Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Funded this WA legislation session; Exposure of troops Depleted Uranium

Quietly, some dedicated veterans in WA went to work on getting together a proposal for legislation funding for exposure of WA Natl Guard troops to depleted uranium in Iraq/Afghanistan. It surprisingly moved to a Bill (SB 6732 and HB 3107), to Hearings in a short space of time (Dec 05 - Feb 06) Links to both bills state House and Senate = Access WA SB 6732.

I was invited into the process to give testimony at State Senate hearings on the legislation. I deferred to give the oral presenters more time to make the case for the scientific data and there were to be 4 presenters with about 4-5 minutes each. I did, however, send in written testimony which was entered into the record.

As the legislative session was coming to a close, it looked like the bill was considered dead due to time constraints. I'm not too knowledgeable on legislative process and couldn't believe there wasn't some sort of 11th hour save, so I placed a call to my State Senator Mark Doumit'sSr. Legislative Assistant, Vicki Winters. She explained that while it appears the bill might be dead, it is not too late to ressurect it by encouraging calls from citizens to their legislative representatives. She thanked me for the call and again was strongly encouraging in how important the individual phone call is and mine was important. (At the time I thought she was just giving the polite formal response to my call - I was wrong, she meant it and it did make a difference).

I sent out email to the group working on this legislation that I had learned it was not yet dead, but still in play, and to please send out email to their networking for people to call their legislative reps and ask them to endorse this bill. Not to elevate my own efforts as we had the advantage of having a lobbyist working with our group. He had told us the bill was dead, not going to happen this session. I phoned him to get better sense of the process and to make a plea for some sort of midnight hour save on this bill. He said unlikely but again, I'm a novice, so took my ignorance directly to my State Senator's office, learned a save was possible and in renewed enthusiasm phoned lobbyist back to explain what I'd learned.

Long story short; see below; the bill was funded. Not quite in the original proposal, but it was funded and this is a beginning to a most important, ongoing issue for our troops and their families. We were fortunate to have a lobbyist working diligently with us on this and I can see the value it lent to the process; a most Special Thank You to Roger Kluck, lobbyist for the Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy.

I want to give a Shout Out of Special thanks to WA Senator Mark Doumit (District 19) and his Sr Legislative Assistant, Vickie Winters for your responsive help. It's given me encouragement in this time of a most discouraging political climate that from time to time the political process works!

Reminder to self; one person can make a difference and one by one by one, We All Can Act to Make A Difference.

Language of the Bill;

Budgeted for $150,000 for a Military Department to study the scope and adequacy of training on exposure to depleted uranium received by Washington state members of the National Guard serving during the first Gulf War or reccently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(8)(a) $150,000 of the general fund--state appropriation for fiscal
year 2007 is provided solely for the military department to:

(i) Initiate a health registry for veterans and military personnel
returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, or other countries in which depleted
uranium or other hazardous materials may be found;

(ii) develop a plan for outreach to and follow-up of military personnel;

(iii) prepare a report for service members concerning potential exposure to depleted
uranium and other toxic chemical substances and the precautions
recommended under combat and noncombat conditions while in a combat

(iv) submit a report by October 1, 2006, to the joint veterans
and military affairs committee on the scope and adequacy of training
received by members of the Washington national guard on detecting
whether their service as eligible members is likely to entail, or to
have entailed, exposure to depleted uranium, including an assessment of
the feasibility and cost of adding predeployment training concerning
potential exposure to depleted uranium and other toxic chemical
substances; and

(v) study the health effects of hazardous materials
exposure including, but not limited to, depleted uranium, as they
relate to military service and submit a report and recommendations to
the joint veterans and military affairs committee.


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