Students in the freshman seminar “It Ought to be Law” successfully introduced a bill to the California state Senate that would make it mandatory for all public high schools in the state to have automatic external defibrillators available.
The bill also stipulates all school-sponsored athletic events have AEDs available for use, schools have an emergency plan in place and school officials take a certified training course to operate an AED.
“The entire class is about learning the political system, and in particular, the California state political system, through the practical experience of introducing [a] bill, and lobbying for it, and following it through,” Rathbun said.
Students were asked to brainstorm ideas for a bill the first few class sessions. They then chose the issue of AEDs as their focus after hearing about a student-athlete in Texas who experienced sudden cardiac arrest, but whose life was saved because of an AED, according to Rathbun.
“I have a friend who suffered from cardiac arrest on a football field in my neighborhood, and almost died from that,” said Emily Welch, a freshman in the class who is majoring in economics and English. “A law was passed very similar to the law that we are trying to pass … We all decided that this was something we wanted to see through in California.”
The bill was drafted entirely by students, and students conducted their own research on the subject of cardiac arrest.
Murray is USC’s politician-in-residence, and used his experience in the Senate to help students understand the legislative process.
“Senator Murray has been a driving force in pushing the students to act professionally and helping them know what the next step is,” Rathbun said.
Price introduced the bill to the Senate in early January.
The bill was referred to the Education and Health Committees on March 3, and is currently in the Education Committee.
The class is planning to fly to Sacramento on March 23 to give testimony to the Senate, according to Rathbun.
“It’s quite likely that the bill will get out of committee which is the next step, and I think that it has a fairly good chance of passage,” Rathbun said. “The major issue will not be substantive, but financial.”
The bill mandates that costs related to the AEDs will be funded by the state “if the Commission on State Mandates determines that [the] act contains costs mandated by the state.”
Students said the chance to work on real legislation has been invaluable.
“It was an incredible opportunity,” said Navtaj Singh, a freshman student in the class majoring in political science. “Creating a bill, learning the type of language used to come up with it, [learning] the costs we have to be aware of and learning about the other aspects leading up to the presenting the bill to the Committee and the Senate.”