HB49: ‘Healthy Utah School Buses’ bill called a bailout in Senate Education Committee

By Blakely Gull
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would replace “dirty” Utah school buses with new fuel-efficient models was finally given a favorable recommendation for floor consideration after a lawmaker calls it a bailout.

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, presented a second draft of HB49 to the Senate Education Committee hoping to pass the bill before the nearing end of the legislative session.

“There’s new money available this year, and I urge that we consider the health, safety, and welfare of our schoolchildren and move this bill forward in the process,” Handy said.

Photo-Utah State Office of Education

Photo-Utah State Office of Education

If passed, the bill would allow the State Board of Education to award grants to both school districts and charter schools to replace aging school buses with new models that use alternative diesel fuel. However, in order to receive the grant, schools would have to match the amount given to them.

Handy joked to the committee, “Since we may not have the Healthy Utah initiative this session, how about if we retitle the bill as ‘Healthy Utah School Buses?’”

When the bill was first presented to the committee earlier in the session Sen. Howard Stephenson called it a “bailout” for districts that decide to spend their budgeted money in other areas.

Stephenson made similar claims at the Senate Education Committee on March 2, when he said that the bill “rewards those who have been spending the money in other areas and not on dirty buses.”

Rather than the State Board of Education awarding the grant money, Stephenson proposed that the funds be disbursed through the Capitol Outlay Foundation Program.

According to Stephenson, the funding would funnel through the school building foundation program and districts would receive money “relative to their tax effort and tax wealth.”

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