School districts across New York would get state funds to put armed officers in school buildings if the state Senate's Republican majority has its way.
The GOP-led Senate passed a series of bills Monday that would bolster security in schools in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, including one proposal that would create a grant program to subsidize the cost of school resource officers with state money.
The grant bill would provide school districts with up to $50,000 to employ an officer in a school, making clear that any active or retired police officer, deputy sheriff or state trooper would be eligible for hiring.
The votes came a week after a Democratic effort to force a vote on gun-control measures was blocked by Republicans, who control a slim majority in the 63-seat chamber.
The Senate approved the bills Monday evening, with the grant bill passing by a 42-18 vote.
“In New York, we must act swiftly and decisively to implement additional measures in schools throughout our state to give students, parents, and teachers the resources and peace of mind that they deserve," Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, said in a statement.
The debate over how Albany should respond to the Parkland shooting has largely mirrored the national battle, with Democrats favoring bolstering gun-control measures and Republicans favoring bolstered security in schools.
The GOP's security package included more than a dozen bills, with proposals ranging from a measure defining school shootings as terrorism to creating a state "Guardians for Schools" license plate that would raise money for officers and security at schools.
The grant program would apply to school districts outside New York City, while a separate bill would require the city's massive school district would be required to keep its resource officers at school for all instruction hours plus one hour before and after.
Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, Erie County, said he strongly supports increasing school-resource officers across the state.
Gallivan, the former Erie County sheriff whose district stretches into Monroe County, sponsors the grant program bill.
"It is time to expand this program and provide resources so that every school benefits from having an SRO on-site," Gallivan said.
The bill did not come with a funding stream attached. Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, are currently negotiating a $162 billion budget plan for the coming fiscal year, which begins April 1.
The Assembly and Cuomo would have to approve the bills before they take effect.
A spokesman for the Assembly's Democratic majority referred to a statement issued last month by Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat who said more should be done to reduce the number of guns on the street.
Heastie's statement was in response to the state Sheriffs' Association's call for more state funding to put resource officers in schools.
"(More) guns is not the answer and never has been," Heastie said then. "The best efforts of a trained armed guard present at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (in Parkland) did not prevent the terrible tragedy that unfolded last week, which shows that a proposal like this will only provide an illusion of safety."
A spokesman for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have pushed their own package of gun-control measures in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
Those measures include bolstered background checks, the ability for judges to take guns away from someone judged to be a danger to themselves or others, and a ban on bump stocks, the equipment used by the Las Vegas mass shooter last year.
But Democrats in the Senate are outnumbered, with 31 Republicans controlling the chamber's majority with help from a rogue Democrat — Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder —that sits with them.
The Democrats tried an often-used, rarely successful parliamentary maneuver to force a vote on their measures last week by attaching them to a bill the Senate was considering, which would allow hunters to register for the state's organ-donor registry when they obtain a license.
But the GOP blocked the vote, ruling that the measures were unrelated to the bill that was up for a vote.
A similar Democratic effort Monday to attach a measure prohibiting the arming of teachers met the same fate.
Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said the GOP's plan is "further proof that the Republican party is so terrified of dealing with this country’s gun problem that they are willing to bury their heads in the sand."
"We cannot allow our schools to be blamed for shootings so that the NRA and its allies can get away with ignoring the real cause of this crisis, far too many guns on our streets," she said in a statement.
The state School Boards Association, meanwhile, said it would support state funding for school resource officers.
But the association said the grant program should include all public-school districts — including New York City and BOCES, which appear to be excluded from the Senate GOP's bill.
"Specifically, school resource officers can be a very effective preventive measure for schools because they work in the district and can identify students or staff who may be at risk of causing harm," said David Albert, a spokesman for the group.