Paulding schools' transportation director helped convince one state lawmaker to work to reverse a year-old law critics said put bus-riding students in danger.
Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill today, Feb. 15, that took effect immediately to change how traffic must stop for a school bus stopped to load or unload students.
Paulding schools Transportation Director Trey Studstill said he contacted District 31 State Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, and asked him to support legislation changing the law after it passed in the late hours of the 2018 session.
"I stated safety is always paramount for our students," Studstill said.
Heath then sponsored Senate Bill 25, which was the first bill Kemp signed into law since taking office in January. It changes a 2018 law that allowed drivers to pass a stopped school bus going in the opposite direction on a road or highway separated by only a paved center turn lane.
The new law requires a grass median, unpaved area or physical barrier to be the only lawful conditions when a vehicle can pass a bus with its warning lights engaged for loading or unloading passengers.
It makes it clear the presence of only a paved turn lane does not allow passing a stopped school bus, and mirrors a law that had been in place since 1954, a news release stated.
Paulding schools spokesman Jay Dillon said it was "fair to say that Mr. Studstill was one of the key voices who helped to get this law changed."
He said Heath asked Studstill to help with the bill's "language and exactly what the new law needed to change, which he did."
Studstill said he worked with fellow members of the Georgia Association of Pupil Transportation to convince lawmakers of the need for the change.
He said he contacted Heath who said there were "valid concerns" from the group about the need for a change.
Studstill said the bill merely took the 1954 law and added language that clarified where passing a stopped bus was allowed.
Heath, whose district includes part of Paulding County, thanked Studstill for bringing the issue to his attention. He commended “Gov. Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, (House) Speaker David Ralston, my colleagues in the Senate and our counterparts in the House on their quick action on SB 25."
"By passing this legislation quickly and it becoming law immediately, we have increased our children’s safety and clarified the rules for our citizens so they do not unintentionally break the law.
"Keeping our children as safe as possible is a top priority and I am proud of all the work that went into SB 25 becoming law,” Heath said.