I have to admit – I have been a little out of the loop ever since becoming a mother 4 years ago. Prior to having my daughters, my work – and my passion – was public health advocacy. Once Paul LePage was elected governor, I knew I needed to come out of my bubble of diapers, play dates and princesses and get involved again. Two little girls were counting on it.
So I jumped at the chance to get involved with the EHSC (Environmental Health Strategies Center) and advocating for the Kid Safe Products Act. Addressing our new governor at the “People and the Environment” roundtable was an amazing experience. I was inspired by all of the speakers and the innovative work they are doing to protect our beautiful state and its precious resources, thinking the whole time how lucky I was to live in Maine. I really hoped Governor LePage was listening, but once he started talking, I was pretty sure he wasn’t. However, I thought to myself, “Surely he cares about kids so the Kid Safe Products Act will be just fine”. Boy was I surprised a few days later!
To say I was disappointed when the governor released his list of environmental rollbacks is an understatement – I was disgusted. He obviously didn’t listen to the panel at all. I felt he wasted our time, but then realized it was valuable for the governor to hear from the panel and see the crowd of supporters in the audience. We would just have to fight harder because there is no way he is going to repeal a law that gives parents like me information about toxic chemicals in the products my kids use everyday. The fact that he is even trying completely blows my mind.
It quickly became clear that there were a lot of Kid Safe Products Act supporters out there, and I had a feeling many in my “mom’s group” – Mainely Moms and Dads – would feel the same. The idea of a Valentine’s Day rally was proposed by MMD’s founder, Dana Hernandez, and the planning took off. Get this group of moms fired up about something and watch out! Cookie making and sign painting ensued and then we were at the State House rallying, asking the legislature to “Love ME” just like we do. But then we find out that at 8:58 – 2 minutes before the LD 1 hearing was supposed to start – the governor submitted a new version of LD 1 that no longer included the KSPA or the BPA phase out. For a minute I thought, “fantastic”, but then I thought, “wait a second – it isn’t going to be that easy with this guy”. Sure enough it isn’t going to be that easy.
I was a lobbyist in Augusta in the past so I remember how things work. Last minute amendments, standing around for hours waiting to testify – I knew it could happen, but this time I had a 17 month old in tow and I had stayed up way too late writing my testimony! It was frustrating for me and the other moms. We really care about this issue and we wanted to be heard, but I think some of us felt releasing the amended version of LD 1 at the last minute was a sneaky way of trying to keep us quiet. I can’t speak for others, but I’m a mom that likes to have the last word!
Governor LePage’s Valentine’s Day “bait and switch” isn’t going to work with us. If anything, it made my resolve stronger. I love my girls more than anything. I work hard everyday to do the best for them, but I can’t do it alone. I need to know that when I pick something off of a store shelf that it doesn’t have the potential to make my kids sick. I need the Kid Safe Products Act. If I wasn’t already committed to seeing this through, all I would have to do is look at the picture that was taken at the “Love ME” rally. I am speaking at the podium and my daughter, Elizabeth, has snuck away from my friends and is standing next to me, holding a sign, and gazing up at me with her perfect blue eyes. While she is probably really just wondering why I won’t pick her up so she can play with the cool microphones, I look at it and think, “This is really what it’s all about. I have to do this. Welcome to the world of diapers, play dates, princesses…and advocacy”.