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California’s legislature has passed two highly anticipated bills — one to address the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act and another to help combat unlicensed contractors.

Assembly Bill 1020 by Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, and Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, states that all public pools built on or after Jan. 1, 2010, must have two drains per pump, installed as specified. Existing public pools must be brought into compliance by July 1, 2010.

It is hoped that the law, if signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will reduce the confusion caused by officials interpreting VGB differently. Some inspectors were demanding that new products be installed on already compliant pools.

“I think having the bill in place will give them something firm and concise to work with,” said Mike Geremia, president of SPEC, the lobbying organization for California’s pool and spa industry.

Single-drain pools, unless the drains are unblockable, must be outfitted with one of the following to protect against entrapment: a safety vacuum release system; suction-limiting vent system with tamper-resistant atmospheric opening; gravity-drainage system with collector tank; automatic pump shut-off system; or another system deemed equally or more effective, in accordance with federal law. All must meet standards specified in the state bill.

Public pools brought into compliance with VGB between Dec. 19, 2007, and Jan. 1, 2010, will not require further work — nor will public wading pools built before Jan. 1, 2010, that complied with the California Pool and Spa Safety Act.

Public pool owners also must complete and file paperwork with their local departments of environmental health. The signed forms will contain the license number of the qualified professional certifying that the information is true “to the best of his or her knowledge” — a condition requested by SPEC.

“We’re more than happy to certify as to what we know we did,” SPEC spokesman Peter Conlin said. “We just don’t want to certify as to what anybody else did.”

While drain covers are not specifically named in the bill, the language does state that public pools must comply with ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 as it reads on Dec. 31, 2009, which includes compliant drain covers.

The unlicensed-contractor legislation, Assembly Bill 370, primarily authored by Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, imposes harsher fines and sentences.

“Our goal in supporting the bill is to increase those penalties to where it’s more than a slap on the wrist,” Geremia said.

Currently, a first offense brings imprisonment in county jail of six months or less, a fine of $1,000 or less, or both.

If the bill becomes law, fines can climb as high as $5,000, while jail time remains the same. The bill raises the penalties for second and third offenses as well.

The law takes a more passive stance, however, against those who hire unlicensed contractors. Even pool owners who are aware of the contractors’ status will be considered victims entitled to restitution.

The governor had until Oct. 3 to sign AB 1020 and Sept. 30 to sign AB 370. As of press time, SPEC expected the bills to become law.