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After death of Auburn 3-year-old, Legislature sends Governor “Sadie’s Bill” requiring more oversight of grease pits

Chip Brownlee

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By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

The bill’s sponsors say Sadie Grace Andrew’s death won’t be in vain and her legacy will be one of protecting other little kids just like her.

The Senate on Thursday sent the governor “Sadie’s Bill” for her signature. The legislation that would require restaurants and other commercial food establishments to more safely secure their grease traps, and the bill’s sponsors say the move will keep more children from dying the way Sadie died in October 2017 when she fell into an unsecured grease trap and drowned.

Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, proposed the legislation after Sadie death in a 6-foot grease trap outside of an ice cream shop on East University Drive in Auburn where Sadie had been playing with her siblings.

“I’m pleased for the family,” Whatley said. “All of my colleagues just got behind this bill and got behind the effort to make this state safer by protecting children from this happening again.”

The legislation would set a requirement that outside grease traps at restaurants and other commercial food establishment need to have a lock or security mechanism and be heavy enough to prevent accidental opening or intrusion. The requirement would essentially mean that the restaurants would need to be place metal manhole covers over their grease pits so that they cannot be manipulated with human weight or opened by unauthorized personnel without the proper tools.

The House passed the bill on Tuesday night, and State Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, said it was a positive move to prevent future tragedies.

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“It was the goal of the family, Sen. Whatley and myself that we don’t negatively impact the businesses of the state but bring awareness to this risk,” Lovvorn said. “I look forward to getting some closure for the family and the first responders that responded that day.”

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When the bill was approved in committee last month, lawmakers added an amendment that would name the bill the “Sadie Grace Andrews Act.” Amendments added in the House Tuesday would set the standard as a minimum, allowing cities and other localities to keep higher standards if they have them in place.

“By us being able to name this after Sadie Grace, with her name on it, she’ll continue to protect children and people all over. Her legacy will carry on,” Lovvorn said.

The legislation passed the Senate in February, but the House amendments sent the bill back up to the Senate for a final approval.

The House also reduced the fine for non-compliance from the $500 level established in the Senate legislation to $100.

The Alabama Department of Public Health will conduct inspections to ensure that restaurants and establishments are meeting the new requirements.

 

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