The Connecticut Assembly is convening for a rare Saturday session today, May 1, 2010.
Among other items on the agenda for the Senate is a bill to encourage school districts to equip their school buses with seat belts. A version of this legislation passed in the House yesterday by a vote of 125-18.
Author of the bill, Representative Antonio Guerra (D-Rocky Hill), had initially called for seat belts to be mandatory on all buses by 2011. Guerra had written the bill following the tragedy in January, when a Rocky Hill student, Vikas Parikh, was killed in a tragic accident on I-84. http://www.examiner.com/x-10548-Hartford-Special-Interests-Examiner~y2010m1d10-School-bus-safety-debate
The Transportation Committee, which is co-chaired by Guerra, modified the original legislation. The version passed by the committee called for seat belts to be on all buses purchased after 2012.
A further compromise was engineered on the House floor. The new proposal calls for the state of Connecticut to pay for 50% of the sales tax paid on the cost of installing seat belts. The sales tax would be lowered from 6% to 3%.
The expense to the state would be offset by an increase in the fees charged to restore a suspended or revoked driver’s license. An additional $50 would be charge, increasing the costs to $175. The additional money would be put into a “non-lapsing” account specifically set aside to defray the expense of seat belt installation. The revenue this would generate has been estimated at $2.1 million annually by the Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA).
It is Guerra’s hope that this will serve as enough of an incentive to school districts that seat belts will become commonplace on all school buses. Under the bill, districts would still bear the cost of the installation (estimated at a cost of up to $106 million by OFA http://www.housedems.ct.gov/guerrera/pr029-10.asp#043010b) then they would be reimbursed by the state for half of the sales tax they paid.