Monday, June 21, 2010
It’s a bill that’s easy to make fun of. In the midst of a budget crisis, California lawmakers are considering legislation that strips the official state rock, serpentine, of its title. For one woman, there’s a serious health issue involved.
Did you know that California has a state rock? Apparently we were the first state to declare one in the 60s. Serpentine was prized as a host for asbestos, back when it was used in building materials. But now it’s close to losing its status, for the same reason.
A bill to drop the rock is making its way through the legislature. Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman supports it. “We can get along fine without a state rock, but it’s probably not a great idea to identify a known toxic carcinogen by enshrining it in that way,” he said.
Linda Reinstein takes the issue very personally. She heads up the Asbestos Disease Awareness organization. Her husband died from the cancer known as mesothelioma. She said it was linked to asbestos exposure. When an assembly committee approved the bill unanimously, she was elated.
“Frankly, sometimes politics gets in the way of public health, but this issue was very clearly seen as not only symbolic but as a great sign of education for the state of California," she said.
Reinstein admits that few Californians probably know that serpentine is the state’s official rock – but she views the effort as a way to generate awareness of asbestos-related disease.
Democratic Assemblyman Wes Chesbro supported the bill, but admitted he was frustrated with it at first.
“Really it’s symbolic and has very little benefit to the public and I think particularly with all of the other things the state is facing, it’s a real question. So when I first saw this bill, I threw my hands up.”
The bill was amended to delete the entire section of state code that sets up a state rock. It still needs to be taken up by the full Assembly.