Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Quick Look at HB 1643

Those who dislike the idea of gun control legislation often say the problem is not the guns but the people using them. I do not necessarily disagree with this ideology. So, you would think that legislation aimed at controlling people who had a problem with guns, especially as it relates to public schools, would pass through the state house like streaked lightning. Not so.

Case in point: HB 1643. The abstract at the top of the bill reads:

Amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), entitled "An act relating to the public school system, including certain provisions applicable as well to private and parochial schools; amending, revising, consolidating and changing the laws relating thereto," further providing for REPORTS TO DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, FOR RULES AND REGULATIONS AND SAFETY PATROLS, FOR FINANCIAL REPORTS, FOR residence and right to free school privileges, FOR POSSESSION OF WEAPONS PROHIBITED AND FOR SUSPENSION AND EXPULSION OF PUPILS.

The words in caps are additions.

The bill makes it possible for schools to hold students responsible for school rules while at school activities or on their way to and from school. Schools can organize safety patrols to act as de facto crossing guards. It also says that children whose parents have two households can attend the schools in either school district, regardless of who has custody, but the district is not required to provide transportation outside the district.

There is also wording on reports to the Dept of Education.

Then it gets interesting:
[(E.1) A school district receiving a student who transfers from a public or private school during a period of expulsion for an act or offense involving a weapon may assign that student to an alternative assignment or provide alternative education services, provided that the assignment may not exceed the period of expulsion.]

The bills goes on to state other disciplinary issues that allow schools to direct incoming students to alternative schools and other related issues.

If one of our social goals is a safe place for our children to go to school and learn, these would seem to be reasonable rules. Students who need greater discipline and behavioral programs should get them. All too often when we read about violent incidents in schools at least one of the students involved has been in trouble before.

Especially when weaponry is involved, schools should not be required to take a student who is transferring from another school because of a disciplinary incident.

The voting on this bill? It came up for the 3rd consideration on Dec. 3rd. It was voted on at 101-100 which was considered a defeat. I do not understand how a 101-100 vote is considered a defeat but that’s what the voting roll and bill history say. It was immediately put to a vote for reconsideration, which passed 104-97. The voting was primarily along party lines. Two Democrats had an excused absence. Two Democrats voted against it. Four Republicans voted for it. One of those was Daryl Metcalfe!

I was surprised at one of the Democratic no votes, Rep. Bryan Lentz of Delaware County’s 161st district and had the opportunity to ask him about it. His objection:
I voted against because of the provision that allowed separated or divorced parents to send their children to either parent’s home school district regardless of where the children live. I think this would put an additional burden on the school districts that border the city like Upper Darby which is already under tremendous pressure as a result of an influx of students from outside the district.

This is a logical reason to oppose the bill and it is unfortunate that the two concepts were put together in the same legislation. One does wonder if the entire Republican delegation (minus 4) felt the same way. It would indeed be very educational to know what the discussion was surrounding this bill was but we will have to wait 6 months to find out. The most recent House Journal available online is for June.

If this bill passes on reconsideration I wonder if the Black Caucus of the House, which walked out in protest over the inaction on gun control, would consider this sufficient progress to return.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I doubt many of the Republicans feel the same way. It's my belief that most of the rural representatives and all of the Republicans are loathe to even talk about gun control - and will never consider changes to the current laws regardless of how much sense they make.