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Politics / Issues

Lawmakers Back Increased School Bus Safety

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Motorists would face higher fines if they drive past stopped school buses, under a proposal that was unanimously approved Thursday by the House and has received support in the Senate.

The proposal (HB 37 and SB 290) would increase from $100 to $200 the minimum fine for failing to stop for school buses.

The minimum fine would increase from $200 to $400 for motorists who pass buses on the side where children get on and off the buses.

“This bill is a step in the right direction,” House sponsor Ardian Zika, R-Land O’ Lakes, said before the House approved the measure. “Today, we are sending a loud and clear message that the Florida House of Representatives stands by the safety of our children and our communities.”

But Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, said he was “reluctantly” supporting the bill because he thinks the proposed fines are too high.

“We’re fining someone up to $400 because they look away for a second, maybe because their kids are fighting in the backseat, and they don’t see that they’re passing a school bus that’s stopped,” Geller said. “That’s just too high. It’s just too much money to be charging for what is likely to be an inadvertent mistake.”

Bill co-sponsor Emily Slosberg, however, pushed back against such arguments.

“I heard concern about the $400 cost being too expensive for violators,” Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, said. “Why should we care more about violator’s pocket than the value of our children’s lives?”

The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, has been unanimously approved by three committees and is ready to go to the full Senate.