March | April 2017



Virginia Task Force Recommends Initiatives to Improve School Safety

A 45-member school safety task force in Virginia has submitted recommendations intended to decrease the risk of violence at state schools and college campuses, according to a story in the (Richmond) Times Dispatch.
The 45-member Governor’s Task Force on School and Campus Safety recommended strengthening the state’s penalties when legal gun buyers knowingly purchase weapons for people who can’t pass background checks. The proposal adds a one-year mandatory prison sentence for the purchaser and a 10-year prison term for the intended recipient if the deal involves multiple weapons. State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli noted that Project Exile, a federal program requiring five-year minimum sentences for gun possession by felons, helped stem gang violence in Richmond in the 1990s.
The task force voted to recommend creating a new criminal offense for people who take guns or explosives into schools with the intent to do harm. Such an action would be a class 3 felony, punishable by five to 20 years in prison.
The group also will be examining the issue of armed security guards in school buildings, and is expected to make a recommendation addressing the issue—along with other long-term policy-oriented suggestions—by the end of spring 2013.
South Carolina jumped 13 spots in relation to the strength of its charter school laws, The Post and Courier of Charlestonreported. It’s now ranked 12th in the nation. The rankings are released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which evaluates states based on the 20 essential components from its model law. Those components include measuring quality and accountability, equitable access to funding and facilities, and limited caps on charter school growth.
Texas State University received a $2 million private grant to help establish a master’s degree in nursing program. University officials are hoping the program will increase the number of nurse practitioners, which are in high demand in the Lone Star state due to a shortage of health care providers. According to The Austin American-Statesman, university officials plan to graduate 38 nurses with master’s degrees each year after putting them through a 21-month, five-semester program for registered nurses that already have bachelor’s degrees.
In his state budget proposal, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon asked for $10 million to help mentally ill residents receive timely and effective treatment. The Columbia Missourian reported that the  majority of the funding would be put toward an emergency room diversion project  that would be tested at seven hospitals around the state. According to the state Department of Health, approximately 1,100 people could be helped through the program each year.
The Louisiana Juvenile Justice Implementation Commission said more funding from the state and local level is needed for the state’s juvenile justice system, which has seen large budget cuts in recent years, The Times-Picayune reported. A  report by Louisiana State University’s Institute for Public Health and Justice praised the state’s efforts to revamp its juvenile justice system. Despite the progress, the report noted, problems remain, including how local courts deal with low-risk status offenders, such as children who skip school. The report noted a need for accessible mental health programs and more supervision or other programs to help juveniles once they are released from long sentences.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has proposed new legislation aimed at keeping tuition costs steady for the state’s students, The Miami Herald reported. The proposal—known as Finish in Four—aims to encourage students to complete their degrees in four years by freezing tuition costs during that time. Universities would have the flexibility to determine which degrees may take longer than four years to complete and offer an extended guarantee. Scott also has challenged Florida colleges and universities that award four-year degrees to offer at least one degree at $10,000.