Because thousands of children are injured in camp accidents each summer, it has been argued that there is need for better safety standards in youth camps.
Most parents agree, and I have also gotten some mail from camp operators safety standards Rep. Ronald A. Sarasin (R-Conn.), one of the sponsors of the Youth Camp Safety Act, recently received a letter from camp operator Philip H. Lilenthal that said, in part:
"I hope that you listen to responsible members of the camping community such as Alan Stolz, and to the American Camping Association. I think you realize that most responsible camp directors welcome the Youth Camp Safety Act."
However, some camp operators have been vocal in their opposition to regulation. They warn that camp safety laws would create "another vast bureaucracy" in Washington.
This was the argument used by Rep. E. G. Shuster (R-Pa.) when he protested my report of his 10-minute attendance at a subcommittee meeting that considered the camp safety bill. Shuster said he was all in favor of protecting our children, but he had serious doubts about letting the federal government have a hand in that endeavor.
My response was that Shuster's argument didn't impress me. If he had done his homework, he would have known that the bill does not set up any vast federal bureaucracy.
Last week, the subcommittee finished its markup of the bill and voted. Republicans and Democrats joined a bipartisan move to protect our children. The vote was 8 to 1 in favor. The one vote against was cast by (how did you guess?) Rep. Shuster.
This week - perhaps tomorrow - the full House Education and Labor Committee will consider the bill. The sponsors have agreed to accept some perfecting amendments, and they hope for quick approval.
If they get it, the measure will go to the Rules Committee, and the issue will be squarely in President Carter's lap. He will have to make up his mind whether he wants to ask the House leadership to block the bill in the Rules Committee.
Before the President makes that decision, I hope he will take two minutes to read the bill.
If he does, he will find that its stated prupose is to "provide federal assistance to the states in developing programs for implementing safety standards for youth camps, to provide for the federal implementation of safety standards for youth camps on states which do not implement such standards."
Under the heading "Congressional Intent Regarding State Involvement," the bill says: It is the intent of Congress that the states assume responsibility for the development and enforcement of effective youth camp safety standards. The Secretary (of HEW) shall provide, in addition to financial and technical assistance, consultative services necessary to assist in the development and implementation of state youth camp safety standards."
Camp executives, state authorities and knowledgeable citizens would help draw up model standards. HEW would promulgate these standards, but eithe house of Congress would be able to veto them by simple resolution.
For all of this work nationwide, the bill would authorize the expenditure of $7.5 million, about 80 per cent of it earmarked to be channeled to the state to help them set up the "vast federal bureaucracy" that Rep. Shuster fears.
As you can see, the Youth Camp Safety Act would do for camp safety what federal "interference" has done for traffic regulations and highway safety. Each state sets its own traffic rules, but is encouraged to follow model legislation designed to protect tourists from every state as they travel about the country.
This is not the kind of federal bureaucracy and "interference" that makes me yearn for Rep. Shuster'sprotection.