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Legislation on School-Bus Seat Belts Pending in Congress, Several States

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Employing a variety of incentives and threats, several pieces of legislation concerning seat belts on school buses are due for consideration in statehouses and in the Congress.

Bills are pending in the legislatures of at least five states, including Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Texas, according to the National Coalition for Seat Belts on School Buses.

And at the federal level last month, Representative Peter H. Kostmayer, Democrat of Pennsylvania, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would provide financial incentives for states requiring that new school buses come equipped with seat belts. The bill authorizes $30 million over three years in incentive grants to defray the cost of installing seat belts and to provide educational programs on seat-belt use.

Early next month, Representative Lawrence J. Smith, Democrat of Florida, intends to introduce a bill in the House that would cut off federal funds to school districts that do not require seat belts in new school buses, according to a legislative assistant. The bill would probably not cost the government any money, said Stephanie Kennan, the Representative's aide.

Both Congressmen introduced similar legislation last year, but no action was taken on either bill. "They were introduced too late in the year," an aide to Representative Kostmayer said.

A 'Good' State Bill

Members of the national coalition have helped draft several of the seatbelt bills currently being considered by state legislatures.

According to Laura Schwartz, a coalition member from Skokie, Ill., who worked on an Illinois measure now before lawmakers, the coalition believes a "good" state bill should:

Require that all new school buses come with properly installed seat belts. The coalition maintains that it is not feasible to require states to retrofit old buses that may not support the belts.

Indemnify drivers and operators so they are not responsible if a child who is not wearing a seat belt gets injured.

Provide for the costs of seat-belt installation on all new buses and fund classroom instruction in the use of the devices.--br

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