By this summer school districts in the Sunshine State could be allowed to erect billboards on the sides of school buses as a way to generated much-needed revenue to alleviate budget woes.
This is the third time the legislature has considered a bill that prescribes restrictions on content, how the ads are to be placed and how school districts can obtain related revenue. The most recent bill failed to pass committee by the time the legislative calendar expired this past spring.
Companion bills authorizing ads on public school buses drew overwhelming support in January but never made it out of committee. Like with that bill, the latest legislation would require 50 percnet of the revenue be allocated for student transportation programs. Additionally, 15 percent would be allocated for school district driver education programs, and 30 percent of those funds would be earmarked for behind-the-wheel instruction and another 35 percent would go to "other programs as determined by the school district."
If a district does not offer driver education, the 15 percent of revenue would go to bicycle or pedestrian safety programs.
The current bill, HB 1, also prescribes that ad content must be "family and child friendly." Restrictions abound but include ads for alcohol, tobacco products, prescription drugs, sexual content, political content, or any content deemed "inappropriate for or offensive or insensitive to children or the community."
Ads on the sides of school buses also could not pose safety dangers to students or other pedestrians, interfere with the operation of any door, window, required letting, lamp, reflector or other safety device or be placed on an emergency evacuation door or interfere with school bus identification.
If passed, a law would go into effect on July 1, 2013.
In January 2011, the Florida Association for Pupil Transportation published a position paper in opposition to school bus ads, arguing that they would be a distraction to other motorists who should be on the lookout for school children.