Senator Gaston Leads Passage Of Child-Protecting Bus Safety Bill

State Senator Herron Gaston, chair of the Public Safety and Security Committee, led passage of a bill that would crack down on drivers illegally passing school buses after Bridgeport’s school bus camera safety program revealed about 10,000 drivers ignored protocol while students were being picked up or dropped off during a six-month period.

He bill is now before the House for a vote. See Gaston remarks above.

The freshman legislator faces a challenge by City Councilman Ernie Newton who occupied Connecticut’s 23rd Senate seat 20 years ago. Gaston is the heavy favorite for the party endorsement May 14. Newton will require 15 percent support from convention delegates to qualify for an August primary. In lieu of that he must seek district signatures to force a primary.

Summary of bill:

Senate Bill 420 (sSB420 File No. 265) seeks to amend existing statutes concerning the illegal passing of school buses, focusing on the use of digital video school bus violation detection monitoring systems. The bill specifies that vehicles must stop at least ten feet from a school bus displaying flashing red lights, unless separated by a safety island or physical barrier. It sets fines for violations, with a first offense at $450 and subsequent offenses ranging from $500 to $1000 or up to 30 days imprisonment, or both. The bill allows municipalities or local or regional boards of education to install monitoring systems and contract with private vendors for their operation. It requires annual reports from vendors, outlines the use of fine revenues to compensate vendors, and details the process for issuing a summons based on monitoring system evidence, including a police officer’s review and mailing the summons to the vehicle’s registered owner. The bill includes insertions and deletions to clarify these points and is set to take effect on July 1, 2024.

Furthermore, the bill authorizes municipalities to adopt ordinances for the use of monitoring systems to enforce the stop arm law, with a set fine of $250 for violations. It maintains that digital images produced by these systems are sufficient evidence of a violation and must be destroyed either 90 days after creation if no summons is issued or upon final disposition of a case. The bill also ensures that all defenses available to a person alleged to have committed a violation remain intact and that images from monitoring systems cannot be used in other civil or criminal proceedings, except under certain conditions. The bill provides flexibility in how fines collected may be spent starting in FY 25 and includes technical changes, such as redefining “monitoring system” and removing the requirement for live images. The Public Safety and Security Committee has recommended the bill with a unanimous vote.



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