April 4, 2024

Gaston Leads Committee Passage of Proposal to Enhance Safety Near School Buses

The Public Safety and Security Committee’s Senate Chair Herron Keyon Gaston led passage last month of legislation to enhance student safety near parked school buses and support the recruitment and retention of both firefighters and police during a meeting ahead of a key legislative deadline.

The bills, which will now move to the state Senate for consideration, were top priorities of Gaston, D-Bridgeport, who backed the legislation in an effort to address concerns raised by his constituents in Bridgeport.

The first bill allows Connecticut towns and cities the option of adopting monitoring systems to detect motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus and issue offending drivers a fine of $250. The proposal directly responds to data from the city of Bridgeport, which indicated that nearly 10,000 drivers had been recorded illegally passing stopped school buses in the first six months of this academic year.

“We want to make sure that public safety is our top priority for all residents across the state of Connecticut but particularly I wanted to lift this bill because it’s coming out of Bridgeport and I wanted to make sure that Bridgeport remains a safe place,” Gaston said following Tuesday’s meeting.

“Our kids should understand that we have their back and our parents should understand that we are prioritizing the safety of their young people, our most precious cargo,” he said.

The committee also passed a pair of bills designed to help fire departments and police departments recruit and retain qualified candidates. One bill explores mortgage assistance for uniformed members of paid and volunteer departments as well as tuition waivers for firefighters and their children.

“Our firefighters do a herculean job in terms of responding to various kinds of crisis — whether that is a person’s house on fire and they are responding to the call or they are going to the scene of an accident, where someone may have been injured on our roadways,” Gaston said.

“We want them to know that their work is very important. We want to acknowledge that work but also put our money where our mouth is and incentivize firefighters to stay on the job,” he said. “We want you to know that we’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you.”

The legislation advanced by the committee also seeks to remove financial burdens for towns seeking to recruit new police officers and provide financial support including tuition waivers and mortgage assistance to help officers stay on the job.

“It’s important for officers to know we are exploring ways to ensure that our police departments are fully staffed and we’re also looking at incentives to help keep them on the force so they can continue the work of keeping our residents safe,” Gaston said.

The public safety panel advanced all three bills out of committee on a consent calendar, meaning the proposals had broad, bipartisan support and no lawmaker sought the opportunity to oppose them. The meeting marked the Public Safety and Security Committee’s final day to pass legislation during the 2024 session.

Posted by Hugh McQuaid