The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

McCabe: School bus seatbelts bill may get creative funding


When the issue seems unusually challenging, Rep. Gina McCabe (Rep.-Goldendale) has a reliable tool to help her decide how to vote.

“It just comes down to ethics,” she says, “and we just take the heat on the other side if we need to. I ask, ‘How am I going to feel tomorrow morning when I wake up after this vote? Is it who I am, is it my character, is it my word?’ And I vote that way.”

Sounds simple enough. But there’s a reason why the stereotypical image of politicians ranks in most people’s minds just a shade above used car salesmen: politicians really are incredibly petty an incredible amount of the time. Including in Olympia. Stories could be told. Compared to many in the capitol, McCabe’s approach is against the grain.

McCabe is presently ushering eight different bills, with remarkable success particularly for a freshman. “Seatbelts is the most exciting one,” she says, referring to a bill that would put seatbelts in school buses. The idea appeals on a safety level to everyone, though its cost to fit all school buses in the state is around $9 million. McCabe sites studies of bus accidents that reveal children in a rolling bus are tossed about like clothes in a dryer.

“All I asked for was a study, because the last study was done in 2008,” she says. “I think it is about $80,000 or $90,000. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association came out in 2004 to fully endorse seatbelts on school buses for the first time ever. The OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) came in and had a meeting with me. He told me, ‘I have been here 14 years and I retire next year, and this is my project.’ I said, ‘You know it is $9 million, right?’ He said, ‘I do, and I have a funny solution,’ and I said OK. His idea is fantastic.”

In May of 2105—just to pick a sample month—there were 2,100 infractions citing people who drive around a bus when its stop sign is out. Each infraction is $390. That money goes currently into most of the school districts, and meanwhile bus drivers are saying people are going to get killed sometime by cars passing buses with stop signs out and lights flashing. “So he said, ‘We are going to take that $390 [per infraction] and divide it into thirds. A third goes to the seatbelts, and that would fund it.’”

For added economic impact, there’s the company that puts cameras in school buses . “It’s going to do like the red light ticket plan,” McCabe says, “so the company is going to put the camera on the bus for free, and everybody who passes a bus is going to get a picture taken of their plate.” The company would then get some funding for keeping the cameras current “and working on every single bus in Washington state and also reviewing the footage, and if there is an infraction, they’ll send it to the police.”

Beyond the seatbelt bill, McCabe’s other projects include:

• House Bill 2183, or “Erin’s Law,” would establish a task force to develop sexual abuse prevention curriculum for grades K-12.

• House Bill 2287, called the “Travis Alert Act,” would help first responders identify needs and best practices when helping persons with disabilities during emergencies.

• House Bill 2639 would require the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to study and analyze the costs and advantages to equipping school buses with seat belts.

• House Bill 2711 would commission a study to determine the availability of sexual assault nurse examiners in Washington, and make recommendations for improvements.

• House Bill 2970 would strengthen current voyeurism laws and address voyeuristic practices like “up-skirting.”

All legislation McCabe sponsored this session was approved by committees prior to the Friday, Feb. 5 policy committee cutoff deadline imposed by the Legislature. All policy bills that have not passed out of their respective committees before the deadline will likely not advance further this legislative session.

“Ideas for many of the bills I’ve sponsored have come directly from constituents,” says McCabe. “This is why it is so important for people to be involved with their state government.”


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