Expect to hear a fair amount in the next few days and weeks about AB 1604. This is the legislation that will be considered in Wednesday’s hearing before the California Assembly’s Agriculture Committee—it provides for removing the 10-coliform-per-milliliter standard that is a part of the now-infamous AB 1735 passed late last year.
Today, the California Assembly approved “without objections” advancing AB 1604 for the Wednesday hearings, an assembly staff person told me.
Now, before getting all fired up, keep in mind that the Wednesday hearings won’t necessarily be a celebration of the return of nutritional freedom to California. The staff person I spoke with from the Assembly Agriculture Committee told me that the committee will primarily be hearing from “three supporters and three opponents” of AB 1604. Because the Assembly had only just approved AB 1604 for hearings, he said, he didn’t know who would be testifying in these six slots.
But one of the opponents could well be food poisoning lawyer Bill Marler, who has been investigating the illnesses of several children (four? five? six?) in September 2006, which two of the parents and some state officials continue to argue was caused by raw milk from Organic Pastures Dairy Co. They make the argument, even though the state paid OPDC more than $11,000 to close the legal books on the episode.
A recent brief entry on Marler’s blog announcing the upcoming hearing stated, “I will see you there.”
As we know from discussions on this blog, raising the spectre of sick children, no matter how inconclusive the real evidence, can scare both legislators and the public.
When I asked the staff person how the selections of the primary supporters and opponents to testify are made, he said the committee members “defer to the lobbyists” to negotiate the particulars. OPDC and Claravale have a consulting firm advising them, so presumably it will be involved in working this through. Testimony from other supporters and opponents is then limited, the staff person said, because, "We don’t want testimony repeated."
The staff person also cautioned that AB 1604 “could be amended in committee, or on the floor. It’s a long way from being done.”
His cautionary note calls to mind the latest emailed advice two days ago from raw milk advocate Aajonus Vonderplanitz, who has been through his share of raw milk proceedings:
“Usually committees begin about 9:20 am and hear debates all day on proposed bills. You never know which one they will address at any particular time, even though there is a schedule. So, be there early. Have someone posted in the Agriculture hearing room because they could call on the bill when no one expects it. If the subject (was) scheduled for 1:30 pm and they call it at 10 am, you lose your chance to speak on the issue. Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors tried that one twice in four meetings. Because I had someone posted in the meeting, she was able to alert us to the sneaky tactic. If no one is there when the issue reaches the floor, they simply state it is a no-show contest and we lose everything we had worked for to that point. It is an ugly game that they know how to play very well. Do not underestimate them. Do not trust them. I will not be there because I am in a remote area of Thailand where I cannot get a phone connection in many places.
”Have demonstration signs stating ‘RAW MILK PROVEN SAFE; LESS REGULATIONS NOT MORE!’ Any other declaration will be moot. We must stress the safety issue because that is where they attack raw milk. Yes, freedom of choice is very important, but as you know from this administration, freedom of choice is a matter of what they think safety is.”
I’d suggest heeding this voice of experience.
I also think Kathryn’s point on my previous posting is well taken–this is a long-term struggle, and a victory in any one battle doesn’t signify victory. Yet the home schooling movement she cites is instructive because it illustrates so well how a series of victories can make a difference–home schooling is light years ahead of where it was a decade ago.
On a personal note, my mother died early this morning. Her passing was not unexpected—as those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, she has endured serious health problems over the last year or so.
I’ll be at her funeral and tending to the details around her death over the next few days, so not able to be as involved in this week’s important events as I would like. I want to relay as much information here about the proceedings in Sacramento on Wednesday and Albany on Thursday as possible, though.
I would appreciate it if individuals in attendance would email me (email@example.com) with accounts of the hearings in Sacramento and Albany, or post them as comments here. It’s extremely important that the events receive as much public exposure as possible. Thank you for your understanding.