By JOHN GAMBEE
The controversial decision on adding fluoride to city and county water supplies has been passed to the county commissioners in Utah’s three second class counties.
Senate Bill 158 was amended in the house and then re-approved in the Senate during a flurry of last minute legislative activity this week.
The bill allows county commissioners in Utah, Weber and Davis counties to put water fluoridation on countywide ballots for voter approval.
Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, squeezed through an amendment on the House floor to protect the right of Utah County’s individual municipalities to validate or reject the proposition should it come up for a vote.
“I’m trying to protect the right of citizens to decide,” Lockhart said.
The amended version of the bill passed 22-7 in the Senate after clearing the House 47-23.
Prior to the amendment, the law would have required all water suppliers within a county to add fluoride if voters approved the measure.
With the amendment, cities with their own water systems can turn down the treatment if a majority of their residents disapprove.
“My problem is not with fluoride, it’s with the process,” Lockhart said. “I haven’t decided for myself about fluoride yet.”
However, Utah County Commissioner David Gardner doesn’t expect a vote anytime soon in this county.
“If one of the other commissioners brings it up, I will oppose it,” Gardner said.
Two of the three commissioners in any of the counties would have to approve a vote before the issue could go before the county’s voters, Lockhart said.
Though Gardner said he supports fluoridation — he gave his children supplemental fluoride until they were 12 — he doesn’t support this form of getting it into the water.
“I support fluoridation, but I don’t support ramming it down people’s throats like that,” Gardner said.
Gardner said that the law was sufficient as it was before the new legislation.
Previously, voters in a city or water supply area could file a petition to get the issue on their citywide ballot, Gardner said.
According to this bill, if Utah County voters approve the fluoridation process, all water suppliers in the county will be forced to provide the fluoridated water.
If voters in individual municipalities don’t approve of the measure, they will then need to have another vote to prevent the treatment in their water supply, Gardner said.
“The bill was drafted specifically for Davis and Weber counties, where they share their water supply,” Lockhart said.
Utah County was drawn into the debate because it falls into the same size category as Weber and Davis counties, Lockhart said.
However, the bill doesn’t apply to Utah County because the water supply is provided by many separate sources, Gardner said.
“We don’t share water in Utah County,” Lockhart said.
The bill is now awaiting Governor Michael Leavitt’s signature.