Friday, June 3, 2011

Living to see another day: School IPM in Texas

The Texas regular Legislative Session ended peacefully May 31--at least for school integrated pest management (IPM) programs.

The past few months have been filled with more than a little uncertainty about school IPM in Texas.  As I first reported in March, an initial bill was introduced by State Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) that included  a short provision to repeal all school IPM laws and associated rules in Texas.  By late April, after appeals from environmental groups and some parents and school IPM coordinators, school IPM was shown to have its supporters. However, the situation was further complicated when two additional bills were introduced that mirrored school IPM repeal language from Senator Shapiro's bill.

Now that the dust has settled, it appears that all three bills that carried IPM repeals died quiet deaths. Senate Bills 3 and 468 (Shapiro) died in committee with school IPM repeal provisions, HB 3684 (Callegari) was dead in Calendars Committee after removing the school IPM repeal section, and SB. 1252 (Williams) was also left pending in committee with a school IPM repeal provision. 

According to a long tradition, Texas legislative sessions don't always go away quickly or without an extended session.  Governor Perry has called this week for a Special Session to deal with unfinished school finance and political redistricting issues. And as long as legislators are in Austin it's difficult to say with certainty what may or may not get included in the final legislative bill machine.  Nevertheless, most observers seem to think that school IPM repeal is dead for this session.

What did this legislative session teach me about school IPM?  For one thing it's taught me that no program is a sacred cow. All it takes is a determined person with an agenda to repeal or amend a law, regardless of its merits. 

Another thing I observed this session is the importance of having knowledgeable professionals willing to speak up for a program that is making a difference. I'm grateful for everyone who cared enough about childrens health to speak up for a IPM requirements that have reduced unnecessary pesticide use, helped educate and train school professionals about safer pest control practices, and increased the overall effectiveness of pest control programs around the state.  For all of the coordinators, parents, PMPs and environmentalists who spoke up for school IPM, thanks for being part of the process. You are the ones who make the system work.

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