Illinois governor applauds passage of campus security bill

Just hours after receiving unanimous approval from the Senate Higher Education Committee Thursday morning, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich applauded the full Senate for passing the Campus Security Enhancement Act. Senate Bill 2691 requires colleges and universities to develop and exercise emergency response and violence prevention programs. The bill now moves to the Illinois House of Representatives for consideration.

"The Illinois Senate clearly shares my concern for campus safety and acted quickly to move this important legislation forward," said Gov. Blagojevich. "The safety of students on our more than 180 Illinois college campuses is of the utmost importance, and I urge members of the House of Representatives to also act quickly to send the Campus Security Enhancement Act to my desk," said Gov. Blagojevich.

Senate Bill 2691, sponsored by state Sen. John Sullivan (D- Rushville), would require all Illinois higher education institutions to develop and exercise an all-hazards emergency response plan and an inter-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional campus violence prevention plan. State and local emergency management officials will assist with the development of these plans, as well as with training and exercises related to the plans. The Act would also require the development and implementation of a campus violence prevention committee and campus threat assessment team.

"Senate Bill 2691 not only assists college campuses in creating emergency management plans, but also aides in violence prevention," said Sen. Sullivan. "There is not one answer to this problem; I believe that both prevention and preparedness are essential to securing college campuses. This bill provides both."

On April 15, Gov. Blagojevich accepted a comprehensive report from the Campus Security Task Force (CSTF) detailing numerous recommendations for increasing security at the more than 180 institutions of higher learning in Illinois. The task force's recommendations included the Campus Security Enhancement Act approved by the Senate Higher Education committee today.

Another task force recommendation awaiting legislative approval is a $25 million Campus Security Enhancement Grant program, which would make available funding for campus security response and violence prevention training programs, projects to enhance emergency communications and planning and execution of campus-wide training programs. Funding for this initiative is included in the Governor's capital bill.

Gov. Blagojevich established the CSTF in April 2007 and charged members with developing and implementing comprehensive, coordinated policies and training programs to deter, prevent and significantly enhance the response to and recovery from major public safety incidents at higher education institutions in Illinois.

"No matter how big or how small the college campus, a sound emergency response plan is essential for dealing with emergencies," said Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and chairman of the CSTF's response committee. "While we hope no campus ever has to deal with another shooting tragedy, the Campus Security Enhancement Act will help us ensure that every campus is prepared to handle whatever emergency arises."