The top Republicans in the Assembly and Senate have staked out different procedural plans for the guv’s school safety proposals, leaving their fate up in the air.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the chamber will come back for a one-day special session next week to take up the bills. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said his chamber will pass a plan in regular session.
For the legislation to get to Walker’s desk, both chambers would have to approve the same versions. That means the Senate could not pass in regular session bills the Assembly took up in special session — or vice versa — for the legislation to hit Walker’s desk.
Vos, who was traveling Thursday to Canada for a trade trip, said legislative leaders met with the guv earlier this week and did not agree on how to proceed on the six bills.
“Fitzgerald did not want to do a special session. We did, and the governor agreed, and that’s why we have a special session,” Vos said, adding the Assembly is looking at March 22 to come in.
Vos said his caucus had not met to talk about the guv’s plan, and he did not know if members would want any changes to the package.
Fitzgerald, meanwhile, has said he plans to amend a bill the Senate plans to take up Tuesday in regular session to add the school safety measures. The chamber would then send the legislation to the Assembly for final approval.
He said in a statement Senate Republicans had a “productive” discussion in caucus yesterday on school safety, but did not commit to any specifics.
“I am fully supportive of what the governor announced, and our proposal will closely align with the Governor’s objectives,” Fitzgerald said. “I look forward to ironing out details with the administration to deliver resources to schools to secure their facilities and bring peace of mind to parents.”
The heart of Walker’s plan is a proposal to create the Office of School Safety and provide $100 million in one-time money for grants for building improvements.
The money would be available to public, private, charter and tribal schools, according to the guv’s office, and the proposed office would decide how to divvy it up.
The $100 million would come from available resources in the 2017-19 budget. But any money that was not spent during the two-year period would carry over, according to the guv’s office.
Democratic leadership is saying the bill ignores pleas from children across the country to address what they argue is the root of the school safety issue: guns.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling knocked Walker’s plan for not including background checks or flexibility to schools.
“For a plan that is supposed to be about gun safety, I don’t see anything in here that will keep deadly firearms out of the wrong hands,” she said in a statement.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz told WisPolitics.com he agrees universal background checks should have been included, but that Dems in his chamber would be willing to consider funding for safety improvements. Hintz expressed concern the process is being rushed, and stressed it’s important to get the legislation right.
“I certainly think that making sure that our schools are as prepared and have the safety accountability components in the building can be an important piece, but I think it ignores a lot of the other things. We seem to be spending money on bricks and not on our kids,” he said.
Hintz also said he’s spoken to school districts who have already made safety improvements, which could create confusion as to which districts would be able to get money.
If approved, the $100 million in grants would be another draw on the projected ending balance for the 2017-19 budget.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has projected the impact of bills that have already passed both houses or have cleared the Assembly and are awaiting Senate action would drop the net balance to $117 million from the $385.2 million that was projected in January.
Still, the fate of several Assembly bills on that list was up in the air. The final planned Senate calendar, for example, does not include $50 million for a rural economic development fund that cleared the Assembly. The Senate also plans to take up its version of the guv’s child tax credit without the sales tax holiday the Assembly added. The combined cost of the Assembly plan is $174.4 million, according to the LFB. The child credit alone has a price tag of $122.9 million.
Other provisions in the guv’s package include:
*mandatory reporting for any threats of school violence;
*amending bullying laws to include prompt parental notification;
*adding Trauma-Informed Care and Adverse Childhood Experiences into training programs;
*strengthening school safety plan requirements;
*encouraging cooperation with local law enforcement.
The proposal doesn’t include a plan from State Superintendent Tony Evers and Dems to let school districts raise revenue limits to fund school safety provisions, or language that would allow for the arming of teachers in schools, as AG Brad Schimel had favored.