Judiciary

Guns

There could be legislation altering gun regulations in Minnesota. While Minnesotans with conceal and carry permits are not required to conceal their firearms in many cases, there could be attempts to clarify that it is legal to openly carry a firearm. Additionally, there may be attempts to reduce the places where Minnesotans are prohibited from carry a gun.

  • Attempting to grant reciprocity with all other states so that someone with a permit to carry in another state could carry in Minnesota. The issue with this is that states have different standards for allowing people to carry a weapon. So, someone may be allowed to carry a firearm in one state but under Minnesota law would be ineligible. The Department of Public Safety does have reciprocity with some states, but the list is reviewed annually.
  • Pursuing “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle Doctrine” laws. These kinds of laws expand the presumption of immunity in many self-defense situations.
    • Stand Your Ground laws specifically do not require a person to retreat from a situation before using deadly force. Minnesota has a “Duty to Retreat” law which means that deadly force may only be used if there are no other options.
    • Castle Doctrine laws do not require people to retreat from situations on real property, like your home or yard and, in some states, your car, before using deadly force. Minnesota’s Justifiable Taking of a Life statute allows deadly force in situations where someone reasonably believes they are being exposed to great bodily harm or if they are trying to prevent a felony in their home, but it does not include other personal property such as a person’s car. However, once the threat is eliminated a person must stop the deadly force.
    • There could be attempts to create Castle Doctrine protections in Minnesota. This has been vehemently opposed by law enforcement in the past. Republicans attempted to change Minnesota from a duty to retreat state into a stand your ground state in 2012. Gov. Dayton vetoed that bill.

Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP)

What to do with the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) has been an ongoing legislative issue since 2012 when a group of individuals committed to the program sued the state in U.S. District Court for violations of their constitutional rights. In 2015, Judge Frank issued his ruling on the case, concluding that the program on its face and as applied violated the due process clause of the Constitution and he issued a number of remedies for the state to address the issue. The state immediately appealed the decision, a stay on the remedies was issued, and the case is now awaiting a decision by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Senate has worked continuously on legislation to balance the public safety issues with due process and fairness under the law, and in 2013 passed bipartisan legislation that would have provided a fairer process for how offenders are admitted and released from the program. Unfortunately, the House was unwilling to let go of the politics of the issue and did not take up the bill on the House floor.

The sex offender program began with good intentions. It was intended to be a rehabilitation and treatment program for the worst of the worst sex offenders, but over time it has become a second prison of sorts, holding people indefinitely without the possibility of being released. There are major public safety concerns with possibly releasing clients of the program, but the state must manage the issue within the confines of the Constitution. The Court has the capacity to impose any number of conditions on our State including, ordering closure of the entire program or taking over the program at the State’s expense. It’s in the state’s best interest for the Legislature to act on this issue; however, Republicans are likely to wait for the appeals court decision before any MSOP reform legislation is introduced.

Private prisons

There could be attempts during the legislative session to open a private prison in Appleton, Minnesota. The House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy Committee passed a bill supportive of opening a prison in 2016, despite a large outcry against the bill. Supporters of opening a private prison argue there is already an overcrowding issue in Minnesota prisons and this would be an effective solution. A prison would also mean many new jobs to a struggling area of Minnesota. However, opponents argue there is human cost to profiting on citizen incarceration, and private prisons have actually increased the cost of housing criminals. There have also been many news stories highlighting failures associated with private prison operations across the country.

Department of Human Rights cuts

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) is the state agency with the responsibility of enforcing the Minnesota Human Rights Act. This act protects all Minnesotans from discrimination in the state. While hate crimes in general are decreasing, crimes against certain segments of our society have been on the rise according to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).  The last time the GOP controlled both the House and the Senate, they proposed cutting the agency’s budget by two-thirds.  Some feel that other agencies like federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or city departments of human rights could take on the responsibilities the state agency performs with. However, the MDHR has much broader authority and capacity to investigate claims of discrimination. Also, only Minneapolis and St. Paul investigate claims of discrimination and almost two-thirds of the claims come from suburban and Greater Minnesota.

Email data storage

Earlier this year, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office announced a new policy of deleting emails after 30 days. This announcement is coupled with a countywide administrative order slated to take effect in 2017 where all county emails would be deleted after six months. Hennepin County is not the first government entity to create this kind of policy: St. Paul reduced its email storage policy from three years to six months; Anoka County keeps its emails for three months; Carver County keeps its for six years. Hennepin County’s move raised the ire of government transparency advocates who worry the policy will decrease openness and reduce public scrutiny. The County argues this is a cost-saving measure that could save millions on data storage costs. There could be bills aimed at standardizing or altering the amount of time government entities are required to save emails.

Senate DFL Media