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Mark Pryor’s Pool Party is a Flop

Updated: Apr 13

Let’s look back now to the glory days of 2007, when Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor touted his role as a leading sponsor of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, a law intended to reduce accidental drownings by requiring safety covers on the drains of all public pools and spas.

Here’s what Pryor had to say at the time: “Pool drowning is the second leading cause of accidental deaths to children under age of 14. We can’t stand idly by, especially when the solution to install safe drain covers is so obvious and simple,” Pryor said. “This small legislative act will prevent major heartbreak.”

It’s been four years. How’s that working out? Not so great! Take it away, USA Today!:

The law was supposed to award more than $4 million in grants for states to bring their pool safety codes up to federal standards. Not one state has done so….….One of the biggest hurdles for the safety agency has been enforcement.The CPSC could not provide statistics on how many inspections have been done, but published a paperwork notice in 2009 estimating it would conduct 97 a year.Since then, the agency has contracted out with 16 state and local health departments to do more than 2,800 inspections, costing as much as $400 each. Those contracts cover less than 1% of the 300,000 commercial pools in the United States.That doesn’t include residential pools and spas, which number more than 16 million, according to industry data compiled by P.K. Data Inc.

What you have is a law that was pretty much completely unenforceable, passed on a bipartisan basis and signed into law by a Republican president. The law’s namesake was the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker; she died in a pool drowning accident in 2002, proving the maxim that dead kids make bad laws.

Also, this: Pryor’s news release quoted him (see above) as saying that this measure was needed because “pool drowning is the second leading cause of accidental deaths” for kids. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, “drowning” in general is the second leading cause of accidental deaths in kids—that includes not only swimming pools but open water drownings in lakes and other bodies of waters, which of course would not have been covered under the law. Get it together, Mark Pryor!

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