DENVER — The Colorado House gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill that its sponsors didn't expect to see any opposition.
The measure, HB1183, encourages, but does not require, schools and all public places to have a sufficient number of automated external defibrillators, machines designed for anyone to use on someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, including children, the sponsors say.
The bill calls on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to award a $75,000 grant to a nonprofit group to acquire and distribute the AED devices, which can cost as little as $100.
"Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of unexpected death in the state," said Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon. "This is a bill that takes a small effort at trying to get more AEDs in Colorado in as many public places as possible because these devices truly save lives. Every minute that you go when you have a sudden cardiac arrest without having an AED assist you, you lose your chance of living by 10 percent."
Opponents of the bill said they don't have a problem with having more AED devices around, they just questioned why the state was being asked to pay for them.
Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, said there are numerous nonprofit groups that already are distributing them.
"I seriously doubt that any one of us could disagree that having defibrillators in public places is a bad idea. As a matter of fact, it's a great idea," Soper said. "But there's an element to the bill that goes a bit further. That issue is, taking state dollars, our taxpayer dollars, and giving it to a nonprofit organization to distribute the defibrillators. They're already set up. They're already distributing the defibrillators, and to me that's the appropriate function of the private sector."
Roberts countered that the funding is one-time money, and designed to jump start a greater effort to get more defibrillators around the state.
Soper, however, said that's all fine and good, but it sets a bad precedent.
"I'm worried that ... we'll have many other really good nonprofits that will continue to come to the state and continue to ask for essentially a donation from the state to do what they're already doing."
The bill requires a final House vote before heading to the Senate.