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Bill requiring panic alarms in Florida schools nears final approval

'We’ve worked so hard to get to this point'
Posted at 7:33 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 19:34:26-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Parkland mother’s push for change looks to soon pay off.

A bill named after Lori Alhadeff’s daughter Alyssa— one of the 17 killed during the high school shooting two years ago— cleared the Senate, Friday morning.

It now waits for a vote in the House, which could come before lawmakers adjourn for the night.

If the governor signs, “Alyssa’s Law” would require public districts to install digital panic alarm systems by the start of the 2021 school year. With a mobile app, teachers or staff could immediately reach first responders, saving precious seconds.

Alhadeff said it’s been a long two years advocating for better school safety measures. She was happy to see the bill so close to becoming law.

“We’ve worked so hard to get to this point,” Alhadeff said. “Finally, for the vote to actually happen— for it to be unanimously voted yes— it’s just incredible and amazing. I’m just so excited.”

Support on the measure has been universal to date. Not a single no vote from lawmakers in either chamber.

Education lobbyists are behind it, too.

“Any type of instrument that we can put in the classroom that will help keep our kids and teachers and staff safe, we’re going to support,” said Angie Gallo, Florida PTA Legislative Chair.

The bill’s two versions need to be reconciled before reaching the governor. The Senate’s approved measure mandates a statewide system. The pending House version gives districts individual leeway. Co-sponsors believed the hurdle would be cleared without issue.

“There’s been a little bit of a fight over how we implement it,” said Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Hollywood. “But I think ultimately we do the right thing.”

Lawmakers are planning to appropriate $8-million to pay for the bill. If the House makes any changes, the measure will have to head back to the Senate before reaching the governor.