SPRINGFIELD-In a bid to improve school bus safety, the Illinois General Assembly sent Gov. Pat Quinn a bill allowing schools to equip buses with cameras over accusations that the idea was merely a ploy to profit the city of Chicago.
In a 38-16 vote with two voting present, the Illinois Senate passed the bill, which passed the House by a 64-54 vote just hours earlier on the Legislature's final day of session.
"Let me be clear. It is up to the school districts if they want to implement this," Senate sponsor Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago) said. "They don't have to do this."
Under the plan, school districts could partner with cities and counties to outfit their school buses with cameras, which would photograph the license plate numbers of vehicles that drive around a bus that has its 'stop' arm deployed while students are getting on or off.
The bill provides that money from any fines collected under the voluntary program would be equally divided between the school district and the city or county administering the program.
Motorists would face a fine of $150 for a first-time offense and fines of $500 for any subsequent violations. Motorists caught by the cameras would not face moving violations as they would if a police officer witnessed them going around a stopped bus.
Munoz made it clear that his proposal would not be subject to the same kind of scandal that plagued Chicago's red-light camera program.
"There is not one company in this," he said. "It is up to the school districts to pick who they want as a vendor."