All eyes are now on the House, after a sweeping school safety measure squeaked out of the Senate on a 20-18 vote Monday evening.
But could a tweak that may have kept the bill from going down in the upper chamber result in its demise across the rotunda?
Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, sponsored an amendment that would exclude individuals who “exclusively” provide classroom instruction from participating in the school marshal program, rebranded by the Senate on Monday as the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.” The controversial program would allow specially trained teachers or other school personnel to bring guns to class.
With the clock ticking down until the session ends Friday, there’s no guarantee that the House, slated to take up the bill (SB 7026) tomorrow, will pass it as is, Senate leaders acknowledged.
“It’s been a very dynamic process. There were even amendments on third reading, which is unusual for a bill of this stature,” Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told reporters late Monday evening.
“There’s some general consensus, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both the House and the Senate had some additional input into the process. But I think on some of the fundamental areas, there’s agreement,” he said.
The Senate plan also includes a provision that requires both school districts and sheriffs to sign off on the plan, while the House’s version would only require the blessing of the school boards.
Gov. Rick Scott has opposed arming teachers, and it’s unclear whether he would support the revised bill.
Sen. Bill Galvano, who’s negotiated with Speaker-Designate Jose Oliva and Scott on the proposal, said that the measure passed by the Senate Monday night “was not a deal with the House,” but was generated from “the discussion” during Saturday’s floor debate.
Garcia was a no vote, Galvano pointed out.
(Translation: If Garcia had joined the opposition on Monday, the bill would have died on a 19-19 tie.)