The Assembly today passed a bill that would allow non-medical school employees to give anti-seizure medication to epileptic students, sending the emotional issue a crucial step closer to final approval by Gov. Jerry Brown.
After 40 minutes of passionate debate on the Assembly floor, the lower house approved Senate Bill 161 with a vote of 47 to 15. It garnered substantial support from Democrats -- 22 out of 52 supported the bill -- despite opposition from the state's Democratic party chairman and several large labor unions.
"While it's not perfect, this bill is about saving the life of a child or saving permanent brain damage (from happening) to a child," said Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, explaining why she was voting in favor of the bill.
Opponents also cited the well-being of children in making the case for their opposition.
"Let's vote no," said Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland. "And let's work immediately to fund nurses at schools, ...the best possible care for our children."
The bill is the second attempt by Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, to permit non-nurses to administer a drug called Diastat to school children experiencing seizures. Labor unions, including those representing nurses, teachers and support staff, oppose the bill. They argue that the medication, which must be injected into the patient's rectum, is difficult to administer and should only be done by a nurse. Supporters, including parents of epileptic students, said that most schools don't have a nurse on site every day and that their children must be protected if a seizure occurred during the school day.
The bill says school employees who volunteer to administer the drug will receive training.
The bill now returns to the Senate -- which approved it 32-4 earlier this year -- for a final vote that would send it to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.