NASHVILLE - A House panel today approved an anti-gang measure that beefs up penalties for gang members engaged in criminal activities on or near school grounds.
Members of the House Criminal Justice Committee today passed on a voice vote the Gang Free School Zone Act, sponsored by Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, on behalf of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield. Legislators praised the legislation.
The proposed legislation enhances criminal conduct committed by a gang member on school grounds or within 1,000 feet of a school.
"I think we all want the children to be safe when they're in school and the school to be safe, to be protected," Dean told colleagues while presenting the bill.
The bill has a large fiscal note, estimated at nearly $2.3 million annually.
"There have been an average of 159 criminal acts on school grounds" by gang members per year at schools over the past three years, Dean said.
He cited the March 5 fatal shooting of a Howard School sophmore by a gang member.
The bill now goes to the Finance Committee. Dean said he plans to work with the panel on the legislation.
In other action, Criminal Justice Committee members approved a bill sponsored by Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, that elevates fines to $5,000 for assaults on hospital workers.
Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.