Lawmaker criticizes Bentley on school security; Bentley vetoed bill that’d allow school security force

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A representative from north Alabama remains critical of Gov. Robert Bentley for killing a proposal that would have allowed a volunteer force to protect schools in Franklin County and asked the governor to present his own plan to protect schools – or to say he has no plan.

“I have yet to hear from him,” said Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, of his letter to Bentley earlier in the month. “As a state representative, that is unacceptable.” He sent another letter to Bentley on Thursday.
Bentley vetoed a proposal by Morrow that would have allowed the volunteer school force. Morrow then introduced the same proposal again and it is pending in the Senate.

Morrow said it is not leadership to veto his proposal and then not offer a solution.

“I’m going to keep asking him until he responds,” he said.

Morrow wrote Bentley that he requested “that you show leadership by producing a plan to help prevent the type of disaster that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.”

Jennifer Ardis, press secretary for Bentley, said the governor’s office has communicated his concerns about the bill to Morrow and been clear that the governor would not be opposed to a security force if the members are APOST (Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training) certified, are trained to combat active shooters, and if the liability is with the county.

“He wants well-trained people to be the ones to protect the students of Franklin County,” Ardis said. She said Bentley did not want untrained security potentially causing more harm than not having security.

Gov. Robert Bentley on February 21, 2013.  (Mickey Welsh/ Montgomery Advertiser)

Gov. Robert Bentley on February 21, 2013. (Mickey Welsh/ Montgomery Advertiser)

Morrow said he felt school safety would be the top priority in the legislative session after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the ordeal in Dale County with the shooting of a bus driver and abduction of a student. Instead, he said, Republican lawmakers have focused on passing legislation to allow tax credits to go to private schools and passing liability insurance to decrease membership in the Alabama Education Association and other trade organizations.“We haven’t even looked at this issue,” Morrow said and said it is the most serious issue facing the state. The House of

Representatives is expected to consider a bill on Thursday that would allow the state to sell $50 million in bonds to fund equipment, including secure doors and surveillance cameras, to help secure schools.

“How can children learn in an environment where they’re afraid,” Morrow said.

Morrow wrote that he “worked diligently with local law enforcement and school officials to draft legislation that would create a school security plan for rural areas that do not have the funding for school resource officers.”

“You vetoed this legislation and have failed to offer an alternative school security proposal or explain to the citizens of Franklin County how you plan to protect their children.”

The lawmaker said some schools in rural areas are 30 minutes from local law enforcement.
Morrow said he represents 45,000 people.

“They’re very much concerned about this issue and I’m their spokesperson,” he said.

– posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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