Walker school safety plan in jeopardy
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A stalemate in the Wisconsin Legislature among Republican leaders threatened to derail several of Gov. Scott Walker’s priorities as the Senate planned to convene for its final day in session.
Hanging in the balance Tuesday were Walker’s $100 million school safety plan, an $80 million juvenile justice overhaul that includes closing the troubled Lincoln Hills prison and a $100 per-child tax rebate the Republican incumbent wants to return to voters shortly before the November election.
The bills must pass both the Senate and Assembly in identical form, but the Senate was expected to vote on different versions of each of those proposals before ending its work for the year Tuesday night.
That puts the pressure on the Assembly to return and vote on Senate versions of the bills, something Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has repeatedly said will not happen. Instead, the Assembly planned to meet in a special session Thursday to vote only on Walker’s school safety proposals.
Walker has been working behind the scenes trying to broker a deal between the two houses of the Legislature. The discord is similar to the GOP infighting that led to a delay in passage of the state budget last summer.
But the latest fight comes as Walker faces re-election in the fall and he wants to address the nagging problem of the Lincoln Hills prison that’s under federal investigation, bolster school safety at a time polls show it’s a high priority for voters, and mail rebate checks to families just weeks before he’s on the ballot.
Walker’s spokeswoman, Amy Hasenberg, last week called them “slam dunk issues” that Wisconsin residents care about.
The Assembly Education Committee scheduled a hearing Tuesday on the bills that include a $100 million grant program to help pay for armed guards in schools. Walker was not proposing stiffer gun control measures, as Democrats and other advocates urged, while he also rejected the call from conservatives to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in schools.
Other school safety bills Walker proposed would require mandatory reporting for threats of school violence, mandate that parents be told of a school bullying incident within 48 hours and require all schools to have a safety plan. Another bill would create an exemption in student privacy laws to provide law enforcement agencies with surveillance video if it “serves a legitimate safety interest.”
Senate Republicans had not released exactly what they planned to vote on Tuesday.
The Assembly unanimously approved a juvenile justice overhaul that would close Lincoln Hills by 2021 and replace it with smaller, regional prisons. But the Senate planned to vote on a scaled-down version that would close Lincoln Hills but study what to do next.
The Assembly version of the $100 per-child tax rebate also included a sales tax holiday weekend in August. Senate Republicans don’t like the sales tax holiday idea, with some deriding it as a gimmick, and instead plan to approve only the child tax rebate, putting the whole plan in peril.