Michigan Speaker’s office says anti-bullying bill ‘is not what final law will look like’
Ari Adler, spokesperson for Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), says the controversial anti-bullying bill passed last week by the state senate is not what is likely to pass the House.
“The bill as passed by the Senate, is not what the final law will look like,” Adler tells Michigan Messenger.
This announcement comes as outrage about the bill reached a crescendo over the weekend. The legislation contained language which some said would allow bullying based on a sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions. Senate Democrats took to calling it a “license to bully.”
On Friday, Adler released a statement saying the Speaker would allow the committee process to play out before he would comment on his views of the legislation.
This legislation is just now arriving in the House and will soon be going through the committee process, where those supporting and those opposing the bill are free to share their position. Speaker Bolger will monitor the debate as it takes place and weigh in with his position at the appropriate time. Until then, we need to let the committee process take its due course.
Saturday, however, Bolger changed that statement and Adler tweeted on the Speaker’s behalf: “Bullying is wrong and the reason for bullying should not make it worse nor excused.”
Monday, Adler said that statement does in fact mean the Speaker opposes the religious exemption contained in SB 137.
Asked to explain the change in the Speaker’s view, Adler wrote in an email to Michigan Messenger:
“At the time, we were just finding out about what was in SB 137 and the issues that were arising. Part of the disadvantage of the instant news cycle fed by blogs like Michigan Messenger is that we sometimes have to offer comments before we have all the facts. That’s not meant as a slam on blogs, jut an observation of the 24-second news cycle we are all living with these days. After further information was obtained throughout Friday and into the weekend, Speaker Bolger’s position became clearer, at which point I reported it on Twitter and via comments on Michigan Messenger, the two outlets where people seemed to be talking about SB 137 the most at the time.”
Adler said House Republicans are working to develop a “consensus” bill which would address many concerns the Senate bill has raised, and that action could be taken as soon as this week — but could take longer because it takes time to develop full consensus.
Even as House Republicans moved to minimize the political fallout from their Senate colleagues’ actions, Democrats in the Senate were pressing their public relations advantage, with Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, (D-East Lansing) the Senate Minority Leader, scheduled to appear on Anderson Cooper 360 Tuesday night. Whitmer’s floor speech condemning Republicans for the bill has gone viral, receiving over 350,000 views since Thursday, her office reported Monday morning.
Emily Dievendorf, policy director at Equality Michigan, used the speaker’s statements as a chance to push for what she calls a more inclusive bill.
“The Senate Republicans took an already ineffective bill and made it an abusive bill that justifies bullying against our students. While the national spotlight is on the neglectful actions of the Senate Republicans, House Republicans can pass the strong, comprehensive, enumerated bill Governor Snyder references when he recommends Michigan legislators model this legislation after the State Board of Education policy,” she said. “Oregon wasted ten years following a policy that accomplished almost nothing before it took responsibility for Oregon kids and passed the effective enumerated language Michigan advocates are requesting. Michigan has the data and case studies to do what is right for our students the first time. The nation is watching.”