Hinds files bill to increase school bus safety in wake of Sanderson Academy student’s death

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Among the eight bills filed by state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, as part of an agenda inspired by a series of public forums is one in response to the death of a Sanderson Academy student in a school bus accident last October.

The measure, which would require school buses to be equipped with a sensor to ensure that riders have fully cleared the passenger side door before it closes, was requested by Mohawk Trail Regional School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti following the Oct. 28 death of 9-year-old Summer Steele. The door had closed on her and the bus began moving, dragging the third-grader a short distance before striking her.

Hinds filed the bill, along with four that had been filed in the last session by his predecessor, state Sen. Benjamin Downing, and three other pieces of legislation that grew out of six “Speak Up Western Mass” gatherings in December and January throughout the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District.

In announcing an “Agenda for Western Mass” on Wednesday, Hinds said, “There is tremendous energy from voters right now and I intend to translate those priorities into policy. We hear very clearly the need to focus on issues ranging from the economy and the environment, to education funding reform, changing state regulations that impact small towns, standing with veterans and more.”

Hinds, who hosted five public forums, including one at the town hall in his native Buckland, added, “I will continue to channel the ideas and feedback I receive from community leaders and constituents into direct action, and my Senate team is available to assist those who require help navigating through the bureaucracy of state government.”

His other bills include one, which an aide said was requested by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, to include in its membership a representative of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer community, and another that would clear from Criminal Offender Record Information reports offenses for which a pardon has been granted.

Another bill would extend income-eligibile child care to households until they make more than 90 percent of the state median income, instead of the 85 percent allowed currently. The benefit, which is allowed for households at or below 50 percent of state median income, would increase the upper limit “to help upwardly mobile working families who still depend on financial assistance to access safe, quality child care.”

In addition to those bills, drafted in response to direct suggestions received from state and regional officials, community leaders and constituents, Hinds filed legislation that Downing had filed previously.

This included measures calling for a study to assure the availability of vocational education in all regions of the state, authorizing sale of farmer-distiller products at farmers’ markets in Massachusetts, requiring insurance adjusters working for any insurer in the Commonwealth to be licensed, and allowing volunteer ambulance service providers performing basic life support to staff an ambulance with one EMT and one EMS First Responder.

Hinds re-filed the Downing bills after receiving positive feedback from constituents, parents and voc-education advocates, local farmers and Buy Local organizations, and local volunteer ambulance service departments.

Hinds, who won his first public office after a three-way primary and an election in November, has received more than 800 calls, letters and emails from constituents in his first six weeks, leading him to co-sponsor 77 proposals filed by other legislators on issues ranging from developing the western Massachusetts’ economy and tackling income inequality to advancing development of renewable energy and protecting tackling the state’s opioid epidemic.

He plans to host at least 10 “agenda-free, unscripted” public forums in rotating locations across the district each year for residents and local officials to ask questions, share concerns, and make recommendations.

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