Legislation authored by Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, designed to lower costs for school districts was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives Thursday.
The legislation would correct language in a Type III transportation bill that was passed last year which inadvertently added significant costs to local school districts.
"The original bill was meant to increase the safety of children riding in school vans by adding restrictions to who could drive those vans," Ward said Thursday. "Because of the way the Department of Public Safety interpreted the law, however, it became an unfunded mandate for school districts. The bill we passed today eliminates this mandate but still makes the safety of our kids the No. 1 priority."
Type III school buses are generally vans and are typically driven by a coach or teacher to extracurricular activities. Under the 2007 law, these individuals would be required to have the same physical exams and alcohol and drug tests that are required for full-time bus drivers, adding significant costs for school districts.
The legislation passed Thursday corrects this problem by exempting "incidental" drivers, such as coaches and teachers, from the costly physical exam and the drug and alcohol tests. School employees whose sole duty is to transport students by bus or van must still meet all the requirements.
Compelling testimony was offered in committee regarding deaf teachers at the state academy being disqualified from driving Type III buses. In some cases, this new law meant deaf students were unable to get to extracurricular activities.
"Education Minnesota and the School Boards Association agreed this was the right thing to do," Ward said.
The Senate passed an identical bill, which will now be sent to the governor for his signature. More information may be obtained by contacting Ward at (651) 296-4333 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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