Lawmakers paying new attention to lead in schools - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Lawmakers paying new attention to lead in schools

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

Would you pay $5 to make sure that your child has safe drinking water?  That's what it would have cost per student to test every public school district in the state for lead in drinking water back in 2009.  Legislators could not agree so the money was cut from the budget.  Now with lead a major topic of concern, legislators are once again calling it a priority.   

Currently no state requires lead testing in schools, but Michigan may be getting close.  After the lead levels found in some of the Tacoma schools water, Washington lawmakers are paying a lot more attention to the issue. 

"I think it's critically important," says Rep. Timm Ormsby (D), who is also the chairman of the appropriations committee. 

In 2009 lead testing in schools was a discussion in the legislature.  There was a work group that looked at the health issues within the schools, among those, lead testing.  In the end, the money wasn't set aside.    

"That has been frustrating for the House Democrats that it hasn't necessarily been a priority elsewhere in Legislature," says Rep. Ormsby.  "We've come up with several funding proposals over the course of the last several years."    

"It's actually really frustrating," says Heidi Friend, a concerned parent.  "I didn't know it was brought up that long ago." 

For many parents, this is an issue that shouldn't be on the back burner.  "It just seems like a standard thing to do," says Leah Espinoza.   

Gov. Jay Inslee recently announced that he would make lead testing a higher priority.  Washington State Senator, Andy Hill ( R ) says he can't promise money in the Republican budget until estimated costs are updated, but says the safety of the children is a top priority.  Rep. Ormsby says he believes the personnel and testing costs would need to be altered and updated for current time, but says the money will be in the House Democrats budget proposal. 

"This is something that we could be well on our way to resolving had we stepped up and taken care of the school facilities as we had intended to in the last few years," Ormsby tells KHQ.   

"For nothing to come of it, it's pretty disappointing," says Espinoza. 

Rep. Ormsby says he believes since it has come to the attention of lawmakers, it would be irresponsible of them to not properly address the issue. 

The legislative session is in January.

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