Sadie's Bill is heading to the governor's office for her signature.
The Alabama Senate on Thursday gave final approval to the bill, a piece of legislation that would require restaurants and other commercial food establishments to more safely secure their grease traps.
Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, proposed the legislation after Sadie Grace Andrews, an Auburn 3-year-old and the bill's namesake, drowned in an unsecured grease trap outside of Bruster's Ice Cream on East University Drive.
"I'm pleased for the family," Whatley said. "All of my colleagues just got behind this bill and got behind the effort to make this state safer by protecting children from this happening again."
Whatley’s bill, if signed by the governor, would require outside grease traps at restaurants to have a lock or security mechanism and be heavy enough to prevent accidental opening or intrusion.
The covers would essentially need to be metal manhole covers that can't be manipulated with human weight or without the proper tools.
State Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, sponsored the bill in the House, where it passed earlier this week.
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"It was the goal of the family, Sen. Whatley and myself that we don't negatively impact the businesses of the state but bring awareness to this risk," Lovvorn said. "I look forward to getting some closure for the family and the first responders that responded that day."
Lovvorn said he believes most businesses are in compliance but some just aren't aware of the risks. He said he hopes this legislation will prevent future incidents like Sadie's death.
Sadie died in October 2017. She had been playing with her siblings before falling into the 6-foot container used to trap used cooking grease and other solids, drowning before her parents could reach her.
When the bill was approved in committee last month, lawmakers added an amendment that would name the bill the “Sadie Grace Andrews Act.”
"By us being able to name this after Sadie Grace, with her name on it, she'll continue to protect children and people all over. Her legacy will carry on," Lovvorn said.
The Senate passed the bill in early February, and the House passed it Tuesday night with several amendments. The amendments sent the bill back up to the Senate for a second go-around.
The changes in the House reduced the fine for non-compliance from $500 to $100. It also allows cities and municipalities to keep higher standards than the minimum standards established by the legislation.
Sadie’s death and a meeting with her parents sparked Whatley to make a change to the law. State law doesn’t currently regulate grease trap safety and local regulations are often limited in scope, at least in Auburn.
After Sadie died, city officials launched an investigation into its grease trap policies and the case, which the Lee County Coroner’s Office ruled accidental, was to be put before a grand jury for disposition. The coroner said the grease trap “was not secure.”
The outcome of the case hasn’t been made public.
Before the incident, the city inspected traps — used to collect used grease and solids produced in the process of cooking — to ensure that they were regularly emptied in order to prevent the city’s wastewater system from becoming clogged.
But maintenance and safety were up to the private business. Before Sadie's accident, Bruster’s trap was inspected in June 2017.
The Alabama Department of Public Health will soon begin conducting inspections to ensure that restaurants and establishments are meeting the new requirements.
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