Lawmakers pass beefed-up standards for lifeguards at public beaches

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Lifeguards who work at public beaches in Minnesota aren't required to have the same level of training as those who work at public swimming pools. A bill passed by both houses of the Legislature would make those training requirements consistent across the board.

The Minnesota House passed the bill, informally known as "Tony Caine's Law," Monday on a vote of 110-10, MPR News reports. The Senate approved it on a 52-14 vote earlier in April.

The measure now goes to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature. If he signs it, the law would take effect next year.

The bill is named after a 6-year old boy named Tony Caine, who drowned in Wirth Lake in Minneapolis in the summer of 2012. His mother, Latoya Redmon, has lobbied for the measure, which would make it mandatory for lifeguards at all public beaches to be trained in CPR and first aid. Under current law, only lifeguards at public pools are required to be trained in first aid and CPR.

“I just wanted to do something in memory of him,” Redmon said.

Municipalities can require certification of their beach lifeguards, and the city of Minneapolis does for the lifeguards at Wirth Lake. The bill would make the requirements uniform across the state.

Redmon is a constituent of Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, who authored Tony's Law.

“This was just a gap that the state had somehow missed,” he said. “I think it’s probably just an oversight.”

Earlier this winter, supervision at public school pools came under review following two deaths, including a 12-year-old boy who drowned at a St. Louis Park middle school and a teenager who died following a physical education in a pool at Fargo South High School.

The recent pool deaths have also focused attention on the fact that fewer children in Minnesota know how to swim, especially children of color and those in immigrant families. Two state lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would make Minnesota the first state in the nation to require all students to take swimming lessons.

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