So many issues – and so little time! The 2014 session of the Legislature will have a lot on its plate – data privacy, cyber security, MNsure, sex offender reform, Vikings Stadium funding re-visit, nurses’ licensing, Sunday liquor law, and the bonding bill – plus controversial issues such as minimum wage and medical marijuana. However, a bill that’s a top agenda item for the “politically correct” should not be considered a priority in this “unsession.” It’s the bullying bill.
BULLYING BILL IS UNNECESSARY
We all agree bullying has no place in our schools – and school districts are already required by law to have anti-bullying policies in place. But H.F. 826, known as the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, is being pushed hard by special interests and is an unfunded mandate that is unnecessary, excessive and contrary to good parenting practices.
The bullying bill creates a 24-member unelected board of state bureaucrats that would be responsible for crafting bullying policies that would apply to all Minnesota schools, rather than allowing for local control.
The bill is an unfunded mandate on our schools. The Minnesota Office of Management and Budget (MMB) estimates that the bill would cost schools about $40-50 million every two years to implement. The reason? Each school would be required to hire a staff member to handle all bullying reports, and compile and send that information to the School Climate Council.
Parents may not be required to be notified. The bill passed the House last year, but a key provision requiring parent notification was stripped out by the Senate – and the bill stalled. It is highly concerning that, without this provision, there would be no requirement that a parent be notified if their child is accused of bullying.
The bill says all school volunteers must undergo mandatory training to comply with the new state requirements. If you want to volunteer to work the concession stand at your child’s football game, you would be required to have anti-bullying training. The message is that government does not believe parents are capable of recognizing and appropriately responding to bullying unless they undergo state-run training.
Our schools should be places where children can feel safe to focus on learning and growing as individuals. As one Centerville Elementary teacher told me, “We work on eliminating bullying every day in the classroom. We don’t need this bill.” This responsibility should be with parents and school officials in local communities.
Your input on this issue would be greatly appreciated as we prepare for the new session.
VIKINGS STADIUM – NOT A NICKEL MORE
In the 2013 legislative session, Governor Dayton and the DFL-controlled Legislature broke promises and stuck taxpayers with a big chunk of the bill to construct a new stadium for billionaire Zygi Wilf. E-pulltab revenues continue to lag well behind projections and budget shortfalls and cost overruns threaten Minnesota taxpayers with another wallop.
How the “hole” in the Vikings funding is filled will be a tricky subject. In my opinion, we should not be adding another nickel of burden on the middle-class taxpayer for this boondoggle.
As always, your correspondence is greatly appreciated as we prepare for the new session to start Feb. 25. Meantime, here is a link to a recent column that appeared in the Quad Community Press where I address a wider range of issues to start the year. Also, here is a link to a column that appeared in the Star Tribune where colleague Sen. David Osmek and I challenge spending for streetcars.