Anti-bullying legislation cleared its biggest hurdle at the state Capitol Thursday evening when the Minnesota Senate passed the bill 36-31.
As MPR reports, the bill requires school districts to investigate and track bullying cases and train teachers and some staff members in prevention.
Supporters of a new law have argued that the existing one is too weak to protect Minnesota students. The Star Tribune notes that gay rights advocates in particular have been working on strengthening the law for a decade.
The House passed a similar bill last year and will need to sign off on the Senate's version. Speaker Paul Thissen told the Star Tribune he expects that will happen quickly and the bill will move to Governor Dayton, who is likely to sign it.
DFLers, who are in the majority in each chamber, made a new anti-bullying law one of their legislative priorities this session. But passing requirements down to local districts from the state Capitol is a sensitive matter.
WCCO calls the bill one of the most controversial at the Capitol this year. Students who have committed suicide after being bullied helped draw attention to the issue. The author of the Senate bill, Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, tells the station some bullied students stop going to school.
But some Republican critics consider the measure an unfunded mandate handed down from St. Paul. Senate Minority Leader David Hann tells the Pioneer Press that in passing the bill lawmakers are telling school districts they can't be trusted.
The newspaper says that during the five hours of debate before the Senate vote Republicans worked to amend the bill, but only minor changes were approved.