TAMPA -- Two attacks on transit drivers in Tampa... one deadly... inspire a bill to improve safety on public buses.
Hillsborough County Republican Mike Beltran is the House sponsor of the "Uniformed Public Servant Protection Act." The bill (SB 1416 and HB 951) would require protective barriers on public transit. it would also make assaulting a transit worker a felony and require transit agencies to post a notice about that penalty. It would also require de-escalation training for drivers.
It follows the stabbing death of Thomas Dunn last May, and the wounding of another driver for Hillsborough's transit agency, HART, in November.
Beltran believes the bill has a good chance of passage. "This is a good bipartisan bill. Everyone wants to have safe, accessible and affordable transportation... I'm optimistic." Beltran believes the support of Rep. Jamie Grant, a fellow member of the Hillsborough delegation
Beltran didn't include funding to help local agencies defray the cost of barriers, saying he believes that would slow it down in the legislative process. He believes the cost is modest compared to potential liabilities from driver injuries and lost revenue from passengers who don't feel safe.
The legislation reflects a similar federal bill, HR 1139, that has been backed by the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents HART drivers. HART issued a news release endorsing the legislatsion.
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