Lead testing doesn’t survive veto


May 3rd, 2011

Lincoln, NE – Children won’t be required to have their blood-lead level tested before starting school.

Sen. Council's bill would have required lead testing for kindergarteners. “Elevated blood levels have unequivocally been associated with reduced intelligence, academic failure, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities,” she said. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

The question of requiring students to be tested for lead poisoning came to a head as Omaha state Sen. Brenda Council moved to override Governor Dave Heineman’s veto. Council’s legislation would require all students to be screened first with a questionnaire, and then those at risk of lead poisoning to be tested. Grand Island Senator Mike Gloor was among those arguing for the veto override.

“As a parent, wouldn’t you like to know that your child is being poisoned?” he asked. “‘Cause that’s what’s happening with elevated lead levels. As a legislative body, if our citizenry, especially our children, are being poisoned, shouldn’t we know about that so we can put together appropriate action to try and address it?”
Some school nurses objected to adding another requirement for them to enforce, while some local health departments supported it. And while Heineman suggested the bill could result in unnecessary testing, Council said it would not require testing if a health professional certified a child was at low risk, based on various factors. But Columbus Senator Paul Schumacher questioned the effectiveness of those exemptions.

“Among the things on that checklist is that they’ve never ingested a nonfood product,” he said. “It’d be un-American for a kid not to have eaten dirt or grass at some point in its life. And every doctor is going to resolve that question in favor of the $17 or $18 test. So as a practical matter, and probably trying to avoid a little malpractice in case he’s wrong on something, everybody’s going to get tested.”

It takes 30 votes to override a veto. Although 30 senators supported the bill when it passed last month, only 21 voted for the override, with 20 opposed, so the attempt failed.

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