It's been a busy morning in the Idaho Capitol, with bills to require schools to adopt stronger anti-bullying policies, codifying parental rights and banning the use of telemedicine to prescribe abortion drugs passing.
The parental rights and abortion bills that passed the Senate Monday have already passed the House. However, they need to go back to the House because they were amended in the Senate. The bullying bill passed the House Monday and now goes to the Senate.
And there's more coming. When the House reconvened at 1:15 p.m., lawmakers were expected to suspend the normal rules so they could quickly take up a teacher pay bill. The delay of that bill is a big part of why the education budget hasn't yet been set and why lawmakers will likely not adjourn for the year on Friday, as was originally hoped.
The parental rights bill, which would add a section to Idaho code explicitly recognizing parents' fundamental right to make decisions regarding their children, and the abortion bill, which would require an in-person examination by a doctor to prescribe abortion pills, cleared the Senate in party-line votes, with the Republicans in favor and the Democrats opposed.
The House was split 51-18 on the anti-bullying bill, which would increase training and require school staff to intervene. Most of the Magic Valley delegation voted for it, but House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, were against it.
Nielsen said he opposes bullying, and he used to stand up for bullied kids himself. It's not as accepted to “poke the bully in the nose” now as it might have been when he was growing up, though, he said. Nielsen said he was worried about the use of the word “shall” in the bill, which means school districts would be required to intervene. That could cause possible unintended consequences, he said.
“I think we’re trying to be too overreaching in developing these rules and statutes, and this kind of thing that the local governments should be doing themselves,” he said.
Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, told a story about her daughter, who is small and thin and was severely bullied by a boy in high school. Perry said they complained to the school repeatedly, but the school wasn’t able to stop it. Eventually, with no other recourse they could see, they told their son to beat the boy up — which he did, but got in trouble because an administrator saw it happen.
Perry said that technology has made bullying much worse, because victims can’t get a respite when they go home anymore. She urged her fellow lawmakers not to get hung up on the language, saying local school boards and state guidelines will clarify it down the road.
“It’s not just the schoolyard stuff anymore,” Perry said. “You have cell phones, the Internet, texting, sexting, you name it.”