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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R)

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News/Photo Release: Hertaus receives award for work on Sophia's Law

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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New legislation effective May 1st, 2018 is aimed at preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

ST. PAUL, MN—Rep. Jerry Hertaus, R-Greenfield, was presented the William Garner Award on Wednesday at the State Capitol in Saint Paul for his work on legislation aimed at preventing carbon monoxide poisoning upon watercraft with enclosed spaces, known as "Sophia's Law." The law came as a result of a tragic carbon monoxide poisoning incident involving 7-year-old Sophia Baechler on Lake Minnetonka in 2015.

The heartbreaking loss served as motivation for Rep. Hertaus and other key stakeholders to prevent future carbon monoxide tragedies. Carbon monoxide is a clear and odorless byproduct of combustion that unknowing individuals are unable to detect. Over the past many decades, the boating industry has evolved to where significant numbers of watercraft have enclosed spaces. In addition, onboard electric generation has also become a source of CO emissions.

Rep. Hertaus and Sen. Melisa Franzen, the two chief authors of Sophia’s law, worked across the aisle with the Department of Natural Resources, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the American Boat and Yacht council, medical experts, and advocates for low level carbon monoxide detectors to make Sophia’s Law a reality. Sophia’s Law has now become an example of model legislation to be used nationwide and is being advocated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. The law seeks to inform, educate, and warn the boating public while balancing the capabilities of industry to be able to properly respond to the law.

The bill passed as part of the Omnibus Supplemental Budget bill in 2016. Under the law, boats longer than 16 feet with enclosed cabin facilities that include sleeping areas, bathroom, and a galley are now required to have detectors to alert passengers of dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide. The law also encourages boaters to replace outdated carbon monoxide detectors whose sensors will likely not function, as many sensors are a decade or more old and have no “end of life” warning.

"I want to thank the Baechler family, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, medical experts, and other stakeholders for their work and advocacy to help pass Sophia's Law. This measure will no doubt help save lives each year in Minnesota, especially for children and the elderly, who are more at risk of poisoning due to smaller size than others at the same concentration of CO exposure. It's an honor to receive this award, and to have worked with the family and others to help Sophia's legacy live on to prevent future tragedies."


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