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Bill to Overturn State Preemption Introduced in Connecticut

(Beyond Pesticides, January 31, 2011) A bill introduced in the Connecticut legislature will, if passed, allow municipalities to ban and regulate the use of lawn care pesticides, overturning a state preemption law which currently prohibits local governments from imposing pesticide restrictions on private property. Currently, 41 states, including Connecticut, prohibit local jurisdictions from restricting pesticides. Senator Edward Meyer introduced Bill S.B. 244, which has been referred to the state Senate’s Joint Committee on Environment. No hearing date has been set, however the official status of the bill is posted on the state’s General Assembly website.

It is important to note, as Nancy Alderman, President of Environment and Human Health, Inc., states, “This bill will not mandate towns to do anything -they would just have the option to treat the lawns in their towns in stricter ways than the state- if they so chose.”

Connecticut state law prohibits the application of pesticides on kindergarten through 8th grade school grounds, thanks to a bill that was sponsored by Sen. Meyer in 2007. In 2009, another bill was subsequently passed to expand on the first by banning pesticides on day care center grounds as well. In response to the 2007 mandate, the town of Greenwich, CT went a step further by banning pesticides on all town-owned athletic fields. Though Connecticut’s state pesticide law is instrumental in improving protection from pesticides, with the preemption law that is currently in place, it can only extend as far as government-owned property and cannot restrict the use of toxic chemicals by landowners.

The issue of federal preemption of local ordinances made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1991 that federal law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, FIFRA) does not preempt local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides (Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Ralph Mortier). However, the ability of states to take away local authority was left in place. The pesticide lobby immediately formed a coalition, called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, and developed model state legislation that restricts local municipalities from passing ordinances regarding the use or sale of pesticides. The Coalition lobbyists descended upon states across the country seeking and passing, in most cases, preemption legislation that was often identical to the coalition’s wording. Nine states did not pass the measure. Congress has toyed with the idea of restricting local jurisdictions’ authority in FIFRA since the 1980s, but industry lobbyists have always been beaten back.

For more information, please see Beyond Pesticides’ fact sheet on state preemption laws.

Locally: If you live in Connecticut, please contact your Mayor and ask them to support bill S.B. 244. Mayors and First Selectman will need to provide either written testimony or show up to voice their opinion and those testifying will need to bring 50 copies of their written testimony with them. There is no maximum length for testimony; however there will only be 3 minutes allotted to speak.

Nationally: To see what pesticide laws are enacted in your state see Beyond Pesticides’ state pages. Know of a policy that’s not listed, or do you know of efforts to change policy in your state or community? Send and email to [email protected].


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