Safety and Justice

All Minnesotans deserve safe communities and a fair justice system.

No matter where we were born, how we pray, or what we look like, every Minnesotan should feel safe in their community and across the state. While some are pointing fingers and using our differences to make us scared of one another, we know we can find common ground and ensure safety for everyone.

Republicans say they are concerned about increasing urban violence, but they’re refusing to even consider any plans to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. Senate DFLers are committed to a conversation focused on gun violence prevention that keeps Minnesotans safe.

Gun violence prevention       

Senate DFLers have introduced no fewer than 24 gun violence prevention bills in the last several years. Despite mass shootings – including the recent ones in Fresno, El Paso, and Dayton – becoming the new normal in this country, Senate Republicans have refused to take any action to curb the epidemic of senseless gun violence and keep Minnesota’s communities safe.

The bills introduced by Senate DFLers have been sensible gun violence prevention bills, including extended background checks and emergency risk protection orders. Senate Republicans refused any attempt to hear these bills last session, ignoring requests from thousands of concerned Minnesotans. They held an informational hearing in Hibbing in January but limited public testimony and accepted no amendments or committee action. This was not a true legislative hearing.

In a nationwide study from 2009 to 2016, about 42% of mass shootings produced documentation that the attacker displayed dangerous warning signs before the shooting. Extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) would allow law enforcement and family members to seek a court order temporarily restricting a person’s access to firearms when they show red flags and pose a danger to themselves and/or others. Extended background checks would extend criminal background check requirements to include most private sales, gun show markets, and online transactions.

Last year, a Star Tribune poll found that nine out of 10 Minnesotans support criminal background checks on all private firearm purchases. Support among Minnesotans is broad as well as deep and crosses political, urban and rural, and gun owner and non-owner lines. Despite this support, Senate Republican leadership have refused to have a public hearing when formal votes can be considered.

Adult-Use Cannabis

Minnesota saw two pro adult-use cannabis legalization parties become major parties following the 2018 election. Despite a growing public opinion that adult-use cannabis should be legalized, or at the very least that a conversation should be had, Senate Republicans voted against moving forward legislation in a Judiciary Committee last session.

House and Senate DFLers have been part of working groups over the interim to develop legislation that would provide a comprehensive framework for adult-use cannabis legalization. That legislation is expected to be introduced near the start of session, but it is unlikely that Senate Republicans will move the legislation forward.

Legislation that would add the use of the cannabis flower to the state’s medical cannabis program, as well as moving cannabis from a schedule one to a schedule two controlled substance, is also expected. Senate DFLers pushed for discussion around this during the last legislative session, but Senate Republicans refused to take action.

Senate DFLers are committed to keeping Minnesotans safe, and that includes having a conversation around adult-use cannabis legalization. It’s irresponsible to shut down the conversation as Senate Republicans continue to do.

See the HHS Section for updates on medical cannabis.

Sexual harassment standard

In 1986, the Supreme Court found in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson that sexual harassment could be a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if (1) the harassment involves the conditioning of employment benefits on sexual favors, or (2) the harassment, while not affecting economic benefits, creates a hostile or offensive working environment. Employers could be held liable for the actions of their supervisors if the employers knew of the bad behavior.

Since Vinson, federal courts have wrestled with numerous fact situations in an effort to define what is “severe or pervasive,” often leading to results that some legislators now find questionable or even shocking. Minnesota state courts have adopted the Vinson standard.

Discussions started two years ago around changing the definition of severe and pervasive sexual harassment and resulted in a much simpler, much stronger piece of legislation. However, while the House passed the bill, Senate Republicans listened to the Chamber of Commerce and passed a weaker version of the bill through committee that never made it to the floor. House DFLers included the stronger version of the bill in their omnibus bill, but Senate Republicans stripped it out in conference committee.

Senate DFLers are committed to passing the strongest possible version of a sexual harassment standards bill that protects Minnesotans.

Ban on private prisons

Recent news stories on the treatment of undocumented people at the border by ICE has brought a conversation on private prisons, including the banned use of private prisons by ICE, back to the table. Minnesota has one, currently unused, private prison facility in Appleton, and the owners of that facility have been lobbying to repurpose it as an immigration detention center.

Regardless of who the incarcerated people are, profiting from the detention of anyone runs against Minnesotan values.

It’s been proven that private prisons do not focus on correctional officer and inmate well-being and safety. Corporate-run private prisons put correctional officers and inmates at a substantially greater security and safety risk considering they often hire, train, and pay their employees less, resulting in an environment unfit for all of those involved.

Senate DFLers have made it clear in the past that prisons shouldn’t be made private – there is a human cost to profiting on citizen incarceration, and the state should not be using incarceration as an economic driver.

Presumptive five-year probation cap

The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission recently voted to support a presumptive five-year probation cap for felons in Minnesota.

Under the new guidelines, felony offenses, with the exception of homicide and criminal sex crimes, would be presumptively limited to no more than five years for probation. The proposal is not retroactive and would only affect probation sentences given after August 1, 2020.

Research shows the majority of probation revocations occur in the first 24 months of a probation sentence. The likeliness of an individual reoffending after seven years is the same as an individual with no criminal history score.

There are also vastly different probation sentences based on where an individual lives in Minnesota. Probation sentences in Hennepin County average three years; probation sentences in the 7th judicial district, which includes a west-central region of the states, average seven years.

Recommendations from the Sentencing Guidelines Commission go into effect automatically on August 1 of the year they are proposed, unless the Legislature acts to stop them. House DFLers passed a bill last year that would also cap probation lengths, but it did not make it through the Senate.

Minnesota has the fifth-highest rate in the country for people under community supervision. Senate DFLers are committed to ensuring Minnesota is using supervision effectively, and the Sentencing Guideline Commission’s proposal provides an opportunity to do so.

Restore the Vote

Minnesotans convicted of a felony lose the right to vote, even after they’ve re-entered the community or if they never served time in incarceration. Only once Minnesotans are “off paper”, having completed their probation or parole sentence, are their rights restored. 47,000 Minnesotans are disenfranchised as a result.

Since 1974, the percentage of Minnesotans disenfranchised as a result of a criminal conviction has increased 400%. Disenfranchising Minnesotans also disproportionately affects African-Americans and American Indians.

Research also shows that children who have parents that vote are more likely to vote themselves. Restoring the vote not only helps Minnesotans now but engages the next generation and helps them become voters as well.

14 states and the District of Columbia restore voting rights when incarceration ends. Restoring the vote allows Minnesotans to have a stake in their community and a voice in who represents them that would make decisions that directly affect their life. It allows Minnesotans a greater ability to become full members of the state’s society and economy and reduces recidivism.

The House passed voter restoration last session, but Senate Republicans have refused to hear the bill. It is long past time to pass this important bill and allow Minnesotans to participate in their democracy.

Other Safety & Security Issues

Revenge porn

Minnesota passed a revenge porn law in 2016 with a bipartisan vote in the Senate and a unanimous vote in the House. The bill protects individuals when their private photos are used against them or disseminated without permission. The Minnesota Appeals Court struck down the legislation in 2019 on the understanding that the bill was too broad. With the other work being done on sexual criminal conduct laws, it is expected that a bill to fix the original law will be introduced this session.

DWI omnibus

A DWI omnibus bill passed the Senate unanimously last session but failed to make it to the House floor. While a few of the provisions were included in the Judiciary omnibus bill, the remaining provisions are expected to be packaged once again into an omnibus bill.

Data privacy omnibus bill

A number of data privacy bills were heard by the Judiciary Committee and laid over for possible inclusion in a data privacy omnibus bill. That bill didn’t make it to final passage, and work on it is expected to continue this session.

  • Drone use by law enforcement: A bill regarding the use of drones by law enforcement has been taken up by the Senate’s Subcommittee on Data Practices, after stakeholders agreed to work on issues in the bill when the bill was heard in committee. A final version of that bill is expected this session.
  • Social media privacy: A bill that would prohibit employers from demanding access to social media accounts for employees and potential employees was heard in committee last session and may be included in a data privacy omnibus bill again.
  • Warrant for electronic communications: A bill that would prohibit government entities, including law enforcement, from accessing electronic communications and related information without a warrant or specific consent was also heard in committee last session in consideration for inclusion in the data privacy bill and may be included in the omnibus bill again.

Municipal Identification for Undocumented Immigrants Prohibition

A handful of Minnesota cities, including Northfield and Minneapolis, are poised to begin issuing municipal identification cards. These cards can serve as identification for many individuals who are unable or unwilling to apply for a state driver’s license or state identification card, including undocumented immigrants and transgender or gender nonconforming individuals. The cards do not replace driver’s licenses, nor can they be used as identification to vote, to apply for government benefits, or to serve as a proof of legal age.

Republican-authored legislation introduced during the 2019 session would explicitly prohibit cities from issuing municipal ID’s to undocumented immigrants. It would also invalidate any ID’s that have already been issued to undocumented immigrants. The legislation received no hearings during the 2019 legislative session, but with the push for driver’s licenses for all in the DFL-controlled House and with the 2020 election right around the corner, it is an issue that could gain traction this session.

Local governments enact laws aimed at protecting the well-being of their residents, and the adoption of municipal identification serves as one tool for municipalities to promote the safety and integration of everyone who lives there. Passing legislation that hinders cities’ abilities to care for their residents only serves as another form of preemption.

REAL ID Deadline

Driver and Vehicle Services began issuing REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards in October of 2018 and has ramped up issuing cards through the standard renewal schedule. The relatively high number of documents necessary to obtain a REAL ID—all four of which are required by federal law—has made it difficult for some Minnesotans to successfully obtain the ID. Only about 11% of Minnesotans have obtained a REAL ID compliant license, which is a 2% increase from November. A potential backlog of applications may occur later this year due to the October 1, 2020 deadline when standard driver’s licenses will no longer be accepted by the Department of Homeland Security for domestic air travel.

Fireworks

Conversations around the ban on aerial and exploding fireworks in the state have happened on and off at the Capitol over the last several years. At least one Senate Republican has committed to reviving that conversation this year.

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