St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Bullies, beware.
After nearly six hours and more than a dozen amendments, the Minnesota Senate approved a controversial bill strengthening the state's anti-bullying laws in a 36 to 31 vote.
The bill, known as the "Safe and Supportive Schools Act", promises a clearer definition of bullying, requires training for staff members and allows individual districts to develop their own anti-bullying policies.
"We worked so hard for this. To even see it pass. I don't have words for it. It's awesome," said Elise Coffin, a senior at Duluth East High School.
Coffin has been following the debate every step of the way.
"I'm a victim of bullying too. I learned how to stand up for myself. But I'm here for for the thousands of kids across the state that don't have that option." she said.
Senate lawmakers held a passionate, yet civil debate Thursday about how to best put a stop to bullying in our school hallways.
"They should be able to expect to go to school feeling safe, feeling supportive, not having to make that trade off." said Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), the author of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act.
Republicans argued the Safe schools act is too costly and strips schools of local control and offered their own proposal, dubbed the "Stamp Out Bullying" bill.
"We can take a tried and proven model that preserves local control that is cost effective or we have the other choice. Heavy-handed bureaucracy," said Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R) Big Lake.
That proposal was defeated in a vote.
Lawmakers also voted on a number of other amendments, making significant changes to the bill's language.
The cost of the bill is estimated at $19 million per year.
"It was a long day, but listening to what everyone had to say, it was so powerful," said Coffin following the vote.
The next stop for the bill is the House where the bill's author Senator Scott Dibble say's he's optimistic it will be approved.
The House did pass the bill last year, but because of Thursday's changes on the Senate floor, the two versions will have to be compared before a bill lands on the Governor's desk.