Rosemount legislator’s bill regarding teachers, political information passes the House
Vote was close; opponents argue it would stifle free speech •
by T.W. Budig
Sun Thisweek •
Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount, saw his bill requiring school boards to adopt policy prohibiting the use of school district resources by employees for political purposes pass on a 73 to 60 vote on March 28.
But not without debate.
“This bill violates the First Amendment,” argued Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. No one wants teachers or other school employees to be misusing school district resources, she explained.
But the bill “very clearly” attempts to control what’s being discussed in the teachers’ lounge, Hortman argued.
Another attorney, Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, noted that required school board policy must not apply when an employee is disseminating “factual information.”
Who makes the call on what’s factual and what isn’t? she asked.
“I think you’re creating a lot of problems with this bill,” Liebling said.
Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said she was glad the legislation had been “gutted” in education committee and that it no longer did much of anything.
It still sent a bad message, she said.
But Bills, who still teaches first period at Rosemount High School before leaving for the State Capitol, said anyone whose ever been in a teachers’ lounge isn’t worried about the legislation silencing teachers from offering opinions.
Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, said rather than opposing the legislation, some school district employees would embrace it.
“There are many school employees would appreciate having that policy,” she said.
House Education Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, argued there wasn’t a credible education group that opposed the bill.
Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, has been working on similar legislation in the Senate.
T.W. Budig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sunthisweek.