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Proposed law: Everyone with a driver's license must learn CPR

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published February 06. 2013 4:00AM

I have to own up to some skepticism when I first heard that a bill had been introduced in the Connecticut General Assembly proposing that anyone obtaining or renewing a driver's license be certified in CPR first aid.

Surely, I thought, no Connecticut lawmaker would make such an outlandish proposal.

After all, what would follow that? Mandatory mask wearing for the sick? Nutrition certification for all mothers? Umbrella requirements for pedestrians walking in the rain?

Surely, I thought, no one would suggest anything as Draconian as requiring each and every driver to learn to deliver specific first aid techniques.

Never mind the outsized nature of the idea. Who would arrange and pay for all that training?

Skepticism grew into something more in the order of surprise when I tracked down House Bill 6054, introduced by Democrat Diana Urban of North Stonington, and discovered that it does indeed propose CPR training for all Connecticut drivers.

By the time I reached Urban Tuesday to ask about her proposed legislation, she already seemed to be backing away a bit from the idea. I am sure I was not the first to call.

"I have every opportunity to stop my own bill," she said, a bit defensively, after I started asking questions. "I can make sure it doesn't go forward."

That, of course, begs the question: Why did she introduce it at all?

Urban said the was convinced to submit the CPR mandate bill by a constituent who offered some engaging statistics about the effectiveness of CPR, and how many lives can be saved when it is administered in a timely way.

No doubt that's true.

Urban also offered that the constituent gave her some material suggesting the driver's license mandate had been instituted elsewhere. But Urban, calling from her car Tuesday, said she didn't have that information in front of her, and she admitted she hasn't done a lot of research on the topic.

I later did a little poking around and found a proposal, which never made it into law, to require new drivers in Ohio, mostly teens, to get CPR training. I could not find any other CPR driving mandates.

Urban told me she knows there are too many unnecessary bills introduced in the legislature.

On the other hand, she said, she is a multitasker, and she said she expects that other lawmakers, too, should be able to take up worthy attempts at new laws, even when the state is facing monumental problems, like the budget shortfall.

Other bills she has introduced or co-sponsored this session also center around topics important to her, like safeguarding and educating children and animal rights.

Among the bills she has introduced or endorsed this session, for instance, include a requirement that the euthanization of any cat or dog be done by a licensed veterinarian, that animal shelters keep records of the number of animals they adopt and euthanize, that an animal advocate be appointed in family relations matters involving care and custody of an animal and that a person who wants to be excused from jury duty for a disability be able to present a disability opinion letter from a naturopath or chiropractor.

The last one, Urban said, was also directly suggested to her by a constituent who had a problem being excused from a jury.

I admire Urban's instincts to try to make government more responsive and effective. And I like the fact that, as a legislator, she believes new laws can improve peoples' lives.

"I don't think we should talk about whether big government is good," she told me. "The question we should be talking about is whether government is working."

I can even respect Urban's instincts to make everyone safer and less likely to die of a heart attack because so many people around them might be able to help in the event of an emergency and deliver life-saving first aid.

But I think some of the points she mentioned Tuesday when I asked about the CPR bill - whether new technologies, for instance, might make it easier and cheaper for more people to learn CPR - should have been considered before she tossed that particular bill in the legislative bin.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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