Legislation would bolster safety standards and promote awareness to prevent pool-related injuries and deaths

Klobuchar led efforts to pass the original pool safety law in 2007. Since the law’s passage, there have been no pool drain entrapment deaths. 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to strengthen pool safety and protect children from drowning. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Reauthorization Act would bolster safety standards for public swimming pools and spas, and promote awareness to prevent pool-related injuries and deaths. 

This bill updates key provisions from the original law, including expanding eligibility for the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Swimming Pool Safety Grant Program to nonprofits and tribes. This grant program provides state and local governments with funding to help implement enforcement and education programs that help prevent drownings and drain entrapments in pools and spas. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), John Carter (R-TX), Colin Allred (D-TX), and Michael Burgess (R-TX) introduced companion legislation in the House. 

“When I first got to the Senate, a little Minnesota girl named Abbey Taylor was maimed in a swimming pool by a defective drain and, after sixteen surgeries, died nearly a year later. Her one wish was that it wouldn't happen to another child,” said Klobuchar. “We passed a pool safety bill in 2007 shortly before Abbey’s death, and by further strengthening our safety standards, this bipartisan legislation will continue to honor Abbey’s legacy and protect more children from drowning and pool-related injuries. No family should have to live in fear that a fun day in the pool can turn into a horrible tragedy.”  

“Since the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act first became law nearly 15 years ago, it has helped to make pools safer for children and to support drowning prevention efforts,” said Blunt. “As kids head outside to play during the summer months, it is an especially important time to raise awareness around pool safety and continue building on the progress that has been made under this law, including by targeting resources toward rural areas. I’m proud to join Senator Klobuchar and Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Colin Allred, John Carter, and Michael Burgess in introducing this bill and I encourage all of my colleagues to support this commonsense, life-saving measure.”

“No work we do in Congress is more important than keeping our children healthy and safe. And the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act did that by saving countless lives over the years. So, it is critical that we reauthorize this bipartisan, common-sense law, and as we’re doing now with this reauthorization, expand its life-saving impact,” said Wasserman Schultz. “As we stare in horror at the recent tragedy in Texas, adding to the layers of protection that keep innocent children safe is paramount. This law does that by helping decrease drownings in pools and spas, a concern every parent holds close as we enter the summer season when water activity picks up. Let’s keep our kids safe with sensible outreach, education, and precautions.”

In 2007, six-year-old daughter Abbey Taylor suffered a debilitating injury from a pool drain accident. After meeting with Abbey, Scott, and Abbey’s mother Katey, Klobuchar led the successful efforts to pass the original Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which was signed into law in 2007, shortly before Abbey passed away in March 2008 after undergoing sixteen surgeries. Since the law’s passage, there have been no drain entrapment deaths in any public pool within the country. 

The law mandated that all public pools install safe drain covers preventing suction entrapment, established a voluntary grant program for states to promote pool and spa safety, and created a national public education campaign to raise awareness about drowning prevention. Klobuchar successfully championed provisions that strengthened the law, by making the safety standards retroactive to existing pools intended for public use, and requiring single-drain public pools to install the latest drain safety technology.

In 2020, Klobuchar, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) urged the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) to ensure children are safe from drowning in pools and spas following reports that incidents of child drowning have increased during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Reauthorization Act would reauthorize the original law, while also incorporating the following new provisions:

  • Establishing a new Director of Drowning Prevention at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); 
  • Expanding eligibility for grant awardees to include nonprofits and tribal groups;
  • Creating a new grant awareness campaign for the CPSC to conduct outreach;
  • Allowing grants to be used for swimming lessons; and
  • Adding additional oversight and reporting requirements.