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Fast Shuffle in Sacramento

The Deukmejian Administration and allies in the California Legislature have been pushing an 11th-hour bill negating environmental protections involving pesticide spraying. But there needs to be far more public scrutiny on the measure; it can and should wait until next year.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Norman Waters (D-Plymouth), originally dealt with a non-controversial subject, and as such had been passed by the Assembly. Then Waters changed every word in the bill so that it now would eliminate requirements for long environmental-impact reports on pesticide spraying and diminish the public’s ability to go to court to block spraying. The measure stemmed from farmers’ frustration over a court decision that suspended spraying to stamp out maggots infesting the Northern California apple crop.

While farmers have legitimate concerns about protecting their crops, this measure goes too far too fast. If it was passed, courts could not consider the public-health consequences of any pest-eradication program. And, no matter what the concerns are on each side, no one has had a chance to be heard yet because there haven’t been any hearings on the bill, even though it no longer says what it once said.

Since the legislators regularly change bills at the last minute, far better that they should enact a measure on which they have already had thorough hearings. One such bill, sponsored by Sen. Nicholas C. Petris (D-Oakland), would require growers to post fields if pesticide residues were likely to be dangerous for more than one day. Legislators practicing their arts in Sacramento at the very least should use their skills to protect against potential pesticide poisonings rather than to restrict environmental safeguards.

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