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LANSING The two bills collectively known as Matt’s Safe Schools bill have been voted out of the House Education Committee to the main floor of the House. A vote by the full House is expected in the next week.
“I am thrilled that Michigan students are one step closer to comprehensive bullying legislation,” said Triangle Foundation’s Sean Kosofsky. “I am saddened we do not have more Republican support.”
The vote to move them out of committee came Tuesday during the second hearing on the bills. Republicans attempted to amend both bills in what Education Committee Chair Rep. Tim Melton (D-29) called “a circus of amendments.”
Rep. Jacob “Jack” Hoogendyk (R-61) and Rep. Tom Pearce (R-73) attempted to amend the first bill which had an enumeration of protected classes listed. Both offered different amendments to eliminate the listing of protected classes.
Pearce’s amendment would have limited the list to those already listed by the state and federal constitution.
“That allows it to address anything new that might come up with us having to readdress it,” Pearce told the committee when introducing his amendment. It failed with 13 Democrats voting no, 9 Republicans voting yes and one Democrat abstaining from the vote.
Hoogendyk, who last week read a letter from Gary Glenn of the American Family Association’s Michigan chapter, would have stricken the enumerated classes and replaced it with the phrase “regardless of motivation.”
“I have a concern about naming more and more classes which could open us up to more protected classes with unintended consequences,” Hoogendyk said in support of his amendment, which failed with 14 Democrats voting no and 9 Republicans voting yes.
A third amendment to this bill was attempted by Rep. Paul Moolenaar (R-98). Moolenaar’s amendment would have eliminated the protected classes and instead used the term “distinguishing characteristics.”
The amendment, Moolenaar argued, would recognize students, “without a whole laundry list that would be wholly new to schools.”
This amendment failed with 14 Democrats voting no, 9 Republicans voting yes.
But Melton, obviously frustrated by the “circus” chastised his Republican colleagues.
“We did provide you with the amended bills a couple of hours before this meeting, unlike you who provided your amendments fifteen minutes before this meeting,” Melton said. “I don’t appreciate that my email was filled with information on amendments I didn’t see until today.”
Rep. Paul Opsommer (R-93) offered an amendment to allow for penalties for school officials who fail to respond to reports of bullying in their schools. The amendment failed on a vote of 14 Democrats saying no and 9 Republicans saying yes.
The second bill HB 4091 which would require school districts to adopt an anti-bullying policy also faced amendments from Republicans. The first amendment, offered once again by Hoogendyk, would have required parental notification of new policies from local school boards, while the second was offered by Rep. Opsommer would have required training on the new anti-bullying policies in the schools. Both amendments failed with votes breaking along party lines.
HB 4162 was voted out of committee with 14 yes votes, all of whom were Democrats, 7 no votes, all of which were Republicans, and two Republicans abstaining.
HB 4091 was voted out of committee with all the Democrats voting yes, along with one Republican. Six Republicans voted no, and one abstained. Pearce did not vote, and was not in the room for this vote.
Republican Rep. Glenn Steil voted in favor of HB 4091. Asked afterwards why he broke ranks, he said “I don’t think there is anything wrong with creating a policy that helps school boards.”