Seat belts for school buses passes House

The House overwhelmingly voted in favor of providing tax incentives to school systems that use buses with 3-point seat belts, paid for by increasing the fines to reinstate suspended licenses.

Seat belts on school buses got a fresh impetus following the death of a student from Rocky Hill in bus crash earlier this year. The Transportation Committee heard testimony earlier this year that the student’s death could have been prevented had the student been wearing a seat belt.

But support for requiring seat belts on all new school buses faded following a $106 million cost estimate for school systems by the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis and no proposal on how to pay for that.

That didn’t deter Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the committee.

He took that and crafted a way to pay for the costs of the belts. His bill cuts in half the amount of sales tax paid on these buses from 6 to 3 percent. Guerrera said during an interview it costs up to $8,500 per bus to have these belts, and slashing the sales tax will “eat away at the majority of that cost.”

To make up for the state revenue that will be lost from the sales-tax reduction, the bill raises the fine to reinstate a suspended or revoked driving license by $50 to a total of $175.

Guerrera said OFA has estimated this will generate $2.1 million a year.

“This is the perfect. It’s no longer a mandate and we figured out a way to pay for it,” he said.

The bill passed the House 125-18 and now heads to the Senate.