Senate passes two bills to fund new safety measures for schools

Senator Jim HoneyfordSenator Bruce DammeierTo better protect Washington schools, students and teachers, the Senate today unanimously passed two bills that would initiate implementation of school-safety measures. Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 5197, a measure that was introduced in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

“At a time when someone is threatening our kids, seconds count,” Dammeier said. “Community members who testified at a public hearing for this bill talked about how banks are better protected than our schools. That needs to change.”

The bill would implement the use of silent alarm systems in schools to expedite the response time of local law enforcement. It would also require an “optimal level of security” be incorporated into new school construction or major remodels of existing school buildings. Design considerations would vary based on the specific school site, but examples would allow for direct control and observation of the public who come on school grounds, installation of electronic locks and limiting the number of public entrances.

The second bill, Senate Bill 5445, is sponsored by Sen. Jim Honeyford and would appropriate $10 million of capital funds to improve security at existing and future public schools based on the measures set forth in SB 5197.

“This bill reinforces one of the Majority Coalition’s priorities, and that is education,” said Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, and chair of the Senate capital budget committee. “Early action in this matter will help to create construction jobs and provide for modern facilities that promote learning.”

Under SB 5445, $475 million in general obligation bonds would be appropriated for the 2013-15 school construction assistance program, including the $10 million grant program to improve security at public schools. The bill is written to take effect immediately after being signed into law.

SB 5197 and 5445 have moved to the House for consideration.