HARRISBURG, Pa. — Legislation that would have affected the ability of school bus drivers working for private contractors to collect unemployment benefits has died in the state's General Assembly, as the bill’s prime sponsor has withdrawn his name from it.
House Bill (HB) 128 would have amended the state’s unemployment compensation law to eliminate the eligibility for school bus drivers working for bus companies to get such benefits over the summer break in between school years.
According to the Pennsylvania School Bus Association (PSBA), Rep. Dan Moul introduced the bill in the General Assembly on behalf of a contractor in his district. Moul reportedly believed that allowing school bus drivers who are employed by contractors to collect unemployment benefits during summer breaks inflates contractors’ operating costs and, therefore, inflates the costs that school districts incur in transporting their students.
The bill was last referred to the labor and industry committee in October. Upon learning of the legislation, the PSBA monitored all legislation that pertained to unemployment compensation to ensure that language from HB 128 would not be included.
The association also voiced its opposition to the bill.
“We discussed the legislation within our legislative committee and did have conversation with the representative about the negative impact it could have for private contractors,” PSBA Executive Director Selina Pittenger told SBF. “Some PSBA members outside of the legislative committee did hear about the legislation, either through local media or other rumors, and contacted the PSBA office about it. PSBA members who inquired about the legislation were encouraged to contact their legislator and relay information about the impact such legislation would have on their business and contracts.”
The association’s legislative committee also began to develop a position paper on the issue that was to be distributed to PSBA members for a grassroots lobbying effort against the bill, but Moul withdrew his name from it before the paper was finished.
“We are very happy that this bill is not going to move out of committee,” Pittenger said. “If it would have passed the General Assembly and been signed by the governor, it would have cost contractors and school districts much more. The sponsoring legislator proposed HB 128 because he believed that it would ultimately save school district transportation costs. PSBA speculated that many drivers would not return the next school year. This would further contribute to the driver shortages.”
Pittenger added that by her estimation, it costs approximately $1,000 per new driver to get them trained and qualified in Pennsylvania. Moreover, on average, the school bus industry in the state experiences an approximately 20 percent driver turnover rate, so if HB 128 had become law, she believes that rate would have most likely increased two-fold, if not more.
Pittenger also noted that the PSBA will continue to monitor legislation relating to unemployment compensation for any similar language that could be introduced by a legislator in the future.