Speaker Vos would welcome special session on school safety

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday he would welcome a special legislative session to address school safety as students across the state prepared to walk out of their classes to demand tighter gun restrictions.

Gov. Scott Walker has been collaborating with Republican lawmakers on a package of school safety bills. He has said he doesn't support arming teachers and has hinted at improving building security to prevent shooters from entering but has offered no specifics on the bills.

The Assembly, however, ended its regular two-year session late last month. The state Senate is expected to wrap up its two-year session with a final floor debate on March 20. Walker said Monday it's possible he could call a special session to address the bills.

Vos issued a news release late Tuesday afternoon reiterating that the Assembly's regular session is over but he would welcome a call from Walker to reconvene in a special session on school safety.

"We want every Wisconsin parent to feel confident that their child is safe in school," Vos said.

Asked for comment on Vos' stance, Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg said only that Walker was working on a school safety plan and it would be released before the Senate convenes on March 20.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement that the Senate will pass a school safety proposal that day and urged the Assembly to return to Madison in regular session to take up the measure. Fitzgerald spokesman Dan Romportl didn't immediately reply to a follow-up email asking for more details on the proposal.

The jockeying between the state's top three Republicans came as students across Wisconsin finalized plans to leave class Wednesday morning as part of a national student walkout to demand tighter gun restrictions and honor 17 people killed in a Florida school shooting last month.

State Democrats introduced their own package of school safety legislation Tuesday afternoon. The bills would increase aid for school mental health programs and provide funding for the Wisconsin Safe and Healthy Schools Training and Technical Assistance Center to address school violence. The bills also would create $24 million in grants to help school districts develop programs to prevent violence, allow school boards to discuss safety in closed session and exempt safety plans from the open records law.

A Walker call for a special session might not be limited to just school safety issues. Walker could demand lawmakers take up other issues the Assembly and Senate disagreed upon before the Assembly closed up shop, including a bill that would close the state's troubled youth prison in Irma and Walker's plan for a $100 tax rebate and a sales tax holiday.

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