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School Security Bill Appears to Be Doomed


SACRAMENTO — As the latest victim of a campus shooting lay wounded in a Los Angeles hospital Wednesday, legislation that would provide millions of dollars to beef up school security appeared to have little chance of passing.

With two more days left in the legislative session, the bill by Sen. Teresa Hughes (D--Inglewood) remained bottled up in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, where it is being blocked by local governments led by the League of California Cities. The cities object to Hughes' plan to finance the measure with higher parking ticket revenues.

"They are trying to take money that belongs to the cities," said Assemblyman Bob Epple (D-Cerritos), a leading opponent.

Cities object that they will have to pay for collecting the higher fines, and that the state-imposed fines would leave them little "wiggle room" if they have to raise parking ticket rates to meet their own needs.

The bill would increase parking fines by a maximum of $10 to raise at least $100 million a year. The additional money would be used to expand school security forces, install metal detectors, maintain alternative schools for delinquents, provide special training for teachers and administrators, and establish after-school programs.

Supporters are continuing a lobbying effort but acknowledged Wednesday that their prospects for passage this year are dim.

Steve Barrow, a lobbyist for Children's Advocacy Institute, said the opposition from the cities and automobile clubs to the parking surcharge appeared insurmountable.

"It's not the most progressive tax," he conceded. "But I'll take a little bit of regressivity over a kid taking a bullet in the head anytime."

Hughes said she was baffled by the strength of the opposition, especially when the latest shooting at Dorsey High School demonstrates the growing threat of violence in Los Angeles schools. Glynn Brown, 15, was shot on the first day of school while waiting to register for classes. He was listed in stable condition following surgery at Los Angele County-USC Medical Center.

Two students were fatally shot at two other Los Angeles high schools earlier this year.

"How much more do we need to happen in the community before we get serious about it?" Hughes said. "I don't think that any money is so special that it should be set aside for anything but the preservation of life."

Epple said that while Hughes' objectives were laudable, it was unfair to finance them with parking ticket money, one of the few sources of revenue still available to cities.

When the bill surfaced almost three weeks ago, it provided for a $5 surcharge for every $10 of fines. Hoping to neutralize the opposition, Hughes agreed to cap the surcharge at no more than $10 per ticket.

Even so, the opposition remained adamant.

"Although we're very sympathetic to the purpose of the bill, we can't support an increased burden on motorists," said David Scharlach, a lobbyist for the Automobile Club of Southern California.

While school violence needs addressing, Scharlach said, motorists shouldn't have to shoulder the responsibility of paying for new programs to deal with it.

"This really is just a tax because there is no reasonable relationship between motorists who break the laws of parking and violence on the campus," he said.

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