Haslam’s school bus safety bill doesn’t require seat belts

Gov. Bill Haslam and Rep. JoAnne Favors have dueling approaches to address safety concerns following the Nov. 21 crash of a school bus in Chattanooga in which six Woodmore Elementary School students died, reports the Times-Free Press.

Haslam introduced legislation Wednesday that seeks to address age requirements for school bus drivers as well as mandate new procedures for school systems, bus drivers and companies to follow. (Note: It’s HB322, sponsored by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, at the administration’s request.)

But the governor’s approach omits a requirement that Favors wants that new school buses have safety belt restraint systems.

Favors, D-Chattanooga, said her bill, which she intends to introduce shortly, would require that after July 1, 2018, that new buses owned, operated or leased by public or private school systems have restraint systems that are federally approved. 

Her intent is to phase in the requirement so that school systems and contract drivers or companies wouldn’t be faced with huge expenses on the front end.

Meanwhile, Favors said she agreed to introduce a bill, filed earlier today, that only addresses new age requirements for drivers and driver backgrounds. That was done at the request of Senate Minority Lee Harris, D-Memphis, Favors said.

The Chattanooga lawmaker said that’s not her seat belt bill and that she won’t be deterred by the governor’s preferred approach that rejects calls for school bus seat belts.

“No, absolutely not,” Favors said. “It’s needed because you do need restraints. I’m hoping it will pass [this year], but if doesn’t it will involve us all in dialogue about this. 

“And,” the representative added, “we’ll just keep doing it until we get it passed.”

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