Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Now Testify

By: Dana Swanson

Yesterday, Jessie Dye and I braved the morning commute to testify before the Washington State Legislature’s Environment, Water & Energy Senate Committee in Olympia. Keep in mind; this was only my second time visiting the state capitol. My only testifying experience being second-hand from reruns of Law & Order, I had no idea what to expect.

Upon entering Senate Hearing Room 4, my eyes surveyed chairs filled with crisp suit jackets, but also with worn sweaters and wrinkled shirts. Expecting the room to be lined with intimidating, shifty-eyed lobbyists in expensive suits, I was comforted by the number of “regular” people in attendance.

Over the course of the two-hour Public Hearing, three bills were heard. After a legislative staff member introduced each bill, those who signed up to testified were asked to come forward, in groups of three, to share their insights. Jessie and I were there to testify in support of SB 5231, The Children’s Safe Products Bill. The Children’s Safe Products Bill requires manufacturers of children's products to find safer alternatives to toxic chemicals in their products.

I'm not an expert witness, I don't know the impacts phthalates on the reproductive system —I probably couldn't even spell phthalates without spell check. I do know, however, that I don't want to worry about cancer-causing formaldehyde in my child's blankets, or in any blankets, for that matter. So when I went before the Committee, I said just that.

When it was time for my 90 seconds of fame, I spoke to why I, a 22-year old woman who intends on having children someday, don’t want toxic chemicals used in my daughter’s dolls. As a person of faith, I spoke from the heart about protecting current and future generations from harmful chemicals. Although my message was serious, I light-heartedly joked about how mothers have enough on their minds without worrying about baby bottles poisoning their children—tattoos, for example.

The legislating and policy world are very new to me, but I find myself utterly enthralled. Not only is the process fascinating, engaging in the political process is incredibly empowering. Although testifying before a Committee may sound intimidating, it is a chance to articulate your commitment to care for creation in a very meaningful way.

If you're interested in sharing your testimony with state policy makers at public hearings through the legislative session, or would like to host an adult education forum at your church on environmental health issues, please contact Jessie Dye.

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