Got Milk ... with Synthetic Bovine Hormones?

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Animal cruelty and rights bills were popular in the General Assembly last week before lawmakers recessed for a week. A slew of renewable-energy bills will be argued when the Legislature returns.

GMO milk
Rep. Charlene Lima, D-Cranston, testified in favor of her bill that would require the labeling of milk with the synthetic hormone bovine somatotropin (BST) and other genetically modified ingredients. BST is used to increase milk production in dairy cows, but the chemical is linked to several health disorders in cows and has prompted fear that it causes a resistance to antibiotics in people.

BST is prohibited in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.

Lima said she was stunned to learn that the company that makes BST also does the testing. “So we don’t know if this stuff is safe,” she said. “All people want to know is the kind of milk they are giving their babies. They want a label on it so that they can make those decisions and not the big chemical companies making those decisions, because they are in it for the profit.”

A previous version of the bill passed in the House last year. The chemical industry opposed the legislation.

Dog dining al fresco
Lima said the state arbitrarily enforces the ban against dogs accompanying customers in outdoor areas of restaurants. Her bill would allow restaurant owners to decide if patrons can bring their pets into outdoor areas.

Many pet owners consider their dogs as family, Lima said. “Our little furry friends want to get out every now and again,” she said.

The legislation also shows that the state is business friendly, rather than open to abuse by health inspectors, she noted.

The bill passed out of committee last year. Lima said she filed the bill after a restaurant was told by health officials to stop allowing dogs in an outdoor area, while a nearby restaurant wasn’t warned.

Some 26 restaurants in Rhode Island allow al fresco dog dining. Lima referred to a website that lists dog-friendly restaurants in the state.

Renewable connection costs
On Feb. 24, the House is expected to vote on a bill that would set terms for paying upgrades to the electrical grid when large wind and solar projects are built. The agreement would allow several wind projects in Coventry to advance.

Solar incentives
The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hear a bill on Feb. 23 that would offer a $500 incentive for new residential solar systems.

Other renewable-energy bills scheduled for the same day include a local tax exemption for small residential and commercial renewable projects; a 10-year extension of the state Renewable Energy Fund; and a state income tax credit for renewable-energy systems.

Time change
A bill sponsored by Rep. Blake Filippi, I-New Shoreham, would switch Rhode Island to the Atlantic time zone, but only if Massachusetts passes the same legislation. The Atlantic time zone is used by eastern Canada and Puerto Rico. A hearing hasn’t been announced.

No bullying
A bill sponsored by Rep. Raymond Gallison Jr., D-Bristol, would outlaw the use of a bullhook, ankus, baseball bat, axe handle, pitchfork or other device that inflict pain to train or move an elephant. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Shark fins
A bill sponsored by Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi, D-Warwick, would ban the sale of shark fins in Rhode Island, unless the person has a permit to fish for sharks. The bill was sent to the House Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources.

Crossbows
A bill sponsored by Rep. Arthur Corvese, D-North Providence, would legalize hunting of wild migratory birds with a crossbow. Hunting with trap, snare, net, spring, rifle, pistol, fishhook, poison, drug, explosive or stupefying substance would still be prohibited.

Food advertising
A bill sponsored by Rep. Joseph McNamara, D-Warwick, would ban advertising of food and drinks that are already prohibited from sale by the school. The bill was sent to the House Committee on Health Education and Welfare.