Rep. Gingery: Pay for school cops
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
January 21, 2013
More money for cops in public schools is the goal of Jackson Rep. Keith Gingery.
Gingery is writing a funding bill for the Wyoming House to consider, and hopes to introduce it this week. His announcement came a day after a set of gun control proposals announced Wednesday by President Obama.
Gingery’s bill would reimburse local governments the cost of putting officers in schools. It is one of several gun laws that legislators are expected to take up this session.
“President Obama put forward some initiatives,” Gingery said Thursday. “We’re reviewing those. These are the two I already had in the works.”
A second Gingery bill, House Bill 15, already has been introduced. That bill would require medical providers to report gunshot wounds to law enforcement authorities.
Gingery’s proposal for funding school resource officers would pay for new officers and support existing arrangements. Teton County School District No. 1 pays the town of Jackson and Teton County to keep an officer at its schools. The county provides one sheriff’s deputy and the town provides one police officer.
If approved, Gingery’s bill would send state money to the school district, which could free money in its budget, he said.
The officers in Jackson provide security at schools and also teach about safety and investigate crimes within the school system, Gingery said.
“It would help Teton County because we would get money for what we’re already doing,” he said. “It incentivizes us to keep going with our program.”
The cops-in-schools debate has been the center of talk about gun control since the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. Twenty first-graders and six adults were killed. The National Rifle Association has said armed guards in schools is the way to go.
Gingery’s other bill originally mandated reporting by doctors of a variety of wounds inflicted by violence. He changed it slightly after comments from physicians, medical organizations and domestic violence advocates in the state.
The bill now includes a provision that would make some reporting requirements optional. For instance, it would be up to a physician’s discretion whether to report injuries not related to gun violence.
If someone showed up in a doctor’s office with a black eye, the physician would determine whether to report that to law enforcement agents, Gingery said.
There’s some gray area with this kind of reporting under existing laws, Gingery said.
“Federal law says HIPAA doesn’t apply if the state has a gun-reporting law,” Gingery said, referring to a federal law that protects patient privacy.
“This frees up a doctor so he won’t feel like he’s potentially violating the federal information statute,” he said.
Wyoming is one of four states that don’t mandate reporting of gunshot wounds, he said.
President Obama announced a wide-ranging package of proposals last week that seek to curb gun violence. His ideas include limiting access to guns and certain types of ammunition, improving mental health care and spending more money on research and law enforcement.
Some Wyoming lawmakers don’t like the president’s proposals or any federal intrusion.
Rep. Kendell Kroeker, R-Evansville, is sponsoring a bill that seeks to invalidate any new federal gun laws that restrict semi-automatic weapons or require guns to be registered. House Bill 104 would also make it a felony for any federal agent to enforce those rules within Wyoming.
Lawmakers are debating the bill.
Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, said senators are undecided whether the law would hold up in court.
Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, signed on as a co-sponsor to House Bill 104.
Another bill, sponsored by Cheyenne Republican Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, would exempt firearms from sales tax. The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson, isn’t expected to advance in the House.