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State Journal: Bus belts backed; To the streets; Thankful?

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After languishing for two decades in the New Jersey legislature, a bill to require installation of seat belts on school buses may have a chance this year, thanks to a promise of support from Gov. James J. Florio.

Although Mr. Florio's clout is not great these days--his popularity continues to suffer from a tax revolt, and his fellow Democrats were routed in last fall's legislative elections--the endorsement may be enough to revive the bill, say backers.

"I want this to be a case when the interests of our children win out over special interests,'' the Governor said late last month. "There is no reason why advocates for children should be out-gunned in the high-powered lobbying and public-relations battles that take place in the Statehouse.''

The bill, which would require belts and higher seat backs in buses, has been opposed by school boards and bus owners. Critics cite studies showing that belts are not a cost-effective safety improvement.

Mr. Florio noted that the first mandatory-belt bill was introduced in 1973.

"The youngsters who this measure was originally aimed at helping have now grown up. They've got children of their own,'' he said. "We ought to be able to protect the new generation, even if we failed their parents.''

Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, who has been at loggerheads with the legislature for months over education funding, is touring schools across the state to mobilize public support for his position.

Mr. Romer, a Democrat, has sought without success to get the Republican-majority legislature to approve a tax increase for the schools.

At an Aurora high school recently, the Governor accused lawmakers of playing "bookkeeping games'' with the state's finances.

"You ought to be out protesting in the streets,'' he told students and parents.

A recent statement by Superintendent of Public Instruction H. Dean Evans of Indiana suggests that the GOP gubernatorial candidate plans a hard-hitting campaign against Gov. Evan Bayh.

Mr. Evans was responding to comments by an aide to Mr. Bayh crediting his administration for holding down taxes.

"We are all supposed to be thankful to Evan Bayh that this state is in the financial shape it is in. Thankful!'' Mr. Evans said. "Well, I find it difficult to be thankful for increased state spending during a recession.''

"Frankly, I'm a little fed up with the Governor's rhetoric,'' the superintendent added. ws--H.D.

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