Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lawmakers reject balloon ban

SACRAMENTO — Party on! But maybe by candlelight.

A legislative committee Tuesday just could not bring itself to ban those shiny, helium-filled metallic balloons in California, despite utilities saying the party staple has caused costly power outages and equipment damage.

During the Senate measure's first test in the Assembly, the committee on business and professions voted 5-2 to reject the bill by Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena. Under the measure, starting in 2010, anyone caught selling the metallic balloons would have faced a $100 fine.

The bill to ban the balloons has ties to serious issues, but it also has caused plenty of snickering at lawmakers' expense.

The senator says the balloons are more frequently breaking free and hitting power lines, causing them to arc and knock out power.

But balloon makers and sellers say the problem has been overstated and that the bill is an overreaction to an item that is popular with everyone from children to the elderly.

Scott's spokeswoman Wendy Gordon said the senator "does not sponsor frivolous bills." Power companies report that the fly-aways have caused hundreds of power outages in recent years and have led to millions of dollars in repairs for the utilities.

The measure is backed by Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the major electricity supplier in Northern California.

The bill also is supported by some in the law enforcement and labor Advertisementsectors.

Authorities say a 1990 state law requiring the balloons to be sold attached to weights has been ineffective in thwarting fly-aways.

The Senate measure barely cleared the upper house May 29, on a 22-17 vote, after failing on an earlier attempt.

Though the measure failed in committee Tuesday, Scott was granted permission to attempt its passage again Thursday.

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