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Anti-bullying bill dies in Senate

In a session dominated by big, contentious issues, the anti-bullying proposal stirred up a surprising amount of acrimony.

Sen. Scott Dibble, right, speaks with Rep. Jim Davnie after the Senate gay-marriage debate last week. Rep. Davnie was the lead House author of the anti-bullying legislation.
MinnPost photo by James Nord

Not the least of the finger pointing that will accompany the 2013 Legislature’s final gavel will concern who killed the long-sought, comprehensive anti-bullying bill that at the start of the session appeared a shoo-in.

Was it Senate DFL leaders, who put off taking up the measure until quite literally the middle of the final night? Or was it their GOP counterparts, who threatened a 10-hour filibuster if the bill was not shelved?

Pulled in early morning

At about 2 a.m. this morning, Senate DFL leaders pulled the anti-bullying bill, saying they would try again for passage in 2014. 

OutFront Minnesota, which worked for months to secure passage of the bill, planned to go ahead with a rally in support to be held at the Capitol this morning at 10.

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“So much for Republicans’ vows to refashion themselves as a more inclusive and ‘caring’ party in the aftermath of their last election’s shellacking,” the measure’s chief Senate author, Minneapolis’ Scott Dibble, posted to his Facebook page. “How does killing a bullying bill by threatening a 10-hour filibuster in the closing hours of the legislative session square with that?

“I assured Minority Leader David Hann [Eden Prairie], who delivered the threat to me personally, that we will pass every single word of this bill into law as soon as we return to the second half of this biennial session next February,” Dibble continued. “It is unconscionable to force Minnesota students to endure another year without the safety and support in their own schools that is their right.”

In a session dominated by big, contentious issues, the anti-bullying proposal stirred up a surprising amount of acrimony. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis lobbied against the measure and asked parishioners to do likewise.

Calling it an extension of the push for same-sex marriage, the church insisted that the law was an “Orwellian nightmare,” that would “usurp parental rights” and create “re-education camps.” Nor did specific language in the bill protecting students from religious harassment and recognizing their constitutional right to free religious speech satisfy critics.

Long, contentious debate

After a debate that surprisingly was longer and more contentious than the one over same-sex marriage, the House of Representatives passed an amended version that granted an exemption to private schools but allowed them to keep some $75 million a year in per-pupil state aid.

As the Legislature headed into its final two weeks, advocates began to fret as the House measure languished. With the clock running down, they became increasingly concerned that without enough time for a conference committee the Senate would be forced to adopt the compromise version.

Virtually no one anticipated the wholesale shelving of the measure, however.