Lawmakers Advance Bill To Strengthen School Safety 

A pair of bills aimed at beefing up security at Maine’s schools were presented to the education committee Thursday.The nearly identical measures direct the Department of Education to take a fresh look at school’s access points and see what can be done to make them safer. “Looking at things like safe rooms, bullet resistant glass, double doors where people could be let into a school but then if they’re an intruder they could be captured in an area where they would be held until police arrived,” said former State Senator David Trahan, who now serves as the head of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. Trahan, who represented Lincoln County in the Maine Senate, said that while serving in the legislature he wanted to bring this bill forward. He came to Augusta to speak in favor of it Thursday. Representative Lance Harvell of Farmington sponsored the first bill submitted by Republicans. Harvell was unable to make it to Augusta Thursday, so Deb Sanderson of Chelsea, who co-sponsored the measure, presented it to the committee. Supporters, like Trahan, say they felt it was necessary after 20 children and six educators were gunned down at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. “Newtown was very tragic,” Sanderson said. “No community ever expects what happened in Newtown, what happened in Columbine 14 years ago, to ever happen in their own community.”Both bills were considered redundant so the committee, lead by a majority of Democrats, killed the Republican sponsored bill, opting to support the version put forth by Democrat Sheryl Briggs of Mexico.The move comes despite the fact the Republican’s bill came first causing some Republican leaders to question the decision. “Maine children must have the safest learning environment we can give them,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette. “I just hope that Democrats were more focused on making that happen than they are on taking credit for Representative Harvell’s idea.” Sanderson said the important thing is to get the job done, regardless of who gets the credit. “The bills are very, very similar,” she said. “They both want to accomplish the exact same goal. So if they want to dispose of one and use the other for a vehicle, we’re completely fine with that because this a bi-partisan effort. The safety of our children should never be a party line vote.”The measure now heads to the House floor for a vote.