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Pence approves school safety grants

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TOM LoBIANCO

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill Tuesday that will help Indiana schools hire more resource officers to improve safety as lawmakers continue discussions about whether school staff and volunteers should one day be armed.

Pence said the bill would work as a tool to improve school safety in the wake of last December’s shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead. The measure would provide $50,000 grants for school districts to hire the officers. It also sets up a legislative study committee to look at arming staff and volunteers in schools.

"I think today is about providing resources and tools for schools to make their campuses safer,” Pence said. “Ultimately we want to continue this work, so that our teachers can continue to focus on teaching and our kids can focus on the future.”

The measure was originally sought by Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Sen. Peter Miller, R-Avon, in response to concerns about bullying and gang violence in schools. But it quickly morphed into a response to the December school shootings as well.

An effort last month by a House Republican to allow schools to arm an anonymous staffer, with the idea of thwarting a school attack, was rebuffed by the measure’s original supporters, including Zoeller.

The resource officers, who must have completed law enforcement training, have many roles to fill, Zoeller said.

“Their presence in schools will serve to increase respect for law by students and also deter problems of bullying, weapons and drug abuse that must be addressed in schools every day,” he said in a statement.

Pence said he planned to meet later Tuesday with a workgroup studying school safety.

Pence also signed a measure Tuesday that would add transparency to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Since its creation by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels eight years ago, the quasi-public organization routinely touted jobs announcements from companies but refused to provide information later on whether the jobs were created.

Pence also announced plans to veto a series of bills, his first as governor. He declined to say which measures he was opposing but said he expected to announce the vetoes Wednesday.

The governor has until Saturday to veto legislation passed by the General Assembly, sign a measure into law or allow a proposal to become law without his signature. He wryly promised to make one of those three choices for every measure that hit his desk.

 

Posted 5/8/2013