Biolab Safety Bill To Be Back Next Year

The legislation didn’t make it out of the 2016 Md. General Assembly.

Legislation to monitor private biological research laboratories in Maryland will be back next year. The bill, sponsored by Frederick County Delegate Karen Lewis Young, would have instructed  the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with creating a list of these labs which would be made available to local emergency management and health officials.

It died in this year’s Maryland General Assembly.

Delegate Young says the measure ran into opposition from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which would be in charged of creating this list. “They totally agree that we ought to be identifying private labs in the state that are working with harmful toxins. But they claim they don’t have the resources to assist in that effort, and they’ve been told by the Governor that they can’t increase their budget,” she says.

The legislation went before Delegate Young’s committee, the Health and Government Operations Committee.

The bill got out of committee, and passed the House of Delegates. But Delegate Young says it ran into opposition  in the State Senate for two reasons: “One was did  the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene really want to do this?  And why didn’t any public safety officials come and testify,” she says.

Delegate Young says the second reason was “weak.” “If they came testified against it, and said this isn’t necessary, I could understand their concern,” she says. “But just because they didn’t come and testify for, I still think we’ve got some work to do to impress the Department how important this is the public’s safety and health.”

“This bill does not recommend regulation. We just need to know who they are, where they are. We need to make sure our public health officials, our emergency management officials know where they are. So that in the event of an emergency, they respond somewhat differently,” says Delegate Young.

She points out that this legislation would not cover research laboratories at Fort Detrick and the National Institutes of Health. “The public labs are well regulated. We know who they are and where they are. It’s the private labs we have some concerns about,” says Delegate Young.