Published 8:23 am Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Senate approved a bill on Monday that would allow public school teachers with a license to carry to store their handguns in their cars when parked on school grounds. In 2011, seeking a compromise between business owners who might ban employees from concealed carry while at work and licensed gun owners, the Legislature approved a bill that would let employees to keep their guns in their cars. Last session, that law was extended to cover employees at public colleges and universities. “This was an important compromise reached that respected the rights of everyone involved, it’s been settled law and it’s worked very well,” said Senator Bryan Hughes of Mineola.  His bill, SB 1942, would further extend the compromise to include cars owned by public school teachers parked in school parking lots. Like private business and college campuses, it would require that the gun be completely out of sight in a locked car.

Counties would get help paying for training some officers in federal immigration policy and enforcement under another bill approved by the Senate on Monday. The federal 287g program allows US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to delegate some authority to local officials to identify persons in the U.S. illegally, but only if the officer receives training at the ICE academy in South Carolina. It’s a four-week training course, and though it doesn’t cost anything, counties still have to pay people to cover the officer-in-training’s shifts. SB 2094 by Edgewood Senator Bob Hall would create a grant program within the Office of the Governor to cover overtime pay and other associated expenses when a county sends an officer to receive this ICE training.   It’s projected to cost just over $300,000 for the next two years.

Also Monday, the Senate passed a bill that would allow schools to apply for additional funding to protect kids who have dangerous walks to school. Current law allows districts to apply for 10 percent more transportation funding to pay for transportation for children that live within two miles of school to avoid hazardous traffic conditions. SB 195 by Houston Senator Sylvia Garcia would expand this to include dangerous areas with a high risk of violence. This bill arose in response to the killing of 11- year old Josue Flores, who was stabbed walking home from an after school science club meeting in Garcia’s own Northside neighborhood.

If a school can’t afford extra vehicles or drivers, the bill would also permit the funds go toward “safe passage” programs.   “Because these dangers are more common than not in neighborhoods across our state, programs that implement safe passages have been created by community leaders, mostly mothers,” said Garcia. “These passages are intended to keep children safe during their walk to and from school.” She noted that in her neighborhood, eighty percent of students walk to school.

All three bills now head to the House for consideration

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, May 9 at 11 a.m.