BOSTON — A public safety bill that died on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk in January is set to return to the Senate floor on Thursday, when lawmakers will take another shot at banning certain flame retardants from household goods.
The Senate on Monday agreed to consider the bill later this week in its first formal session since July, and set a deadline of noon Wednesday for senators to file any amendments.
Lawmakers passed a similar bill on New Year's Day -- the final day of the 2017-2018 session -- and Gov. Charlie Baker pocket vetoed it, saying at the time that he would have returned it with an amendment had the Legislature still been in session.
While flame retardants are designed to prevent fires from spreading, the bill's supporters say firefighters and others are endangered by chemical exposures present during structure fires that involve items containing certain flame retardants.
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues said the bill that came out of his committee Monday (S 2338) involves "minor tweaks" over last session's version, and that taking it up earlier in the session should leave lawmakers with time to respond to any issues Baker may raise.
"We're working with colleagues, we're working with the Executive Office of [Energy and] Environmental Affairs to perfect the bill, but it's primarily, 99 percent, the same bill the Senate has passed, I believe, on two separate occasions now," he said after presiding over Monday's Senate session. "We're hoping this time we can pass it in the Senate as quickly as possible and get it to the governor and if he has concerns with it, we'll have time to consider those concerns."
Baker wrote in a message to lawmakers in January that he looked forward to working with sponsors and stakeholders on a revised version of the bill. He said last session's bill would have made Massachusetts the only state "to ban certain flame retardants in car seats and the non-foam parts of adult mattresses, products already subject to federal flammability requirements."
Neither of those products are named in the exemption list in the Senate Ways and Means bill. Senators could propose amendments that exclude them from the bill's provisions.
"Massachusetts can be a leader in this area, but the specifics of the bill that emerged during the last hours of the legislative session limit its potential effectiveness," Baker wrote. "A deliberative process involving all stakeholders and an implementation schedule that takes into account the realities of manufacturing and distribution practices are key components to any legislation."
The bill would prohibit the manufacture, sale or importation of any children's product, bedding, carpet or residential upholstered furniture containing one of the 11 flame retardant chemicals named in the bill. Motor vehicles, aircraft, watercraft, pre-owned products, electronic devices and any product containing a banned chemical in recycled materials would be exempt.
Violators would be charged up to $1,000 for a first offense and up to $5,000 for a subsequent violation. The Department of Environmental Protection would be tasked with consulting with the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and other organizations to recommend, at least every three years, additional flame retardants that should be banned.
The bill was cheered last session by environmental advocates and firefighters, who pledged to continue to push for its passage. Supporters of the legislation say the chemicals singled out in the bill are unnecessary and can pose health risks to children and firefighters.
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