A proposal to crack down on bullying in Minnesota public schools is close to becoming law after more than a decade of repeated tries by gay rights activists and advocates for other frequently targeted kids.

What supporters dubbed the "Safe and Supportive Schools Act" would require all Minnesota districts to develop and enforce a plan to reduce bullying, and to make regular reports on progress to the Department of Education. The proposal, which will cost schools about $40 million to implement over the next two years, is a longtime priority for advocates of kids who for a variety of reasons come across as different or vulnerable.

The Senate approved the bill Thursday on a 36-31 vote after a five-hour debate in the Senate.

House Speaker Paul Thissen said his chamber, which approved similar legislation last year, is likely to quickly send the bill on to Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign it.

Much of the lobbying energy behind Sen. Scott Dibble's bill has been courtesy of OutFront Minnesota, the state’s chief gay rights group and a driving force behind last year’s successful effort to pass gay marriage in Minnesota. The anti-bullying bill pushes some of the same cultural hot buttons as that debate, with religious and socially conservative groups expressing worry that students could get labeled bullies for expressing views learned from their parents at a church.

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