August 4, 1996 in Nation/World

Clinton Signs Pesticide Law President Also Creates Panel To Study Cost, Benefits Of Gambling

Washington Post The Associated
 

Farmers, chemical-industry representatives and environmentalists looked on with satisfaction Saturday as President Clinton signed legislation that will revamp the regulation of pesticides on food.

Separately, the president signed into law a bill authorizing the creation of a commission to study the social and economic costs and benefits of gambling.

At a ceremony in the Old Executive Office Building, the president said the Food Quality Protection Act would serve as the cornerstone of the nation’s renewed efforts to ensure the safety of its food and water.

Last month Clinton ordered a major overhaul in the country’s system for inspecting meat and poultry, and he has promised to sign clean-water legislation passed on Friday.

“I like to think of this as the ‘peace of mind act,’ because parents will know that the fruits, grains and vegetables their children eat are safe,” Clinton said in his weekly radio address.

The bill, passed by the House and Senate last week with only one dissenting vote, contains elements to please both food producers and consumers.

Farmers, food processors and pesticide manufacturers were relieved to get rid of the Delaney clause, a 38-year-old federal standard that had outlawed even minuscule amounts of pesticides on processed food.

Environmentalists and consumer advocates celebrated the bill’s formalization of a safety standard that will require “a reasonable certainty of no harm” for all foods treated with pesticides. That standard will be defined in part as no more than a one in a million chance of getting cancer from a lifetime of exposure.

The Environmental Protection Agency will be required to test the safety of some 9,000 agricultural chemicals - with emphasis on their safety in children, who are more susceptible to toxins.

The 3,000 chemicals currently deemed most dangerous must be tested within three years for their ability to cause cancer, nerve damage, birth defects and reproductive problems.

Gambling study

The gambling legislation, which cleared Congress last month after opposition from Nevada’s senators and the gambling industry, calls for the creation of a nine-member commission to investigate the impact of governmental, commercial, philanthropic and charitable gambling.

The president, House speaker and Senate majority leader each will name three members, and the panel will have limited subpoena power. Its report is due in three years.

“After two decades of explosive growth, it’s time to … see what government-backed gambling is doing to our society,” said Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., co-author of the bill.

Simon said 500 casinos now operate in 27 states, a 100 percent increase from five years ago, with every state except Hawaii and Utah sanctioning some kind of gambling. Americans legally wagered $500 billion last year, he added, compared to $17 billion in 1974.

In a statement, Clinton said, “Too often, public officals view gambling as a quick and easy way to raise revenues without focusing on the gambling’s hidden social, economic and political costs.”

He said the commission will study gambling in all its forms, “whether conducted in a casino, on a riverboat, on the Internet, on an Indian reservation or anywhere else in the United States.”

It also will address gambling sponsored by governmental, commercial, philanthropic or charitable entities, he said.

During Senate debate, Dick Lugar, R-Ind., said the commission’s report will give leaders on the local level “objective, unbiased information they can use to make their own informed decisions about gambling.”

Helping Romania

The president also signed into law legislation granting most-favored nation trade status to Romania.

The action recognizes Romania’s efforts to move away from communism and toward a free-market democracy and reflects U.S. support for Romanians in their effort to establish a full democracy based on respect for human rights, the rule of law, tolerance and free market economics, said the president in a statement.

“This is an important milestone in U.S.-Romanian relations,” said Clinton.

“Romania now joins other emerging democracies in Central Europe from which the United States has fully removed trade restrictions that originated in concerns about emigration practices during the Cold War.”

xxxx CONGRESSIONAL ACTION Major legislation passed by Congress this year and some of the issues awaiting consideration in September and October: Passed WELFARE. Perhaps the biggest rollback ever of a social program, the government’s open-ended guarantee of help to the needy will end; federal tax dollars will be sent to the states to pay for the welfare programs they write. Aid to legal immigrants and food stamps will be reduced sharply. HEALTH. Workers who change jobs will be assured continued health insurance; insurers’ ability to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions will be curtailed. A pilot program will allow up to 750,000 policies in which people with coverage against catastrophic illness can set aside money in a tax-deferred medical savings account. MINIMUM WAGE. The $4.25-an-hour federal minimum wage will be raised to $5.15 by Sept. 1, 1997. Small businesses get new tax relief to help pay the higher wage. FARM. Subsidies and price supports have been ended for corn, other feed grains, cotton, rice and wheat; lump-sum payments to farmers will be phased out over seven years. Farmers will decide for themselves what and how much to plant. FOOD SAFETY. An old rule banning the slightest trace of cancer-causing pesticides from processed foods will end. It will be replaced by a more realistic standard, applying to fresh and processed foods, that also considers risk of birth defects and requires special attention to children’s risks from exposure to pesticides. TELECOMMUNICATIONS. Local phone companies were allowed to enter the long-distance business, and large electric and gas utility companies were given the green light to provide telecommunications services in a far-reaching rewrite of communications laws. A V-chip eventually will screen TV programs for violence and adult content. FOREIGN POLICY. Two new laws, already drawing the ire of U.S. allies, aim to penalize companies that use property confiscated from U.S. owners when Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, and those that help Iran and Libya develop their oil and gas industries. CRIME. A new “Megan’s law,” named for a murder victim, requires released sex offenders to register with police and allows for community notification of their whereabouts if authorities fear they will strike again. DRINKING WATER. The most important environmental legislation of the year targets water pollutants posing the greatest risk to health. ABORTION. In one of the most-heated battles of the year, certain late-term abortions would have been banned. President Clinton vetoed the bill. LAWSUITS. A bill to limit punitive damage awards in product-liability lawsuits was passed but vetoed. Restrictions on suits allowing securities fraud were enacted. SOCIAL SECURITY. Social Security recipients between 65 and 70 will be able to earn more without losing part of their benefits.

Pending TAX CUTS. Republicans may try again to pass a tax credit for families with children and lower the tax on capital gains. IMMIGRATION. Both houses passed bills aimed at reducing illegal immigration and ending welfare benefits for illegal immigrants and non-citizens. Final action is pending. TERRORISM. Democrats and the administration may renew efforts to require chemical markers in smokeless and black powder and to enhance the government’s ability to wiretap suspected terrorists. ENGLISH. A House-passed bill declaring English the official language of the federal government awaits Senate action. GAY MARRIAGES. States could refuse to recognize same-sex marriages under a House-passed bill pending in the Senate.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Washington Post The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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