Senate Bill 250 squeaked in under the wire to receive a vote in the hectic final hours of the annual 40-day state legislative session.
The measure’s anti-bullying provisions originated in the state House, and appeared destined for failure this session until Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta) was able to maneuver to have them added as an amendment to the Senate legislation.
SB 250, sponsored by state Sen. Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton), was approved in the Senate last March and originally dealt only with “unlawful disruption of or interference with the operation of public schools or public school buses.”
Jacobs introduced HB 927 this year. The measure would expand the definition of bullying while requiring schools to develop guidelines tailored to curb bullying in elementary through high schools.
HB 927 did not come up for a vote by March 26, the crucial Crossover Day, the 30th day of the 40-day legislative session. It is the last day that bills can cross from one chamber to the other, meaning bills that aren’t approved by either the House or the Senate by the end of the day are essentially done for the year.
Amending stalled legislation onto a bill that is moving forward is a common strategy, and Jacobs’ entire bill was added to SB 250 when that measure, which had passed the Senate by Crossover Day, was considered by the House on March 30.
But because the House had changed the language of SB 250, the amended version of the bill had to be approved by the Senate again. That vote came about 10 p.m. on April 29.
The bullying bill was strongly backed by Georgia Equality. While the bill does not specifically address bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity, lobbyists believe it will help LGBT students, who often face bullying in school.
During debate on the House floor earlier this year, Jacobs said that he was moved to sponsor the bill by the death of DeKalb County fifth grader Jaheem Herrera.
Herrera committed suicide. His parents said he endured relentless bullying, including being called “gay,” although a school system investigation said Herrera was not bullied and students reported that when they used the word “gay,” they thought it meant “happy.”