New emergency legislation to allow school districts an additional year to install electronic child alert systems to prompt school bus drivers to check for students at the end of routes is not moving forward after the bill’s sponsor resigned office in response to sexual misconduct allegations.
A spokeswoman for former state Sen. Tony Mendoza, who stepped down this week rather than face expulsion, told School Transportation News on Friday that the language in SB 1068 would need to be picked up by another lawmaker and attached to another piece of legislation.
SB 1068 was placeholder legislation introduced last week to amend the compliance deadline of Title 13 of the state’s school bus regulations. It would have extended the original deadline of the start of the 2018-2019 school year. The California Highway Patrol approved the provisions on Dec. 28 for installing the alarm systems on approximately 30,000 vehicles, which gave school districts little time to plan for meeting the mandate.
The requirement was first called for in SB 1072, the Paul Lee Law that Mendoza introduced in response to the school bus death of a 19-year-old, non-verbal student with autism on Sept. 11, 2015.
Representatives of the California Department of Education’s Office of School Transportation told STN on Thursday that they remained hopeful another senator may take up the bill. They were also consulting with the agency’s legislative council on potential next steps.
STN left two voice mails with officials on Friday to receive updates amid meetings being held in Sacramento. But those messages were not returned at this writing.
As is, school districts would still need to comply with the Title 13 changes by the start of next school year. Several school districts told STN in an upcoming March magazine article that they would be unable to meet the requirement in time because of product backlog from manufacturers and the long lead times needed by bus dealers and distributors to install the systems.
School districts also cited concerns over cost, which could be as much as $2,000 per bus. SB 1072 did not include any funding to assist districts with meeting the mandate. The California Association of School Business Officials and the California Association of School Transportation Officials lobbied Mendoza’s office on behalf of the school districts to introduce the new legislation.
A message left with a spokeswoman for CASBO was also unreturned at this report.