Assembly To Hold Special Session On Walker School Safety Plan

MacIver News Service | March 16, 2018

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis. – The Assembly will come back for a special session to take up a package of school safety bills, but it doesn’t intend to take up any other measures, according to a top Republican lawmaker.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke said Walker’s plan focuses on protecting schools, without eroding constitutional rights.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said the Assembly supports Gov. Scott Walker’s call for a special legislative session to take up his $100 million School Safety Plan.

“The idea is the Assembly will come in, have hearings on these bills, get some public input, get some input from our caucus, and maybe make some additions, if we feel the need, and then come to the floor to vote in special session as the governor wanted us to do,” Steineke told MacIver News Service Thursday on the Vicki McKenna Show. 

He said the Assembly is still working out the dates, but it’s looking like floor action could come as soon as late next week.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said his caucus is working on separate legislation it plans to pass next Tuesday in regular session.

“I am fully supportive of what the Governor announced and our proposal will closely align with the Governor’s objectives,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “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.”

Walker said his plan was crafted with input from the Senate and Assembly. The Republican governor’s proposal includes seven initiatives:

  • Establishing an Office of School Safety under the state Department of Justice
  • Creating a $100 million School Safety Grant program, to be administered through the Office of School Safety
  • Requiring mandatory reporting for any threats of school violence
  • Amending the state bullying statue to include prompt parental notification
  • Incorporating the Trauma-Informed Care and Adverse Childhood Experiences organizational structures into training sessions
  • Strengthening school safety plan requirements
  • Encouraging cooperation with local law enforcement

“No child, parent, or teacher should ever have to feel unsafe in school,” Walker said in a statement.“This package of bills focuses on ways we can help schools be safe, just like we did at the federal level ensuring that every airport and airplane were safe after 9/11. The same thing needs to be true for our schools all across the State of Wisconsin. We are putting $100 million behind this plan.”

Democrats, pushing for gun-control measures in the wake of the the Florida school massacre that claimed 17 lives, immediately attacked Walker’s proposal. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) referenced this week’s National School Walkout – as liberals seeking gun-control laws have been quick to do – in her criticism of the governor’s plan.

Steineke said the Assembly has no plans to take up any other legislation in special session.

“It’s disappointing to see Gov. Walker continue to ignore the pleas from Wisconsin students who want safe 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,” Shilling said. “This plan doesn’t strengthen our background check system, it doesn’t give schools the flexibility to improve safety and it doesn’t stop domestic abusers from getting their hands on deadly firearms. Failing to address the most pressing gun safety issues facing our students, families and communities will only lead to more tragedies.”

Steineke said Walker’s plan focuses on protecting schools, without eroding constitutional rights.

“Democrats spend a lot of time talking about background checks and banning guns,” he said. “These school shooters have come by their weapons legally. It’s not the fact that we don’t have enough laws on the books, it’s the fact that we have to secure our buildings, we have to make investments in mental health treatment, which we’ve done over the course of the last two sessions in the Wisconsin Legislature.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature has passed several bills funding expanded mental health initiatives.

Steineke said last month’s shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School exposed a failure at many levels of government to protect the school from a disturbed young man who many expected to kill. On Thursday, newly released video showed a deputy sheriff waiting outside the school for 27 minutes while the gunman went on his rampage. The FBI and other law enforcement officials failed to follow-up or take seriously dozens of complaints and concerns about the shooter.

“Since 9/11, we’ve had government officials telling people across this country, If you see something, say something,” the lawmaker said. “The problem is people did see something, they did say something, and government failed them. Government did not do what they needed to do to protect the citizens of Parkland, Fla.”

Steineke said the Assembly has no plans to take up any other legislation in special session.

“At this point, we’ve adjourned our regular session, so I don’t see us coming back into regular session,” the majority leader said.

Listen to the interview with Steineke here: