Governor Tom Vilsack pounded his lectern today (Thursday) as he vowed to keep pressuring lawmakers to enact a bill that would establish a statewide anti-bullying policy for K-through-12 schools. The bill has failed to clear a legislative committee and because of the legislature’s rules, it is dead for the year unless legislative leaders step in. “I have not talked to a single legislator, I have not talked to a single Iowa who thinks that bullying is a good idea,” Vilsack says. The bill is a priority for Vilsack, who has said he was bullied in school. Vilsack says he has encouraged schools to embrace anti-bullying policies, but it would be more effective if it were official state law. Some legislators are uncomfortable about the bill’s protections for kids who are gay. Others say most schools already have anti-bullying policies in place. “‘Even though there’s a policy, there may not be the understanding of the importance and the significance of enforcement and having a…state mandate…ought to happen,” Vilsack says. A top republican in the Iowa Senate says the anti-bullying bill Governor Vilsack demands is unnecessary. Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti from Ankeny, says every school official he’s talked with tells him state law already requires school to protect students who may be taunted, bullied or worse. “This is not needed,” Lamberti says of the anti-bullying bill. He says republicans would be willing to make a swap, though. “If the governor truly wants a debate on that (anti-bullying) bill, then let’s allow a debate on some of our bills and he ought to be encouraging some of the democrats in the Senate to allow that to happen,” Lamberti says. Republicans want a bill that would force new teachers to pass a competancy test, but democrats in the senate refuse to allow it to be debated. The Senate, as you may know, is evenly divided between republicans and democrats, and no bill can be considered unless both parties agree.
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