Better late than never, as the saying goes. Wednesday, the Arkansas Senate Public Education, Welfare and Labor Committee put an end – for this legislative session anyway – to a bill that would have required municipal water systems to add fluoride to drinking water.
The reason: Arkansans wouldn’t swallow this intrusion from the Legislature into what should be – and, in Texarkana’s case, has been – a local decision.
Voters in Texarkana, Ark., overwhelmingly opposed fluoridation when it came to a public vote a couple of years ago. Even though the proposed law would have exempted Texarkana, Ark., because it shares a water system with the Texas side, locals still were not pleased when their local representative initially voted for fluoridation, provided his town was exempted.
They let him know. Apparently people in other communities did the same with their legislators.
The sponsor of the bill noted that its demise stemmed from public sentiment that the Legislature was mandating fluoridation.
Well, duh. That will happen when people don’t like getting something crammed down their throats.
Beyond that, the fluoridation legislation was developed when the Legislature was not in session. Opponents had to impose themselves at committee hearings because legislators were stealthy in inviting only those who supported fluoridation. If it were such a public health concern, we would think the politicians would have wanted to make a big splash with their efforts to save Arkansans from the peril of tooth decay.
It will be a good idea to remain vigilant in the years to come. This time mandatory fluoridation got dammed up in committee. It will resurface. Bank on it.