Seat Belt Mandate Bill Triggers Big Cost Concerns

MACo Policy Analyst, Robin Clark Eilenberg, testified to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in opposition to SB 183, School Vehicles – Seat Belts – Requirements on February 2, 2016. The bill would require every school vehicle registered in Maryland to be equipped with seat belts for every seat in the vehicle.

MACo appreciates the bill’s underlying goal of improving student safety on school vehicles. The reason for MACo’s opposition is not the policy change; the reason is the cost of the mandate.

Maryland school boards do not have independent ability to raise revenue. They are completely dependent on county, state, and federal funding. As this bill does not reference any state or federal funding, it is a mandate that requires 100% local funding.

From MACo’s testimony,

Achieving the aims of the bill through either retrofitting existing school buses or purchasing new school buses has been estimated to cost more than $50 million. Without a State partnership to reach the policy aims of SB 183, this legislation represents an unfunded mandate on local school boards.

 For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.