Democrat legislators are set to introduce a measure on Wednesday that would push to invest $25 billion into efforts to make school buses around the country run on electricity rather than gasoline and diesel fuel.
As reported by The Associated Press, the measure is being led by Democratic Senator Alex Padilla of California, who was appointed to the Senate in order to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’ seat after she was elected vice president last year.
The outlet reported that certain studies have shown that diesel emissions might add to respiratory issues in children and have been connected to worse performance in the classroom.
“I know firsthand how outdated diesel school buses expose our children to harmful and unnecessary pollution,” Padilla told The Associated Press, explaining how he rode the bus as a child to go to school and to after-school programs. “Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, my lungs would be filled with diesel exhaust by the time I arrived at school each day.”
“Transitioning our school bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles is an essential aspect of building equitable, sustainable infrastructure and is a wise investment in our children, our environment, and our future,” he said.
AP reported that efforts to get the school bus bill through the legislature on its own will be difficult, as 60 votes are needed in order for it to get through the Senate. However, it might be built into the larger infrastructure package that could be pushed through with 51 votes in the Senate using the reconciliation budget process. The larger infrastructure package might also get more approval from lawmakers and garner more votes than a single piece of legislation.
The Biden administration has pushed parts of its infrastructure package this week, focusing on the proposal of using $45 billion to move forward the use of zero-emission transit and school buses. On Monday, Vice President Harris went to North Carolina in order to discuss the $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan and tour the Thomas Built Buses plant. The Associated Press reported, “The Biden-Harris plan seeks to electrify at least 20% of school buses nationally. Thomas Built Buses says it built one out of every three buses currently on the road.”
The Daily Wire reported earlier this month that Democrats have moved to broaden the meaning of “infrastructure” in order to push through more measures. They were reportedly “reacting to criticism from conservative figures such as Russell Vought — the director of the Office of Management and Budget under Donald Trump — who said, ‘Only about 5% to 7% of it is roads and bridges and ports and things that you and I would say is real infrastructure.’”
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Speaker Pelosi said, “Infrastructure is about education, about getting children healthily in school with separation, sanitation, ventilation. It’s about investments in housing as well,” “Overwhelmingly, this bill is about infrastructure in the traditional sense of the word.”
“We also think that infrastructure — there’s a need for workforce development in order to have the workforce fully participate in how we go forward and childcare so that women can be involved in that as well,” she added. “So it’s physical infrastructure. It’s also human infrastructure that is involved.”
The school bus proposal has gotten support from an assortment of outside groups, including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, per the AP.
“Public schools are huge consumers of mass transit, and the challenge of getting students to school buildings in a more green, efficient way is one we must tackle immediately,” said Randi Weingarten, AFT’s president. “By investing in zero-emission school buses we can create cleaner, healthier, more sustainable school communities where our children don’t just survive but actually thrive.”
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