Transportation Committee passes bill to require seat belts on school buses

A proposal requiring seat belts on school buses moved one step closer to reality, as the legislature’s Transportation Committee voted in favor of the bill Monday 29-7.

A compromise was made prior to the vote that would require only new buses have seat belts beginning July 2012. Originally, co-chairman Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, sought to require every bus in the state have belts.

Although seat belt bills have come up in the past, the issue got fresh impetus following the death of a student from Rocky Hill in a school bus crash earlier this year. The transportation committee heard testimony last month that the death could have been prevented had Vikas Parikh been wearing a seat belt.

What if it happens again tomorrow and we had a chance to change that?” Guerrera said before the vote.

But five Republicans said, while sympathetic, said they view the proposal as a financial burden on towns.

“I believe very strongly about no, and that means zero, unfunded mandates,” said Sen. Michael A. McLachlan, R-Danbury.

Although the proposal to put seat belts in school buses has come up repeatedly–23 times in the last two decades–this is the first such measure to make it out of the Transportation Committee.