Christine Stuart photo
A task force that was created to determine an acceptable level cadmium in children’s jewelry got off to a rocky start Wednesday when the decision to appoint two jewelry industry experts was questioned by Rep. Diana Urban.

Urban, who co-chairs the Children’s Committee and the cadmium task force, said there was a “gentlewoman’s agreement” on the floor of the House that if a lawmaker was unable to serve on the task force they would try and appoint another lawmaker to the position.

Instead, Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, and Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, appointed Anthony DeGeorge, director of quality assurance for Fashion Accessories in Rhode Island, and Brent Cleaveland, executive director of Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association of Rhode Island.

Urban said it was her understanding that if a lawmaker could not serve they would find another lawmaker to serve in their place since “we are the policy makers in the state of Connecticut.” She said the composition of the task force is already such that jewelry manufacturing industry experts were appointed. She didn’t believe it was necessary to stack the task force with even more.

Rep. David Baram, D-Bloomfield, who co-chairs the General Law Committee, said it’s his understanding that Betts and Linares tried to get other lawmakers to serve, but were unsuccessful.

“It was difficult to enlist people and not everybody is terribly interested in maybe this topic vs. another topic to spend the time we are all committing,” Baram said.

Regardless of what the task force recommends the issue will need to be debated and vetted by the legislature next year, Baram said.

Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, said the handshake agreement between two colleagues of the same party on the floor of the House “does not change state statute.” He said whatever deal Urban and Baram struck on the floor of the House does not apply to the Republican Party.

“Absent a specific limitation in the law our authority to appoint a nominee is unlimited,” Witkos said. “There is no boundary . . . When we appoint a designee we do so to serve the best interest of the task force.”

Linares, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said he plans on attending these task force meetings even though he appointed Cleaveland to his place on the task force.

“It’s important to have a diverse group on the task force,” Linares said after the meeting. “Bringing in people with all areas of expertise will help our overall goal.”

Baram said there will be ample opportunity for people to question assumptions and facts.

Urban reminded the task force that there’s not a clear consensus on what level of cadmium is appropriate for children. She said she wished the federal government and the Consumer Protection Safety Act, which regulates lead, would also regulate other metals like cadmium.

She said the goal of the task force is to figure out what level protects children. At the same time it has to balance that with needs of the manufacturing industry in the state.

“This is a very complex question,” Urban said. “It’s not an easy question that’s being put on the backs of states.”

The next task force meeting will be held July 31 at 2 p.m.