Maryland House OKs budget after school safety debate

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland House of Delegates approved the state's $44.5 billion budget on Thursday after some debate over how the state will pay to improve school safety in the aftermath of this week's school shooting in St. Mary's County.

The House voted 125-12 for the budget, which will now go to a panel of negotiators to work out differences in the legislation passed by the House and Senate.

What to do about school safety and how to pay for it has become a main focus in the last three weeks of the session after Tuesday's shooting, in which a 17-year-old boy was killed after shooting and critically injuring a 16-year-old schoolmate at Great Mills High School.

Del. Deborah Rey, a St. Mary's County Republican, proposed an amendment to steer $1 million away from the attorney general's office that is set aside to bring lawsuits against the federal government and use the money for school safety grants.

"My community is still in shock and asking questions about what can we do," Rey said.

The amendment failed after Democrats who control the General Assembly contended the budget already has $30 million set aside for school safety. They also noted that further actions are expected on bipartisan legislation proposed by lawmakers and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Hogan's school-safety bill has a hearing scheduled before a House committee Thursday afternoon.

"We've got $30 million, and by the time we leave here I'm sure it will be more, once the policy committees have had a chance to work as they are doing right now with the governor," said Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who heads the House Appropriations Committee.

The governor's proposal includes $125 million for capital improvements such as secure doors and windows, metal detectors and security cameras. It also includes another $50 million annually to pay for school resource officers, counselors and technology.

The presiding officers of the General Assembly say they are moving forward with a bipartisan approach to improve school safety. Maryland's legislative session is scheduled to end April 9 at midnight.

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