AUSTIN, Texas — State lawmakers are considering another attempt at requiring seat belts on new school buses in Texas.
The legislation, SB 693, calls for three-point belts on school buses beginning with model year 2018. The Texas Senate approved the bill on Wednesday in a 25-6 vote, moving it to the House for consideration.
Ten years ago, Texas passed legislation that required three-point belts on school buses starting in 2010, but only if the state Legislature appropriated money to reimburse school districts for the cost of the restraint systems. Since state funding is not being provided, school districts don’t have to comply. A few Texas districts, including Houston Independent School District, have begun voluntarily equipping their new buses with three-point belts.
The new proposal, authored by Texas Sen. Sylvia Garcia, would not be contingent on funding from the Legislature. However, the bill would allow school boards to vote to opt out if they determine “that the district's budget does not permit the district to purchase a bus that is equipped with the [three-point] seat belts required by this subsection.”
In addition to school buses and school activity buses operated by districts and contractors, Garcia’s bill would cover multifunction school activity buses and school-chartered buses.
"The goal of this legislation is to protect children, prevent injuries, and demonstrate that the state of Texas is serious about the safety of school children," Garcia said in a press release. "We spend a lot of tax dollars educating children to buckle up. Not requiring them to buckle up on the way to school is inconsistent.”