Bucco’s bipartisan school safety bill signed by Governor

By Matt Arco | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com and Brent Johnson | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Thanks to a swipe of Gov. Phil Murphy’s pen Wednesday, New Jersey’s 2,500 public schools will soon be required to have silent panic alarms used to help protect students during emergencies like an active shooter.

Murphy signed into law legislation dubbed “Alyssa’s Law” — after Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year-old former Woodcliff Lake resident who was among the 17 killed in the February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“Alyssa’s death is a stark reminder of the dangers of gun violence and the need for adequate school security measures,” Murphy, a Democrat, said in a statement. “In New Jersey, we will do everything in our power to prevent these tragedies from occurring within our borders.”

The bill (A764) passed both chambers of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature with broad bipartisan support.

Murphy had conditionally vetoed an earlier version when he said its funding needed to be revamped. Lawmakers agreed with the governor’s changes to the bill.

It will cost between $2.5 million and $12.5 million to install the alarms, according to the non-partisan state Office of Legislative Services. The money will come from a portion of a $500 million bond voters approved last year that will pay for improvements to public schools, vocational schools and community colleges.

Alhadeff lived in Woodcliff Lake in Bergen County with her family from 2010-14. She was a freshman at Marjory Douglas when she died.

Her parents, Ilan and Lori Alhadeff, were on hand Wednesday to see Murphy sign the law.

“Our hearts are overwhelmed to know our daughter’s death is making national changes for school safety, and hopefully other states will follow suit,” the couple said.

State Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, the main sponsor of the measure, said the law “can increase the chances of diffusing a bad situation without further harm to students and staff.”

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, another sponsor, said New Jersey will be “propelled into the forefront of states which are harnessing the power of technology to protect our schools from the type of heart-wrenching tragedies we’ve seen far too many times in the news.”

Matt Arco may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewArco or Facebook.