whenever the Legislature is able to come up with a stronger bill that can pass both houses, surely an uncertain prospect," said Russ Haven of the watchdog group.

Lead, which is toxic, is commonly used as a base metal in jewelry because it is cheap, easy to work with because it's soft, and gives paint a brighter color, he said.

It is especially dangerous for children because it can cause developmental, behavioral and health problems.

Members of the JustGreen Partnership, a coalition of more than 30 groups, and state wildlife pathologist Ward Stone have released an informal study that showed high levels of lead in inexpensive jewelry purchased in 12 New York counties. More than 60 percent contained some level of lead, they found.

State Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, Monroe County, said he was disappointed by the veto. He and state Assemblyman David Koon, D-Perinton, sponsored the legislation.

"This country has seen a massive recall of millions of popular children's toys in the past two months because of the high potential for lead poisoning," Alesi said in a statement. "To veto this bill shows the governor's insensitivity to the health crisis that is currently facing our children."

The governor also vetoed a number of pension and disability bills favored by unions, including ones that would have:

•Allowed county correction officers to retire at half salary after 20 years, if counties elected to participate. The governor said such a change would contribute to "the balkanization of the pension system into a proliferation of employee-specific and 'optional' plans."

•Entitled state police on duty-related disability to full pay for the entire period of their disability leave. Currently there is two-year limit.

•Extended eligibility for accidental death benefits that are available to families of police officers and firefighters who die on the job to include city sanitation workers, school safety agents, parking control specialists, taxi and limousine inspectors and other public service jobs.

The governor signed about 50 new laws, including ones that will:

•Close a loophole that excludes public works projects for which there are permits but no formal contracts from prevailing wage rules. A separate measure will require workers receive written notice of prevailing wage rates and supplements at the beginning and during public works projects.

•Prohibit the electrocution of fur-bearing animals that are killed for their fur, including silver fox, chinchilla, mink, skunk and others.

•Establish a board to develop and recommend guidelines for the employment of performers and models under 18 to prevent and treat eating disorders.

•Prohibit town or village justices convicted of any felony from remaining, running for or being appointed to the office.


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