Minnesota Takes Step to Strengthen Anti-Bullying Law
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson in November called on the state legislature to enact a tougher anti-bullying law. According to a press release issued by the attorney general’s office, the proposed law would be modeled after anti-bullying legislation passed in North Dakota in 2011.
Minnesota currently has one of the shortest anti-bullying laws in the nation. It requires schools to adopt a written policy that prohibits bullying, but.iIt doesn’t require specific standards or reporting requirements. The attorney general’s office said the state’s current law has been given the lowest grade of any state with an anti-bullying law by the watchdog group www.bullypolice.org.
According to a 2011 study by the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education, 13 percent of the state’s sixth, ninth and 12th graders are bullied at least once a week.
“When bullying happens, a lot of it happens in the dark. Bullies rely on power and they rely on people not doing anything about it,” Swanson said during a November news conference. “What we're trying to do is foster an environment where bullying would be reported and taken seriously.”
The proposed legislation would require all school districts to adopt an anti-bullying policy by Jan. 1, 2013. The school policies would prohibit students from engaging in bullying or retaliation; establish procedures for immediate reporting; establish procedures to schools to follow in investigative reporting; establish disciplinary measures; require law enforcement to be notified if there is reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed; establish strategies to protect bullying victims; and establish bullying prevention programs in grades K-12. Rep. Debra Hillstrom will be the chief sponsor of the bill, the Star Tribune reported.
REDUCING GREENHOUSE GASES
The University of North Dakota has started a pilot program designed to reduce the university’s use of coal by 10 to 20 percent, according the Grand Forks Herald. The university will use glycerin, a product originally derived from canola oil, to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from the school’s coal power plant. The university will purchase the glycerin from BenchMark Energy Corp., which plans to build a plant in Grand Forks, N.D.
Since Michigan lawmakers voted to lift the ban on Sunday morning alcohol sales a year ago, nearly 6,000 businesses have received the special permit allowing alcohol sales before noon, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported. Businesses pay an additional $160 annual fee for the permit. According to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, about $950,000 in revenue has been generated since the ban was lifted.
South Dakota is making it easier to examine and track campaign contributions in state elections. According to The Associated Press, Secretary of State Jason Gant’s new site, www.sdsos.gov, will allow the public to search by many variables, including by both candidate and donor. Before the introduction of the new system, which cost $17,000, the public had to rely on scanned images of the reports filed by candidates.
Illinois will begin to allow couples who have entered into civil unions to file joint state income tax returns this month, according to The Associated Press. Gov. Pat Quinn has pressed for the change, which is mainly symbolic, since he signed the state’s civil union law in January 2011. Illinois will become the 10th state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to allow joint state returns.
ENERGY RATE HIKES
In late November 2011, the Kansas Corporation Commission was set to hold the first of two public hearing on Westar Energy’s $91 million rate hike request, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. If the proposal is approved, Westar customers would see an approximately $6.50 increase on their monthly bill. The state’s largest electric company would use the money from the rate hike to update programs, comply with environmental regulations and fund its employee pension system.