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2012 Kansas Legislative Summary
Good Samaritan (House Bill 2562)
The existing Kansas Good Samaritan law was primarily designed for medical professionals and its application to the lay public was in doubt under some circumstances. In order to provide greater protections for lay persons rendering aid using life-saving techniques such as CPR the American Heart Association sought to update the law. The new law simply states that anyone rendering emergency care or assistance at the scene of an emergency or accident shall not be liable for any civil damages unless they act in a grossly negligent manner. The aid must be provided without compensation and the law clarifies that aid can be provided to minors without first obtaining consent.
The bottom line with the new law is that the language is very clear and broad so that lay rescuers should feel comfortable performing CPR and other basic life-saving measures to bystanders in emergency situations. The bill was passed by large majorities in the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Brownback.
Electronic Cigarettes (House Bill 2324)
A relatively new product on the market is the electronic cigarette – a device that heats water and nicotine to be inhaled in order to provide the dose of nicotine that smokers crave. The main selling point of the product is that the vapor exhaled by the smoker is said to be mostly water vapor and thus negating the concerns about secondhand smoke. Due to a quirk in the law the sale of these devices to minors is not prohibited.
Since nicotine is highly addictive and the health claims of these devices have not been substantiated by sound, peer-reviewed studies it is prudent to make these products inaccessible to minors. Our main concern is that users of these products can become addicted to nicotine and eventually switch to smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products as their addiction to nicotine increases. The bill was approved by Governor Brownback.
Tobacco Prevention Program Funding
Lawmakers had a difficult time reconciling the budget based on philosophical differences this session and a final budget was not approved until the very last day of session. Despite early indications that the program would face cuts, the legislature and governor agreed to keep funding for the State’s tobacco use prevention program level at $1 million. Although the American Heart Association has continually advocated for increased funding based on Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations we are pleased that the cost-effective program will be allowed to continue.
Pulse Oximetry Screening for Critical Congenital Heart Defects
The American Heart Association has been leading an effort this year to have pulse oximetry screening conducted on newborns before they leave the hospital. Mounting evidence shows that this non-invasive, low-cost test can help determine if a newborn has been born with a critical congenital heart defect.
Making this determination before the newborn leaves the hospital means that diagnosis and treatment can be addressed sooner and lessening the chance that an emergency might occur outside the hospital should the newborn be discharged with a critical congenital heart defect lurking undiagnosed.
Legislation is not needed to advance this issue. Representatives from the American Heart Association made a presentation to the Kansas Newborn Screening Advisory Council and they have convened a task force of pediatric cardiologists and others to make a recommendation to the full Council later this year.
Clean Indoor Air
Several attempts were made this year to weaken the State’s very popular law that makes most public accommodations smoke free. Through heavy grassroots support from volunteers and the work of our staff in the Capitol, the efforts to weaken the law fell short. This was a true victory for our grassroots program as lawmakers heard loudly and clearly that the clean indoor air law enjoys strong popular support. It is likely that some lawmakers will continue to work on weakening this law again next year so we will have to remain vigilant to turn back these attempts.
The American Heart Association could not exist without the support of its volunteers. The advocacy team is eternally grateful for the support that our volunteer advocates provide. Your combined voices as evidenced through action alerts, phone calls and meetings are an invaluable tool in helping our advocacy program to be so successful. On behalf of the Kansas advocacy team let me say “Thank You” for your support during a difficult 2012 legislative session. We could never do it without you and we are honored to work on your behalf in Topeka.
For more information about advocacy in Kansas, please contact:
American Heart Association
Regional Grassroots Network Director - Iowa, Kansas and Missouri