NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would allow school districts to hire retired law enforcement officers for security advanced in the Legislature on Wednesday after being approved by the governor.
The legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland passed the House Civil Justice Committee on a voice vote before being approved 5-2 by the Senate Education Committee.
The proposal is different from the original version, which would have allowed school teachers and faculty with handgun carry permits to be armed at school. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he’s against such a proposal and others like it being considered this session.
However, a representative from the governor’s office said Wednesday that the governor is OK with the bill that’s advancing.
The proposal would allow schools to hire retired law enforcement officers after they meet certain requirements, such as completing a school policing course. Total raining could require over 400 hours.
Joint news release from House and Senate Republican Caucuses:
(NASHVILLE) – In a joint session of the Tennessee Senate and the Tennessee House of Representatives today members unanimously re-elected Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. and Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. Secretary Hargett will serve his second four-year term, while Treasurer Lillard and Comptroller Wilson will each serve two-year terms. All three were originally elected to their posts by the General Assembly in January, 2009. Treasurer Lillard and Comptroller Wilson were re-elected to their second two-year terms in January, 2011.
Senate and House leaders congratulated the Constitutional Officers today, and released the following statements:
“While many Tennesseans don’t know what they do, the constitutional officers are really the unsung heroes of state government. They work – often behind the scenes but sometimes in the harsh glare of the media spotlight – to make sure that our state’s investments are managed properly, that public employees have a financially sound retirement system, that taxpayer money isn’t wasted, stolen or misused at the local or state levels of government, that local governments get the assistance they need to be successful in various levels of their operations, that our elections run smoothly, that our public libraries have the support they need to provide excellent service to Tennesseans. Tennesseans are lucky to have leaders like Comptroller Wilson, Treasurer Lillard and Secretary of State Hargett overseeing these essential services of state government.” -Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey
“Tennessee is in excellent financial condition – and the work of our three constitutional officers has played no small part in that. As members of the State Funding Board, they set revenue estimates that are used by the governor, his staff and members of the General Assembly for budget planning purposes. They also appear regularly before the major rating agencies that determine how strong Tennessee’s credit ratings will be. They also provide helpful advice and information to help members of the General Assembly do their jobs better.” -House Speaker Beth Harwell
“I am very proud of the work Treasurer Lillard, Comptroller Wilson and Secretary of State Hargett have done over the last four years. They have made many major improvements to make Tennessee state government work more efficiently and effectively which benefits all Tennesseans. All three of these public servants are well deserving of another term in office.” -Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris
“Reforming government is something that’s easy to talk about, but difficult to do. These three constitutional officers have spent the last four years challenging traditional thinking about the way their offices should operate and, as a result, their offices are operating more efficiently and effectively than ever before. They have made the offices more accessible by making more services available over the Internet and have found ways to maximize the productivity of their employees.” -House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.
Gov. Bill Haslam says the idea of putting school resources in all K-12 schools should be a matter of fairness as well as a matter of money… and the two are interrelated. From WPLN: Williamson and Sumner county schools have proposed putting armed school resource officers in lower grades.
In most districts, the SROs are limited to middle and high schools. Part of the money comes from the state, but Governor Haslam says he’s slow to increase funding on a case-by-case basis.
“Let’s just say we’re going to put school resource officers in and the school district is going to put in X million and the municipality is going to put up Y million and will the state put in Z million? Well, I don’t think that’s fair unless we look at it on a statewide basis.”
The cost of putting armed officers in Williamson County’s elementary schools alone would run close to $2 million.
Currently the state offers just $4.8 million in grants to districts. Roughly a third of them pair the money with local funding for resource officers. Others buy security cameras.
— Note: See also, the TNReport video on Haslam discussing the subject.
Preventing a repeat of the Connecticut school shootings may be better addressed through mental health services than new gun laws, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday.
Haslam, questioned by reporters about the murders, also said his administration will hold a conference on school security next month. He said the discussion could include having more people at schools trained in dealing with violent attacks, as proposed by state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.
Niceley said he is working on legislation that would require all Tennessee schools to either have a “school resource officer” for security – as most high schools do now — or train one or more staff members in use of firearms and dealing with violent attacks.
Haslam said he was sickened by the Connecticut slayings and expects them to trigger “a national debate (on guns) over the next three or four months.” But he was cautious about saying what his position would be in any such discussions.
“I don’t know that a lot of (gun-related) legislation I’ve seen so far that could have stopped what happened there,” he said. “I don’t know that I see a big need to change things.”
Despite years of audits saying that caseloads have become dangerously high, Tennessee won’t be getting additional parole and probation officers in the next year, reports The Tennessean. The Tennessee Department of Correction on Tuesday gave an $850 million budget pitch to Gov. Bill Haslam as part of the administration’s ongoing budget hearings. The department’s proposed budget would include regular contract cost increases, in addition to more funding for more inmates coming into the system.
State auditors for years have warned that caseloads for officers who supervise released felons have grown untenable, potentially putting the public at risk. But Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said the agency, which took control of the state’s parole and probation supervision duties in July, isn’t asking for any additional officers.
“It’s still early to just say we need 100 or we need 200 officers. What we have to look at is what are our processes,” Schofield said.