Bill to remove school blueprints, floor plans from public access stalls

Bill to remove school blueprints, floor plans from public access stalls

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Children and a woman depart the reunification center at the Woodmont Baptist church after a school shooting, March 27, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. In Arizona, a bill to remove school blueprints and floor plans from public access has stalled in the House despite it having gotten bipartisan preliminary approval a month ago. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

A bill to remove school blueprints and floor plans from public access has stalled in the House despite it having gotten bipartisan preliminary approval a month ago.

Democratic Rep. Laura Terech of Phoenix shepherded her HB 2075 through the House Government Committee in January. And there were no objections voiced on Feb. 28 when it came to the House floor for debate.

In fact, it was scheduled for a roll-call vote that same day.

That never happened. And House Speaker Ben Toma, R-Peoria, who determines what gets to a vote, has not put it back on any calendar since.

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Rep. Laura Terech, D-Phoenix

And it is leaving Terech to question why anyone would not want to keep these records out of the hands of those with “nefarious intentions.”

Her questions come as a shooting at a private elementary school in Nashville left three students and three staffers dead. And while the suspect there did not have blueprints, she had drawn out a detailed map of the building and conducted surveillance.

Terech told Capitol Media Services that lack of blueprints in the Tennessee case does not undermine the need for her legislation. She said there have been other instances where people who apparently were planning school shootings were found with plans in their possession.

And even if that were not the case, Terech said, “I think it’s a smart idea to put in place preemptively.”

Her comments come the same day that House Republicans blocked a vote on legislation requiring homeowners to keep their weapons locked up.

That move came as Rep. Jennifer Longdon sought to get approval for HB 2192. The Phoenix Democrat, paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a random drive-by shooting in 2004, said the failure to enact such restrictions means that children can get access to weapons.

But House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City, used a procedural move to preclude a vote on her bill — and to prevent GOP lawmakers from having to going on record on the issue.

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Rep. Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City

The measure is dubbed “Christian’s Law,” named after Christian Petillo. Longdon said Tuesday would have been his 17th birthday except for the fact that he was shot during a sleepover at the Queen Creek home of a friend in what was ruled an accidental death.

Her legislation seeks to require people who store firearms or ammunition in a residence to keep them in a securely locked box or equips the firearm with a device that renders it inoperable without a key or combination. Longdon said that also would include biometric trigger locks that allow only certain people to operate the gun.

The only other exception would be if the owner is carrying the weapon or it is so close to allow it to be retrieved as if it was on the person’s body. Violations would carry a fine of at least $1,000.

“The technology exists,” Longdon told colleagues on Tuesday as she sought a vote. “You can protect kids and have the access to your firearm when and if you need it.”

She called it a “baby step.”

“This is the least we can do,” Longdon said. “And I will never understand the cowardice that this issue inspires.”

Biasiucci, in leading the move to block a vote on HB 2192, lashed out at Democrats for not voting for what he called “school safety” bills sponsored by Republicans.

In his case, that is HB 2705, which would have set aside $10 million for a school safety pilot program.

But Democrats, like Rep. Nancy Gutierrez of Tucson, said the flaw in the measure was it was designed to arm teachers.

“More guns do not make schools safer,” she said in voting against Biasiucci’s bill in committee. “Teachers are not combat veterans.”

Biasiucci, in arguing against allowing a vote on Longdon’s bill, said it was missing the mark.

“At the end of the day, it’s the person behind the gun,” he said. “And we should never forget that it (the Second Amendment) says ‘shall not be infringed.”’

While Longdon’s bill is dead, at least for this session, there is no clear answer about why Terech’s measure on school blueprints and plans has stalled. There was no immediate response to multiple inquiries both directly to Toma and the House GOP press aide.

Terech said her legislation is modeled after something approved in Louisiana.

On one hand, she said, schools are getting safer, with locked doors and fewer points of entry.

“Unfortunately, people are going to get more creative if they have nefarious intent,” Terech said. “While that shooter (in Nashville) may not have blueprints or floor plans exactly, the intent was clearly the same.”

She said this isn’t only about those who are looking to shoot up schools. Terech said her legislation would keep this kind of information out of the hands of others who might want to scope out a school, such as a non-custodial parent wanting to kidnap a child.

“We’re just putting an extra safeguard in place to, hopefully, limit members of the public who have no connection to the school from getting the layout of where kids are throughout the day,” she said.

Terech said she has received no answers from GOP leadership about why they will not advance her measure for a roll-call vote. And she said that, until now, it hasn’t been partisan, what with the unanimous approval of the House Government Committee and the fact it is co-sponsored by Republican Matt Gress, who represents the same legislative district.

The closest thing Terech said she has heard to opposition are comments from some who have questioned whether the measure actually would make any difference.

“My response to that has been, gosh, I sure hope you’re right,” she said.

“I hope that we put this bill through and it goes and it sits there and this is never an issue,” Terech continued. “But if it’s this innocuous of a bill, it doesn’t cost any money, and it has the potential to keep our kids safe, I don’t see why we wouldn’t move forward with that.”

What it would not do, Terech said, is keep the plans from those who need them such as law enforcement and the School Facilities Board, which is in charge of funding school construction and repairs.