Hartford compromise offers food for thought
Proving there are parallel political universes, the House early Friday approved its own version of controversial legislation that would require labeling products that contain genetically modified organisms.
The House bill is sharply different than the Senate version that passed Tuesday night. As a result, negotiations between House and Senate leaders will either rectify the legislation, or yield two failed bills that would die at midnight June 5.
Genetic modifications have been made to plants and animals to increase resistance to insects and improve crop yields. But labeling proponents say that GMO corn and soy products can cause kidney, bone marrow and liver damage.
The House bill, which received Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's blessing, would have the law kick in only if five states totaling 25 million residents adopt similar labeling measures for consumers, including two states bordering Connecticut.
The Senate version would initially require three other states to join in, but allow the state to go it alone after July 1, 2016, if that didn't occur.
Judging by early reaction from the House and Senate, there is little room for compromise.
"I am very pleased we were able to pass GMO labeling legislation that can become the first-of-its-kind law in the nation," said Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, early Friday after the 114-7 vote. "It was done on a bipartisan basis in concert with the governor and I'm hopeful it serves as a model for other states to join us."
Andrew Doba, Malloy's spokesman, agreed.
"We think the bill in its current form represents a reasonable compromise," Doba said.
The Senate bill passed 35-1 earlier in the week.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who teamed with Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, in drafting the bill, said Friday that the House bill is "hollow" and falls short in alerting consumers to GMOs.
"I'm disappointed in the House bill," McKinney said in an interview. "I'm disappointed because it weakens what is a very strong bill that we passed in the Senate.
"I think the trigger in the House bill is more of a trigger designed by people who don't want GMO labeling to happen, quite frankly. It seemed like there was a lot of interference with the governor's office and the governor's office clearly did not like what we passed in the Senate."
Still, McKinney said there's room to negotiate.
"If they are serious about it, perhaps we can sit down and look at a compromise, but it would have to look more like the Senate than House bill for me to support it," McKinney said.
Adam Joseph, the spokesman for Williams, agreed with McKinney's assessment.
"The House bill is not a compromise bill," Joseph said. "It was a compromised bill."
Joseph said Williams is considering his options for passing "an effective" GMO labeling law through both chambers.
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