School safety legislation on hold, revisions expected

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

PHOENIX (AP) – In the latest sign that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's wide-ranging school safety proposal faces major issues in the Legislature, a Republican senator sponsoring the bill has pulled it for revisions.

The legislation introduced by Republican Sen. Steve Smith was set for a Monday committee hearing. But Smith said Friday after meeting with House members that it needs significant changes so the hearing was canceled.

"We're just making sure it does what we want it to do," Smith said. He said the hearing may be held later next week.

Ducey rolled out a broad proposal in mid-March in response to a school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead and triggered protests across the nation. But a bill didn't appear until this week because of major opposition from some majority Republicans to parts allowing guns to be removed from people considered dangerous.

The governor's plan focuses on mental and behavioral health resources at schools, restricting gun access for those barred from owning weapons or who show a threat to others, and new school resource officers and armed volunteers.

It does not include a program pushed by Republican legislative leaders that would arm some school employees.

The new "Severe Threat Order of Protection" provisions allow a legal guardian, law enforcement officer or school official to ask a judge to order a mental evaluation and to remove a person's firearms.

"The STOP orders are very concerning," Republican Rep. Anthony Kern said early this month. "My concerns would be potentials for abuse in filing those STOP orders."

A group founded by shooting victim and former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords counters that the STOP order language is too weak.

It also faces opposition from minority Democrats who oppose putting more armed police on campuses. They also have criticized Ducey for not including universal backgrounds checks for gun purchases in his proposal.

The plan includes $11 million to add about 100 new school police officers.

Smith said it was clear that changes are needed.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1519