JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Two PQs and two roll-call votes later, the Missouri House gave initial approval of legislation that would enable city buses to transport high schoolers.
Sponsored by Rep. Chuck Basye, HB 1366 would authorize school boards to contract with municipalities to transport high school students. The bill was amended in committee to require the presence of an adult supervisor and that seating be designated solely for the students.
Rep. Bryan Spencer proposed an amended that would roll back the requirements of supervision and designated seating.
“The people from the Kansas City School District and St. Louis School District and the transportation authorities did not like the amendments because it makes the bill to expensive for them,” Basye said.
But the amendments were added for a reason, according to Rep. Jay Barnes. He points out that cities cannot deny public transit to people, so a sex offender or a drug dealer could be on the bus. The legislation was amended to protect children.
Rep. Rory Rowland, D-Independence, was concerned for the safety of the children from a driver — or rather, driverless — standpoint. With advancing technologies, automated vehicles are not out of the realm of possibility.
“My concern is that we would have a situation that we would have city buses contracted and we would put children on those buses and they would not have a driver,” Rowland said. He introduced an amendment to the amendment regarding his concern.
Rowland wondered if driverless vehicles are programmed to make ethical decisions in the event of a potential crash. He presented a scenario of a driverless vehicle going down the street, on one side is a teacher with a group of second graders and on the other side a group of bicyclists and then a dog runs out in front of the vehicle. Rowland questioned if the vehicle is programmed to make that decision.
“From a safety perspective, driverless technology just isn’t there,” Rowland.
After previous question was moved, Rowland withdrew his amendment to the amendment and Spencer withdrew his amendment.
Supports argued that legislation will allow school districts to save money and make efficient use of public transit. They also pointed out city buses would be held to the same safety inspections as school buses.
Opponents said that school buses are safer for children and municipal buses.
“I just don’t feel comfortable sending children to school on city buses,” Rowland said.
Another PQ and the bill was perfected after two roll-call votes.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.