A Franklin County Schools bus travels East Main Street Thursday afternoon. (Chanda Veno | State Journal)

A bill to give Kentucky schools the opportunity to install cameras on school buses, to catch illegal passing while children are embarking or disembarking, passed the state House Thursday. 

House Bill 34 would allow any school district in Kentucky to use third-party vendors to install cameras on the stop arm of school buses to catch violators who unlawfully pass buses. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Bernstadt, said, “We have vendors that are willing to install, maintain, review footage, issue the citations … collect the citations and distribute the funds,” in return for a percentage of the citation fine. Thus, it would cost the districts and the state no money, Goforth told the House.

He said that according to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, there were 1,634 illegal passes of school buses in the United States per day in 2019. 

However, "if the offender is not caught in the act, currently, by a police officer, it is nearly impossible to get a citation issued," he said. 

The third-party vendors would issue the citations and collect the money similar to bridge toll systems with stationary cameras that capture license plate numbers. 

The bill would increase the maximum fine for the first offense of illegal passing to $300, from $200. The fine for second offense within three years would remain $300 to $500. 

Goforth said that according to the transportation directors’ association, “This bill could generate well over $100 million annually in fines” if implemented nationwide. 

The House adopted an amendment Goforth offered to make several changes favored by the state Transportation Cabinet, two of which would allow it to contract for the service and give it 80 percent of the fines collected. The original bill gave 80 percent to the school district. 

Goforth, who entered the House in 2018, challenged then-Gov. Matt Bevin in last year’s Republican primary for governor, largely self-funding his campaign and getting 39% of the vote. The primary indicated weaknesses that led to Bevin’s defeat by Democrat Andy Beshear.

Several representatives agreed with Goforth that illegal bus passing is a major issue with their constituents, but others expressed apprehension about the bill. Among them was Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, who voted no and said, “When we turn over the ability of our state to for-profit organizations to write … citations, I think that’s a slippery slope.” 

The bill passed 86-5, with the other four no votes coming from Reps. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington; Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge; Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger; and Jerry Miller, R-Louisville.

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