Ambushed by Lame Ducks
By: phila

By Philip Althouse

Not all ducks migrated south for the winter. Some lame ducks who hadn't departed were hanging around Columbus when Senate Bill 117 first arrived at the Ohio House last week. It would have provided assistance for victims of crime involved in civil litigation. But by the time it emerged from committee for a full vote by the House it had been reshaped by lame duck Republicans into legislation that weakens the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA) by capping non-economic damages at $5,000 and prevents lawsuits against paint manufacturers for injury caused by lead paint unless the plaintiff can prove which company manufactured the paint that allegedly caused the injury. The amended bill sailed through the House and Senate without debate.

Ah, the irony. Wasn't it just this past April that a new law took effect in Ohio that requires testing of one and two year-old children from homes in certain zip code areas to be tested for lead paint? While lead has been eliminated from gasoline, reserchers estimate that as many as 19,000 Ohio kids suffer from lead poisoning primarily from lead paint chips and dust in older homes. See a map that details areas with highest incidence of lead exposure at
http://www.ewg.org Cleveland, already the poverty capital of the country is the epicenter of lead paint poisoning among Ohio children. Lead exposure in children has been shown to adversely affect IQ and is implicated in poor school performance, and delinquency. It's also costly. According to a study by the Mahoning County District Board of Health, child lead paint exposure costs taxpayers in that county approximately a half million dollars each year.

There is growing evidence that paint manufacturers were aware of the risk of lead in their products decades ago. Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to who manufactured lead paint that contaminates a home. Knowing all that, the lame ducks in Columbus wanted to be certain that the brain-damaged kids have no legal recourse against paint manufacturers. But at least kids who need the testing will get it, right? Well, don't hold your breath. Inspired by the success of its "No Child Left Behind" policy, the Bush Administration has requested a huge reduction in lead poisoning prevention funding in the 2007 federal budget. If approved, the reduced funding could well stall implementation of the new Ohio lead testing program. The end result could be adult Ohioans with mental faculties impaired by lead paint exposure who either don't vote or better still vote straight GOP.

More irony. This past spring the General Assembly amended the CSPA in an effort to curb predatory lending practices linked to a statewide surge in residential foreclosures.
During the legislative wrangling that led up to the final draft of the amendment lobbyists for lenders and auto dealers tried to exclude non-economic damages from the revised CSPA but failed. Those damages were arguably already permitted under the current version of the statute. But the lobbyists and their buddies in the legislature figured they had a trump card to play since the Ohio SupremeCourt was poised to decide the question of whether such damages were permitted under the CSPA. They anticipated that the Court would rule in their favor. They were wrong. The Court recently held that non-economic damages such as mental anguish, frustration, anger, and inconvenience that result from violations of the law may be included as damages. Determined not to lay an egg, the lame ducks scuttled the Supreme Court's decision and weakened the CSPA by reducing the non-economic harm suffered by Ohio consumers, no matter how grievous, to the cost of doing business.

It's duck hunting season. Call Governor Taft and urge him to veto the bill:


Mark W Adams said...

Nicely written Phil, and you figured out that extended post thingy too. Excellent.

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