The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 7, 2013

Alabama House Democrats: Put officer in each school



MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama House Democrats say a top priority for the Legislature's 2013 session is a proposal to put an armed police officer in each of the approximately 1,500 public schools in Alabama.

Representative Merika Coleman-Evans of Birmingham says the measure is aimed at preventing incidents like the recent school shootings in Connecticut. A number of proposals have been made on how to make schools safer including training some school teachers and arming them. But Coleman-Evans said she believes hiring resource officers in each school makes the most sense.

"This would help make sure every student is safe," she said.

Some Alabama schools already have resource officers.

At a news conference Wednesday, House Democrats also proposed creating a statewide lottery. House Minority Leader Craig Ford of Gadsden said proceeds from the lottery would be used to pay the estimated $20 million cost of placing a resource officer in every school that doesn't currently have one. Ford said proceeds from the lottery would also be used to pay for scholarships for Alabama high School graduates.

Ford said the lottery could provide scholarships to A/B honor roll students in Alabama. He said the money could also be used to increase per diem for classroom supplies to each teacher from $300 to $1,000.

The lottery proposal would have to be approved by Alabama voters. In 1999 voters turned down a proposal to create a lottery by then- Gov. Don Siegelman.

The lottery and school safety bills were part of a package of priorities announced by House Democrats during a Statehouse news conference Wednesday.

Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn criticized the Democratic proposals.

"The Democrats' legislative agenda is a checklist of tax and spend measures that would make Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid proud," Hubbard said. "Rather than proposing real reforms, the House Democrats simply want to roll the dice on legalized gambling, throw more money into bloated entitlement programs and demand higher taxes from businesses at a time when we should be encouraging job creation, not discouraging it."

Other priorities announced by Democrats include giving teachers and other school employees a 10 percent pay raise.

Democrats also proposed legislation to close corporate tax loopholes.

Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, said he will offer legislation to raise the tax on cigarettes by one dollar a pack as a way to mend the state's cash-strapped General Fund budget.

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