Michigan House spars over progress of school safety bills | #schoolsaftey

Republican minority leadership in the Michigan House sparred with Democrats this week over the future of bipartisan school safety legislation.

The bill package, which covers topics like emergency plans, mental health resources, and tip lines, was assigned to the Michigan House Education Committee a year ago.

It hasn’t received a hearing since.

Jeremiah Ward is a spokesperson for Republican House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp).

Ward said the bills come from recommendations of last session’s bipartisan House School Safety Task Force.

“They heard a wide variety of testimony from experts in education and law enforcement and mental health, from parents. And they put those bills together pretty thoroughly to provide a comprehensive state strategy,” Ward said Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Hall tried unsuccessfully to discharge the bills from committee in a move derided by Democrats as disrespectful to the package sponsors and stakeholders.

Representative Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) chairs the House Education Committee. He said package sponsors have been doing heavy work on the bills in the background, even if they haven’t gotten a hearing yet.

“They have made sure that they are taking the utmost care and consideration when it comes to the most critical thing, the safety of our children. To simply try to discharge them to the floor before the task force can complete their work is reckless and could potentially endanger a child’s life as well,” Koleszar told reporters.

But Ward emphasized the importance of using committee hearings to discuss work on bills in the open.

“That’s what the committee process is for. So let’s have hearings on the bills,” Ward said.

The dispute is the latest in an ongoing dispute over which bills the House should take up while the chamber temporarily stands at an even 54-54 split between Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats have retained control of the gavel and calendar under the rules adopted at the beginning of the term. But Republicans have been withholding votes on certain legislation while Republican leadership pushes Democrats to take up some of its priority bills.

In an open letter to Hall, Representative Kelly Breen (D-Novi), who served on the school safety task force, accused the Republicans of playing political games.

“If you were truly interested in this work, you would know that Chair Koleszar, Representative Meerman, and dozens of stakeholders have been diligently working on this package and have taken the time to research and understand these elements of policymaking critical to advancing solutions to help make our schools safe,” Breen wrote, referring to former task force co-chair, Representative Luke Meerman (R-Lamont).

Speaking to reporters, Breen said she hopes to see movement on some parts of the package, including tip line legislation within the upcoming weeks.

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