The California Assembly recently introduced a bill intended to bring the Golden State in line with the national Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
In California, local officials cannot enforce a federal law until the state has passed its own statute. This bill seemingly is intended to bridge that gap.
AB 1020, co-sponsored by Republican Bill Emmerson and Democrat Fiona Ma, has caused concern among some early industry reviewers. But Don Burns, CEO of the California pool and spa lobbying group SPEC, said it is a “placeholder bill” that likely will be rewritten as it moves through the channels.
Regardless of its finalized form, AB 1020 has been written as an urgency bill. This means it will require a two-thirds majority to pass, and becomes effective immediately after the governor signs it. Additionally, urgency bills are not tied to the regular schedule, so they can be sped through the committees and houses and to the governor’s desk. Burns said he hopes to see the bill pass as soon as late April.
In general, industry representatives seem to welcome the possibility of a state law. Bob Nichols, director of IPSSA Region 3, has high hopes that it will provide specific answers to reduce confusion from one county to the next.
“I’m glad that the state has finally made a move to … have uniform compliance requirements across the state,” said the owner of Precision Pool in Glendora, Calif. “Currently, in one county, a regulatory agency will interpret something one way, and the next county will interpret it another way.”
At the very least, Nichols said, it will compel local health officials to enforce the law, so that public-pool operators don’t feel clueless as to how to prove compliance.But some worry that the bill may evolve to require specific equipment, such as safety vacuum release systems on every pool.
“I have concerns that there may be special interest amendments proposed,” Nichols said. “Regulation sometimes cannot [determine] the best procedure for a customer.”
In 2001, California saw the first bill seeking to require SVRS’s on all pools, but the legislation eventually was tabled.
Paul Pennington, president of SVRS manufacturer Vac-Alert Industries in Fort Pierce, Fla. (the sponsor of that prior legislation), said his company has no plans to try to alter the language.
“That will not be done by anybody that I’m aware of. ... The marketplace decides what they want to do.”
The same position is being taken by the Pool Safety Council, a Washington D.C.-based group of safety product manufacturers and advocates.
“From what we have read, it’s a bill in the spirit of VGB,” said John Procter, PSC’s communications director. “We don’t have any plans to try to modify it or lobby any changes to the language.”
There is one aspect that some in the industry want to see changed. In its list of remedies for single main drains, the language does not include the splitting of the drain, but only mentions devices you can add, such as SVRS’s.
Violation of the law would be classified as a misdemeanor.
Neither Emmerson nor Ma would comment on the legislation.