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Tennessee governor proposes $30M to improve school safety

Governor Bill Haslam (R-TN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday proposed $30.2 million to improve school safety, which the administration says will be spread among mental health, law enforcement safety and education.

Haslam says upcoming recommendations from a school safety panel he appointed will help determine exactly what will be funded. Those suggestions could come as soon as next week, he added.

"I think it's open, everything from school resource officers, to physical improvements in the schools, to video monitors, to better alert notifications to law enforcement, but also for students to be able to notify people that, hey, there's somebody that's of concern here," Haslam told reporters Tuesday.

Haslam's office says the money includes $25 million in nonrecurring and $5.2 million in recurring school safety grants. He said he's open to a special legislative session on school safety, but Tennessee may not necessarily need to call one, depending on what happens in the final few weeks of the current, ongoing session.

The school safety money would come through Haslam's amendment for the 2018-2019 proposed budget, which the administration introduced Tuesday.

Haslam and the Republican-led General Assembly have been split on some school safety ideas after last month's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

A bill that would leave it up to school districts whether they let teachers undergo training and carry guns in classrooms continues to advance in the legislature.

Haslam has opposed the idea, saying he doesn't think most teachers want to be armed or undergo the training, and furthermore, he doubts that most school boards would authorize them to carry firearms. He guessed that 1 percent or less of teachers would take up officials on the offer.

"My concern, again, is that we would think that that somehow answers the problem when I don't think it will," Haslam said.

Haslam also supports limiting the sale of semi-automatic weapons to people 21 years or older. But there hasn't been any movement in the General Assembly on that idea.

"Whether somebody will pick up that piece and add it to a bill or not, we don't know yet," Haslam said.

Haslam's budget amendment Tuesday includes $74 million in nonrecurring money and $9.8 million in recurring funds.

It features $3 million in nonrecurring money to provide grants to school districts to help cover the additional cost to add seatbelts when they buy school buses.