Government & Politics

Brownback signs bill to delay amusement park rules adopted after Caleb Schwab’s death

Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation Friday that will give amusement parks more time to comply with new industry regulations that were adopted following the death of a lawmaker’s son last year.

The Kansas Legislature approved — and Brownback signed — legislation earlier in the year that tightened Kansas’ safety requirements for amusement parks following the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab at Schlitterbahn Kansas City Water Park last year.

Those regulations set new insurance requirements for amusement parks, stricter injury reporting rules and also require that inspections of rides be conducted by licensed engineers with at least two years of experience in the amusement ride field.

But after the bill’s passage, the Kansas Department of Labor, which enforces the regulations, raised concerns about how quickly the new regulations could be implemented. The bill Brownback signed Friday delays the regulations, which were set to take effect in July, until January.

No company can be prosecuted under the law until after Jan. 1.

Caleb, who died riding the 168-foot Verrückt, the world’s tallest water slide, was the son of Rep. Scott Schwab of Olathe, the No. 3 Republican in the Kansas House. The family will receive a $20 million legal settlement from companies tied to the incident.

Both pieces of legislation passed with bipartisan majorities. Schwab was one of only a handful of lawmakers to vote against the second bill.

The Department of Labor told lawmakers that implementing the regulations by July was unrealistic. The agency did not return phone calls late Friday.

Another reason for the delay was concern about the financial impact to community-owned carnivals, according to House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican.

“Quite a few of the rural counties in northwest Kansas have home-owned carnivals staffed with volunteers,” Carmichael said. “They really need that extra lead time.”

Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, vocally opposed delaying the regulations, saying the delay would endanger the safety of children.

“How many children must die before we take this matter seriously?” Carmichael said.

Carmichael noted that the Department of Labor has already crafted draft regulations. A public hearing on those regulations will take place Aug. 15 in Topeka.

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3

Here's a look back at Verrückt and the series of events following 10-year-old Caleb Schwab's death on the water slide in 2016 at Schlitterbahn in Kansas City, Kan.