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Walker continues push for school safety bills in jeopardy (UPDATE)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker toured three schools Monday as part of a last-minute push to persuade the Republican-controlled state Legislature to break an impasse and approve his school-safety proposals, which includes a $100 million grant program to pay for armed guards.

The disagreement in the Legislature over the school-safety plan could doom the package of bills Walker introduced in response to school shootings across the country, including one last month in Parkland, Florida, where 14 students and three staff members were killed.

Walker’s proposals don’t call for tighter gun control as Democrats have urged. But he also didn’t propose arming teachers, a step some conservative lawmakers have proposed.

Instead, Walker is calling for the establishment of a new office of school safety — under control of the attorney general — that would be in control of a $100 million grant fund. That money could go to pay for armed security guards at schools, but the amount of the three-year grants would go down from covering 75 percent of the costs in the first year to just 25 percent in the third.

Other proposals would require mandatory reporting of threats of school violence, require parents to be told of a school bullying incident within 48 hours and require all schools to have a safety plan. Another bill would create set up an exemption in student privacy laws to provide law enforcement agencies with surveillance video if it “serves a legitimate safety interest.”

Walker’s proposals, which attempt to strike a middle ground between those seeking tighter gun controls and conservatives who want to arm teachers, remains in trouble in the Legislature.

The Senate was meeting on Tuesday and planned to pass its own school-safety measures, which Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said will be close to what Walker wants. The Assembly Education Committee was holding a public hearing on Tuesday on Walker’s bills and was expected to meet in special session on Thursday to approve them.

The Senate and Assembly must pass identical bills — in the same regular or special session — for them to go to Walker for his signature.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has insisted the Assembly will not reconvene in regular session to vote on bills the Senate passes. That puts at risk the school safety measures, Walker’s proposed $100-per-child tax rebate and a juvenile-justice plan that calls for closing the Lincoln Hills prison in jeopardy.

Republican Sen. Steve Nass of Whitewater said on Monday he hoped Vos would “reconsider his my-way-or-the-highway approach” and bring the Assembly back in regular session to resolve those issues and others.

Vos and Fitzgerald did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Also on Monday, members of the Wisconsin Gun Safety Coalition spoke out against Walker’s proposals because of itslack of gun-control measures. The groups involved include the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, the YWCA Madison, the Wisconsin Council of Churches and the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Walker was joined by Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Attorney General Brad Schimel on Monday as they lobbied for his school-safety proposals at schools in Onalaska, Altoona and Marathon. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards is among those that have come out in support of the governor’s plan.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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