Sen. Mike Fasano's bill on air quality at ice-skating rinks passes Health Regulation committee
A bill that would regulate the air quality of enclosed ice-skating rinks -- a recent problem in Pinellas County -- glided through its first Senate committee Tuesday, passing 9-1.
Introduced by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, the bill (SB 202) would empower local health departments by giving them authority to inspect air quality at enclosed rinks and assess penalties of up to $500 for violations.
Fasano's bill follows headlines about Oldsmar's Tampa Bay Skating Academy that appeared in the Times and an ESPN investigation in 2009. The rink was found to be using ice-surfacing equipment that released toxic gases and sickened hockey players. "We simply asked the Department of Health, 'Why don't you go in there and inspect?' and they said they did not have the authority to do that," Fasano said.
Poor ventilation and fuel-burning, ice-surfacing equipment can release harmful gases, including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, warns the Environmental Protection Agency. As it stands, the health department cannot impose fees or enter rinks for unannounced inspections. Fasano's bill would not require health departments to inspect rinks but would give them the ability if they wanted, he said.
Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, was the only committee member to vote against the bill. He worried it could affect private entities like the St. Pete Times Forum: "Our mission is to have less government. I don't want to have more government."
Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, owner of an ice-skating rink in Ellenton, jumped to the bill's defense, saying air-quality tests are inexpensive, and rink owners wouldn't mind inspections after the Oldsmar incident.