SALEM — House Speaker Jeff Merkeley, D-Portland, made it official Wednesday. Mandatory fluoridation of drinking water will not pass the 2007 Legislature.
“The bill does not have the votes to get out of the Ways and Means subcommittee,” he said, even though amendments were made to the original measure to attract legislative support.
One would have allowed local communities to decide either in the May 2008 primary or the November general election whether they wanted to drink fluoridated water.After that the door would close on future ballot challenges.
The second, sought by Merkeley, would require that municipalities that serve surrounding cities decided to fluoridate but some of their customers voted to opt out, they would have to provide them with untreated supplies.
The latter amendment, given the potential cost implications, was probably responsible for killing the legislation, which had both its strong advocates and equally passionate opponents.
Merkeley said he was not necessarily a big supporter.
“I believe it is largely a local issue,” he said.
The bill was originally heard by the Health Policy subcommittee of the Health Committee. But the controversy on the issue resulted in the chair, Rep. Tina Kotek, D-Portland, routing House Bill 3099 to the budget writing Ways and Means panel.
Kotek said the measure “could benefit from a little more discussion on the fiscal impact.”
It languished in Ways and Means until last week when an effort began to rescue the bill by adding amendments. But then it was permanently removed from the agenda and on Wednesday officially buried.
Only about a quarter of Oregon residents drink treated water. In addition to Medford and Portland, cities that have resisted fluoridation include Bend, Eugene and Ashland.
The largest community in Oregon with fluoridation is Salem.
Don Jepsen is a freelance writer living in Salem.