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Senate defers anti-bullying bill

BullyingBy Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

A bill meant to toughen Iowa’s anti-bullying laws, a signature piece of Gov. Terry Branstad’s 2015 agenda, hit a momentary snag Monday in the Senate.

Senate File 345 proposes a number of amendments to existing Iowa Code that were enacted in 2007 as they relate to anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies. The bill, if enacted, would require additional funding – not already included in the measure – to provide for training for school personnel, for establishing a bullying and violence prevention student mentoring pilot program, and for a school climate and bullying work group.

The bill also provides schools with the authority to address incidents of bullying that occur outside of school hours and away from school property. An amendment filed by the bill’s floor manager, state Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) further clarified that schools may refer such incidents to parents, and to the appropriate law enforcement and social services agencies.

The amendment was adopted on a voice vote. Education Committee chair, state Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames), rose in support of the bill and complimented Hogg on his work on the proposed legislation.

State Sen. Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) then rose to say he felt an anti-bullying bill was among his top priorities coming into the legislative session. He said he hoped for a bill that not only dealt with bullying in schools, but “also in society.”

He then went on to say that he also thought Hogg did a good job in crafting the bill. But, he then complained that SF 345 wouldn’t really do much without appropriation.

“It’s all subject to appropriation, and yet we don’t have any money,” he said. “And so, we’re going to pass a bill, and we’re going to get a headline, and we’re going to send out a press release, and we’re going to act like we did something, and I don’t really know that we did do anything.”

Bisignano then entered into a colloquy with Hogg to discuss the bill. He said he liked the bill, but didn’t like the lack of funding for its provisions. Hogg said the Senate attempted to provide “$1 million in investment” for the programs and training specified in the bill last year, but acknowledged the provisions of the current bill were tied directly to allowable growth issues for schools that are still being hammered out in a conference committee for school funding.

Bisignano then suggested the bill should have a provision that allows and encourages citizens to report cases of bullying when they see it.

“I know I’ve witnessed it a number of times in driving, driving by schools, and being at sporting events and so forth,” he said. “I’m outraged when I see the situation, and I would like to be able to be included [in] that authority off the school grounds. I think that’s how we deal with bullying. When everybody takes an active part and everybody feels included and they feel it’s almost like mandatory reporting – even though it’s not mandatory – but that we see it and we take action, whether we take a picture or video or have witnesses who are with us. I think until we all take an active part everywhere, wherever we are, then we’re missing a lot of the picture here.”

Bisignano asked that the bill be deferred while he crafted an amendment to allow for those provisions. Hogg was momentarily shocked by the request, seemingly unsure how to respond to the request.

Since the amendment was not yet drafted, SF 345 will be delayed until the Legislative Service Agency’s bill writers can draw it up.

The bill must be adopted this week to survive the second “funnel” deadline.

The Senate also adopted House File 347, a substitute bill for Senate File 379 that would require all preschools operated by or for public school districts be licensed by the Iowa Department of Human Services. A second amendment submitted by state Sen. Bob Dvorsky (D-Coralville) would require two additional types of preschool programs to be placed under DHS authority via Iowa Code 237A.1:

  • a program administered by a political subdivision of the state which is primarily for recreational or social purposes and is limited to children who are 5 years of age or older and attending school, and
  • an after-school program continuously offered throughout the school year calendar to children who are at least 5 years of age and are enrolled in school, and attend the program intermittently or as a summer-only program, that is provided through a nominal membership fee or at no cost.

Republicans caucused for 30 minutes prior to the adoption of the Dvorsky amendment on a voice vote. Neither the amendment nor the bill as a whole were debated.

HF 347, as amended, was adopted on a nearly party-line vote of 27-21. State Sens. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) and Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) were absent and excused from the vote.

The bill must now go to a conference committee to iron out the differences between the two versions of the proposed legislation.

The Senate also unanimously adopted the following bills:

  • Senate File 329 – an act to allow physicians to administer pediatric doses of pneumococcal vaccine to adult patients.
  • House File 496 – an act to provide for confidentiality of communications between victims of sexual assault and military victim advocates.

Senators also unanimously voted to confirm, en bloc, the governor’s appointees, with the exclusion of Kristine Kramer, who has been appointed to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. Her appointment was not eligible for en bloc confirmation.

 

CLICK HERE to see video of the first part of Monday’s Senate floor debate. CLICK HERE to see the second part (following the Republican caucus over the Dvorsky amendment to HF 347).

 

In the House

The Iowa House Democrats split on a bill to amend Iowa Code as it relates to the sale, lease, or rental of water treatment systems. House File 580 was adopted on an 85-13 vote. State Rep. Deborah Berry (D-Waterloo), who served on the subcommittee that crafted the bill, urged her colleagues to support the proposed legistion.

State Rep. Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids), however, asked the bill’s floor manager, state Rep. Ken Rizer (R-Cedar Rapids), to colloquy over a provision of the bill that would remove a requirement that the buyer and seller sign a performance data sheet that spells out what the water treatment equipment will and will not do. Staed said that provision had drawn the concern of the Attorney General’s Office, as well as water quality interest groups, but Rizer said the Attorney General’s Office representative said the change would have no impact on water quality.

The Attorney General’s Office is officially “undecided” on the bill. The Iowa Water Quality Association is the only lobbyist group opposed to the bill.

“I want the body to know I like things that are happening in this bill. A lot of the regulation is redundant,” Staed said. “But this particular part, where the individual and the seller sign a performance sheet that the product will actually do what they claim it does, which will be outside what the standards might be, would be the claims of the seller, so that once those are signed and it is clear what that is, I would hate for us to lose that consumer protection. I will be a ‘no’ on this bill.”

The House also voted unanimously to adopt two other bills. They were:

  • House File 467 – an act to change the penalty for failure to declare a deer or wild turkey harvest from a $100 simple misdemeanor to a $20 scheduled fine.