Legislative Notebook: Bullying Bill OK’d

By Don Davis and Danielle Killey

Minnesota schools would be forced to adopt policies against bullying under a bill Minnesota representatives passed 72-57 Monday night.

“Every kid deserves to wake up in the morning … and go to a school they are excited to go to,” Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

The bill mandates that public school districts either accept a state model anti-bullying policy or adopt their own.

The policy would need to deal with activities between students occurring on school property, at a school function or on school transportation vehicles. It also would apply to the use of electronic devices used for school-related bullying.

The bill requires school policies to be “research based” and be designed to prevent bullying.

School administrators would be required to train students, employees and volunteers affected by the policy.

“Training of all staff is key,” Davnie said.

Republicans complained about several parts of the bill, including taking power away from local districts.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said the bill would cost schools and would “levy onto the Minnesota taxpayers a $52 million unfunded mandate.”

He said that costs to follow the bill would come from higher property taxes. “The schools in this state are being bullied by this bill.”

Democrats say the state cost would be less than half what Drazkowski says.

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, said some of the worse bullying her children suffered was at the hands of teachers. Earlier in the legislative process, she said, teacher bullying was included in the bill, but was dropped by the time it reached the full House.

Unionizing bill stalls

An 11-11 tie in the Senate Finance Committee stalled a bill that would allow child care providers and personal care attendants to unionize.

While there remain several ways the bill could be revived, Monday’s vote was the first rejection in what generally had been partisan debate this legislative session. Democratic Sens. Barb Goodwin of Columbia Heights and Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka joined Republicans in voting against the measure.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, would allow state-subsidized day care providers to join a union to negotiate with the state. Also, personal care attendants also could unionize.

Republicans say that unions are not designed to represent small businesses, such as day care providers and care attendants.

Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, said it is possible that the bill will come back up on the committee and could pass if one of the people who voted against it Monday is out of the room.

Pappas plans to seek a new vote as early as today.

“This seems to be a priority for the unions,” Nienow said, and unions are primary Democratic supporters.

Democrats, who mostly support the bill, control the House, Senate and governor’s office.

Chemicals banned

The Senate voted 38-23 to ban formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing chemicals in children’s personal care products such as soap, lotion and shampoo.

“Most parents don’t realize that many of the shampoos, soaps and bubble baths they buy for their kids contain chemicals that release formaldehyde,” state Director Deanna White of Clean Water Action said. “This bill assures that young children are protected from exposure to this harmful chemical in personal care products.”

This is the second bill recently passed to manage chemicals in baby and children’s products.

Last week, senators approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, banning bisphenol-A in baby food and formula containers.

The House has approved similar bills.

Staffing compromise OK’d

An issue that early this year split hospitals and their nurses has been resolved and awaits Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature.

Dayton is expected to sign the measure.

The House voted 76-56 in favor of the bill that orders a study of nurse staffing levels in hospitals statewide and requires regular reporting of staffing to the state.

Each Minnesota hospital would need to have a staffing plan.

Earlier versions of the bill would have set in law staffing ratios, but hospitals said that would be micromanaging and would hurt small hospitals.