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Editorial: A toddler died at a carnival, so why is Kansas trying to delay new amusement park rules?

Kansas lawmakers are considering a yearlong delay in implementing new, tougher regulations for amusement parks operating in the state.

Stop now. Any foot-dragging in implementing the rules would unacceptably endanger thousands of Kansans this summer.

The danger isn’t theoretical. This week, a toddler died in Wichita, electrocuted near a carnival ride.

The rules, approved by the Legislature in April, might have prevented the tragedy. The law requires more stringent ride inspections by qualified personnel — and would have applied to the carnival where the 15-month-old girl died.

Sadly, those rules don’t take effect until July 1.

Now, some legislators want to delay the effective date for a year, leaving looser rules in place for the entire season.

Various explanations have been offered for waiting until next year. The Kansas Department of Labor, which will administer the law, says some carnival operators don’t think they can acquire the needed permits in time.

They want to “avoid a disruption in park operations,” a department spokeswoman told The Star.

Sorry. Disrupting park operations is less important than protecting the health and safety of the people who enjoy a summer night on the fairgrounds or a day at the water park.

It’s doubly frustrating because amusement park operators had to know new rules were coming. The discussion began last year when 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed on a water slide at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan.

A bill to strengthen amusement park oversight was introduced in mid-March, debated and signed by Gov. Sam Brownback on May 1.

That gives ride operators three months to get ready. Is Kansas so crowded with amusement parks and carnivals that 90 days isn’t enough time to comply?

And why didn’t someone complain about the July 1 effective date during the discussion of the bill?

Some lawmakers believe the required permits can’t be obtained by July. That can’t be an excuse. The state Department of Labor should do whatever it takes to enact the law.

There may be other motives at work here. Delaying implementation of the law would give so-called home-owned carnivals more than 12 months to push for repeal of the statute or substantial changes to the new rules.

“At least give them a year to adjust and to see if it’s workable for those home-owned carnivals,” state Rep. Don Hineman of Dighton told The Star. “And if not, we’ll have to delve deeper into it next year.”

That can’t be an acceptable approach. Kansans should not be endangered for an entire year so a carnival owner can figure out if he or she wants to comply with the law.

The new rules aren’t onerous. They strengthen the inspection and licensing requirements for amusement parks, but they don’t require design review. The regulations are reasonable attempts to make the summer safer for kids and families. They should take effect, as scheduled, in July.

A toddler in Wichita is dead, killed at a carnival. We don’t want to type those words again.


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