SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to ensure students receive instruction on CPR and other lifesaving emergency procedures split the House Education Committee on Wednesday, drawing discussion on the proper role of government and the earmarking of funds. 

HB307 ultimately passed the committee by a single vote, 7-6. The bill calls for $200,000 of the state education budget to be set aside for CPR and lifesaving training, and mandates that such training be a component of the state's health education curriculum.

Emergency lifesaving procedures already are part of the Utah core curriculum, said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, the bill's sponsor, but because of a lack of funding, many schools — particularly those in rural areas — have discontinued the practice.

"We talk a lot about kids being prepared for college and careers, but this is a skill that could prepare them for life," Moss said. "I don't think there's any greater skill than to be able to save a person's life."

Several lawmakers expressed concern with mandating the instruction of CPR in schools. Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, asked why it would be necessary to require the State Board of Education to include a topic in the curriculum that it already has chosen to include, particularly when the bill offers no new money to do so.

To illustrate his point, Nielson described a lengthy list of life skills that could be potentially required of schools, which included anything from how to pick out a good watermelon at the market to self-hypnosis and relaxation. He suggested that given the realities of a limited education budget, the State Board of Education should be allowed, as the state Constitution dictates, to determine educational priorities and oversee the administration of education funds.

"I don't believe it's our role to mandate to the board how to spend every dollar," Nielson said. "We are delineating funds. We're not increasing any money going to the state school board. We're simply restricting their choices on how it can be spent."

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After a motion to hold the bill failed, the bill was passed out to the full House with a favorable recommendation.

Prior to the vote, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, suggested to the sponsor that since CPR education represents a public benefit, the funding for the bill could possibly be split between the state's general and education funds to lesson the burden on school districts.

Moss said she was amenable to that suggestion but did not indicate whether she planned to pursue such an amendment when the bill reached the House floor.