DES MOINES — A package of anti-bullying programs and provisions designed for Iowa’s public schools was narrowly defeated Wednesday night in the Iowa House.
Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, introduced the anti-bullying legislation and pleaded with lawmakers for its passage. It was voted down, 50-46.
The anti-bullying proposal for three years has been a priority of Republican Gov. Terry Branstad. It passed with bipartisan support in the Democrat-controlled Senate, 43-7, in March.
The legislation has idled ever since in the House, where leaders declined to bring it to the floor for a debate and vote.
Hall on Wednesday night called up the legislation as an amendment to a catchall bill containing funding and policy.
“It is our obligation to address this,” Hall said. “It is overdue.”
The legislation allows schools to address incidents that occur off-grounds and online, and requires parental notification except for when the victim or school officials fear further harm.
Five House Republicans joined 41 House Democrats in supporting the anti-bullying proposal. Among them was Rep. Ron Jorgensen, R-Sioux City, who is chairman of the House Education Committee and a former Sioux City School Board member.
The measure was opposed by 50 House Republicans.
Four members — two from each party — were absent.
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Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R-Le Mars, urged his colleagues to oppose the measure, citing concerns the expansion of school authority off school grounds could interfere with law enforcement. He also said schools have told him they already are doing everything they can to address bullying.
A spokesman for Branstad said the governor remains hopeful the legislation will pass, as Wednesday’s vote didn’t completely end its chances of passing.
“The governor believes that every child in Iowa deserves a safe and respectful learning environment, and the anti-bullying bill, which passed on a bipartisan 43-7 vote in the Senate, is a strong piece of legislation to protect our children,” Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said in an email.