Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Congressman Citizen Henry Bonilla

Those of you who follow politics are celebrating the victory yesterday of Ciro Rodriguez over 7-term Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla in Texas. The election was held in one of the districts re-districted under the plan of former Congressman Tom DeLay. The election was held late because the US Supreme Court ruled that the 23rd District re-districting was in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Workplace health and safety advocates are particularly pleased with Bonilla's defeat. Bonilla sat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that has jurisdiction over OSHA’s budget, and he was one of the most virulent enemies of OSHA’s ergonomics standard back in the mid-1990’s, introducing a number of appropriations riders to stop OSHA from issuing the standard.

Bonilla finally overreached when he attempted to attach a rider to OSHA's FY 1997 appropriations bill.
That provision would have prevented OSHA not only from developing a rule, but even from collecting data on CTDs. But on a 216-205 vote, the House struck down the rider and labor groups and OSHA claimed a huge victory. OSHA was free to move forward with ergonomics.
In a further attempt to delay the standard, Bonilla sponsored a three-day National Academy of Sciences study of ergonomics. When that study came back supporting the evidence that musculoskeletal disorders were work-related, Bonilla introduced a bill for another, two-year NAS ergonomics study, along with legislation that would have prohibited OSHA from issuing the standard until after the study was released.

During a hearing on the proposed FY 1998 budget for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Bonilla questioned Centers for Disease Control head David Satcher on the scientific underpinnings for an ergonomics standard and submitted more than 100 questions on ergonomics to Satcher.

Bonilla, along with Congresswoman Anne Northup, also recently defeated, were the two main co-sponsors of the legislation that repealed the standard in 2001.

Bottom line. We're not sorry to see Bonilla head off into the sunset -- along with his buddy Tom DeLay.