Bill to put air conditioning, heat in school buses fails

By Maddie Scott | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — A Senate bill that would have required heating and air-conditioning systems in school buses failed on the Louisiana House floor Tuesday.

The House rejected the measure 42-57 after nearly 1 ½ hours of debate. Senate Bill 26 would have required the systems on every school bus bought on and after Aug 1. Then in 2027, the bill would have required all school buses to be equipped with them.

Rep. Vanessa LaFleur, D-Baton Rouge, who presented the bill in the House, said the dates would have allowed school districts “a runway” to meet requirements. But many representatives were concerned about the bill’s dependence on local funding and the difficulty that many communities would have finding the money.

“What we’re asking for here is that you’re not placing our children on buses that don’t have heat and don’t have air conditioning,” LaFleur said.

Rep. John Wyble, R-Bogalusa, said lawmakers should prioritize the bill but could not if there’s no state funding available.

“Unless we’re willing to fund this as a legislative body, you’re going to impose an unfunded mandate on local school districts across this state who simply cannot afford this,” Wyble said.

The bill, written by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, had passed the Senate 33-4.

Rep. Sylvia Taylor, D-Laplace, spoke in favor of the bill, saying the bill is a matter of the health and safety of children.

“Have you ever gone into your car and opened the door and see the heat jumps on you as soon as you walk to the door of your car? It’s affected all of us, especially the elderly people like me,” Taylor said.

Speaking against the bill, Rep. R. Dewith Carrier, R-Oakdale, kept his comments short.

“My poor little town is as broke as the Ten Commandments,” Carrier said. “We can hardly pay anything.”

Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite, said he has tried passing a bill requiring seat belts on school buses for four years in a row, yet it’s failed every time due to lack of funding. He noted the same problem in trying to require the heating and air-conditioning systems.

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