TRENTON, N.J. — Lawmakers here have introduced two new bills that would provide funding for electric school buses and establish tougher penalties for road rage offenses involving school buses.
Senate Bill 2436, introduced by Sen. Patrick J. Diegnan, would require the State Board of Public Utilities (BPU) in partnership with the State Department of Transportation, State Department of Education, and New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, to develop and implement a three-year electric school bus pilot program that would assess the operational reliability and cost effectiveness of replacing diesel-powered school buses with electric school buses.
Under the bill, the BPU would award grants of up to $10 million in total from the state’s societal benefits charge for at least three school districts to purchase electric buses and install charging infrastructure. The bill would require the BPU to select at least one district from the northern, central, and southern regions of the state.
The bill also states that selected school districts would need to submit periodic reports to the BPU detailing the cost of operation for their electric buses and any reliability issues they have.
If Senate Bill 2436 is passed, the pilot program would start no later than six months after the bill’s effective date.
The bill is currently awaiting review from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, according to the state legislature’s website.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 3703, sponsored by Sen. Robert W. Singer, would increase penalties for road rage crimes involving school buses.
Singer introduced the bill last week after reading a report of a road rage incident involving a school bus in Howell, New Jersey, on April 16, in which a motorist punched a window on the bus with students on board, according to InsiderNJ.com.
Under current state law, criminal mischief is described as purposely damaging tangible property of another, and is categorized by the monetary value of the damage caused.
Senate Bill 3703 would upgrade the offense of criminal mischief to a crime of the fourth degree if a person damages or impairs the operation of a school bus in the presence of a student under 16 years of age. The offense would be punishable by up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Additionally, under the bill, if a student is injured during the road rage incident, the offense would be a crime of the third degree, punishable by three to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $15,000.
“Even in a high-traffic state like New Jersey, it is hard to believe that any driver could get so angry that they would put innocent children in harm’s way,” Singer told the news source. “There is no excuse for attacking a school bus filled with kids. What happened in Howell is every parent’s worst nightmare. We need to take action now, so that drivers know that this type of reckless behavior is completely unacceptable.”
Senate Bill 3703 is currently awaiting review by the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the state legislature’s website.