Ava Grace Jenkins Law: Family's tragedy inspires pool safety bill in Frankfort

Posted at 5:20 PM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 17:36:48-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — A bill on the move in Frankfort could require Kentucky pool owners to put up fences to keep kids out.

House Bill 196, also known as the Ava Grace Jenkins Law, would require homeowners to install barriers on above-ground and in-ground swimming pools.

The law’s namesake, Ava Grace Jenkins, drowned in a neighbor’s pool in McCracken County in 2019. She was just two-years-old. Her parents are now fighting to keep other children safe.

“Our story starts with a beautiful little girl,” the Jenkins told state legislators this week. “We just want to prevent another tragedy from happening to another family.”

Their story is why Rep. Randy Bridges of Paducah introduced the bill addressing swimming pool safety. On Tuesday, a House Committee approved the bill, and it now moves to the full House of Representatives.

As it reads, HB 196 would require homeowners to install a barrier around their pool within 120 days of the law taking effect. The fence would need to measure at least four feet high, and any gates would need to be self-closing and self-latching.

An above-ground pool would qualify as a barrier, if it’s the correct height. In addition, homes and garages could form part of the fence. Homeowners who violate the law could face fines of $50 to $100 each day.

Rep. Bridges said the legislation could save lives and protect homeowners.

“There are 30 states that have residential pool statutes,” he said. “Three surround Kentucky.”

Representative Savannah Maddox of Dry Ridge was the only committee member who voted against the bill. She said many city and county ordinances already address pool safety. She also took issue with the potential cost of installing a fence and questioned how the bill would impact people with kiddie pools or small ponds used for swimming.

Rep. Bridges said if small ponds are used for swimming, they would be addressed under this bill. But he explained that properties larger than 10 acres would be exempt, covering most farms with watering holes. He said HB 126 is lax compared to the dozens of other states with swimming pool laws.