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Governor vetoes local safety bill

Published 6:06am Saturday, March 9, 2013

School and law enforcement leaders from across Franklin County will meet with State Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow and Sen. Roger Bedford Monday to discuss their next steps now that a school safety bill that passed near unanimously in the House and Senate has been vetoed by Gov. Robert Bentley.
The bill, which was sponsored by Morrow, sailed through the House and Senate and would have allowed city and county schools here to become the first in the state to create emergency security forces.
According to the legislation, former and current school personnel, as well as community volunteers, could have been trained as reserve sheriff’s or police reserves and would have the authority to act as security forces on school campuses. These armed and trained volunteers would work with local police and the sheriff’s office with local school boards paying those costs.
Though House Bill 116 was written specifically for Franklin County, some officials believed the bill could have become law statewide after quickly passing in the Senate and House.
But earlier this week, Bentley vetoed the bill saying the training needed for such a force was not adequately covered in the bill.
Morrow tried overriding the veto Thursday but failed to gain enough support, especially from Republican lawmakers.
“Gov. Bentley is more than willing to say that we don’t need Washington telling us what we need to do in Alabama, but by doing this, he is saying that Franklin County needs Montgomery to tell us what to do,” Morrow said.
Among the reasons that Morrow and local officials said security forces were needed was due to the rural locations of some county schools in particular.
“The local educators and law enforcement believe this is something that will help keep our school children safe, but Gov. Bentley, I think, is too busy playing politics,” Morrow said.
Since Bentley specifically said that Morrow’s bill did not adequately address the training needed by security force members, Morrow has re-introduced the bill as HB404. He has scheduled a meeting with city and county school leaders as well as local police chiefs and Sheriff Shannon Oliver for Monday.
“Since they were all so instrumental in helping develop the original bill, I want to make sure that we all get together and specifically address the issues that the governor mentioned,” Morrow said.
The original bill would require the implementation of detailed crisis plans that includes a “comprehensive plan of action for the emergency security force to follow in the event the security of the school is compromised or the safety of students or employees is threatened.
The plan should also specify how and where weapons may be stored and carried by emergency security force members and circumstances under which certain weapons may be used. All weapons and equipment used shall be approved by the sheriff or the chief of police.”

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