AUGUSTA — Dana Dow thought the Kid-Safe Products Act was a good idea in 2008. Three years later, he still does.
That's why Dow, a Republican state representative from Waldoboro, hopes to convince his GOP colleagues to resist Gov. Paul LePage's proposal to overturn the law that Dow helped lead to overwhelming bipartisan passage in the Legislature.
Dow said he planned to meet with GOP leadership to make sure that the law designed to keep harmful chemicals out of children's products remains.
That meeting may not be necessary.
Several members of the House and Senate GOP leadership indicated Monday that there isn't much support to repeal legislation that most recently facilitated a ban on bisphenol-A, or BPA.
The governor's plan to repeal the Kid-Safe Products Act has generated a firestorm. Several studies have linked infant exposure to the chemical with health and development problems, including cancer. And several major retailers, including Wal-Mart, have stopped selling products containing BPA.
LePage's aides say the science on BPA is divided and that absent "consensus science," the ban, and Kid-Safe, should be repealed.
Some Republicans aren't so sure.
"There might be ways to improve the law," Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, said. "But the basic principle that the law was based upon had very strong support and I don't see that changing."
Kid-Safe, which was co-sponsored by Dow, passed 35-0 in the Senate and 129-9 in the House. Seventy-four lawmakers that supported the bill are still in the Legislature, including 32 Republicans.
Raye supported the bill in 2008 and helped negotiate language that mandated state toxicologists to participate in the review of 200 priority chemicals such BPA.
LePage's plan to overturn the ban has mobilized environmentalists and activists who claim the governor's proposal was the result of out-of-state influences and the national chemical lobby.
The controversy reached a crescendo last week following publication of LePage's comment that the only harmful effect of BPA was that women could develop "little beards."
Some members of Republican leadership said Monday that the BPA debate had armed opponents and diverted attention from the party's job-creation agenda.
"This discussion about BPA has overshadowed true regulatory reform," said Sen. Jonathan Courtney, R-York, the Senate majority leader. "I’m here to create opportunities to create jobs and that’s the number one priority. I don’t see where that (reversing the BPA ban) does that at this point."
Courtney, who also supported the bill in 2008, said the uproar had also "ginned up" the environmental lobby.
"They’ve been handed the tools to raise money and cultivate their base," he said.
Rep. Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, the assistant majority leader in the House said LePage's "off-the-cuff" comment about BPA and the ensuing media attention had become a distraction.
Cushing also voted for Kid-Safe in 2008.
Leadership's apparent unwillingness to support the governor's stand marks the party's first public split with LePage. It could test the governor's ability to broker deals with the legislative branch.
Cushing and Courtney said Monday that they hadn't heard from the governor or his staff about repealing the ban.
The split could also test GOP lawmakers' willingness to support some of the governor's more controversial proposals. LePage has said that he doesn't care if he's a one-term governor, but lawmakers are elected to two-year terms and are more closely connected to their communities.
Dow said Monday that he'd received numerous phone calls from constituents opposing repeal of the Kid-Safe law and the BPA ban.
Dow said he wasn't sure where the idea of overturning Kid-Safe originated.
"For me it’s one of those issues that may have been from an out-of-state concern," he said. "We have all kinds of lobbyists running around here representing all kinds of companies and things."