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Senate: Require state parks to have lifeguard during peak swim season

Florida has among the highest number of child deaths because of drownings in the nation. It also doesn't require lifeguards to be on duty during peak swimming hours at state parks.

That would change under SB 1484 which was passed Wednesday by the Senate Environmental Preservation Committee.

“Lets stop being the highest in the nation for child drowning deaths and send a message and that florida has the best state parks,'' said Sen. Elenor Sobel, D-Hollywood, the bill sponsor. The national Centers for Disease Control reports that in the last year counted, 2009,14 out of 100,000 children in Florida under age 19 died from drowning. The rate was exceeded only by Texas. Nationally, most of the drownings occur in swimming pools and one out of three are in natural water.

The bill requires that life guards be on duty only during peak swim periods and holidays at the 65 state parks that allow swimming. The cost to the state to hire certified life guards and build stations is estimated at about $850,000. That could be a problem. Even in a year where legislators have nearly $1.3 billion more to spend, lawmakers don't like to spend it on enforcing new rules.

Another problem: the bill's companion, HB 1309 by Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, hasn't gotten a hearing. 

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