Judiciary and Public Safety

Judiciary and Public Safety Omnibus Budget Bill

The state’s Judiciary and Public Safety Omnibus Budget Bill was one of the last bills to be passed during special session, as Senate Republicans pushed back on any legislation that would meaningfully help every Minnesotan be and feel safe in their communities.

While the budget had some hang-ups, it was mostly policy that made the passage of this bill so difficult.  It was only due to the hard work of advocates and Senate DFLers that this bill included so many strong provisions, rather than remaining a toothless bill ignoring the policy demands of our state.

While Senate DFLers fought to ensure the bill included several strong provisions, including fixing the state’s definition of mentally incapacitated as it applies to sexual assault cases, eliminating the statute of limitations for certain sex crimes, and a handful of minor reforms around policing, it was clear that Senate Republicans failed to meet the measure for a bill that truly acknowledged and identified community demands for public safety policy that keeps all of us safe.

Multiple attempts to improve the bill by adding police reform provisions – eliminating pretext traffic stops, sign and release warrants, updates to body camera policies, prohibiting law enforcement from affiliating with white supremacists, and a study on liability insurance for law enforcement – were all defeated by Senate Republicans. It is clear that we have not made good on our promise that all Minnesotans should feel and be safe in their community and we have so much work left to do. (HF 63)

Notable items in HF 63 include:

Courts, corrections systems funded

The budget provided for additional funding for the state’s courts and corrections systems, including operational increases, salary increases, and health care cost increases.

Funding for Office for Justice programs

Survivor support and prevention grants, innovation in community safety grants, youth intervention programs, racially diverse youth group grants, and more were all funded as part of the Office for Justice funding.

Establishment of the Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women

$1 million is allocated to continue the important work started by the Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

$100,000 is allocated to a Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women.

While homicide is one of the leading causes of death for all women it’s significantly higher for Black women than most other groups. The overall homicide rate for women is two per 100,000 — but at 4.4 per 100,000 Black women and 4.3 per 100,000 for Native American women.

Preliminary data from 2016 to 2019 indicates the homicide rate for Black women in Minnesota was around 2.2 times higher than for all women in the state and 2.7 times the rate for white women.

Sign and release warrants

Republicans voted against an amendment on sign and release warrants, which allows judges to issue sign and release warrants instead of arrest warrants for non-violent offenses. This allows individuals who have a warrant issued due to a missed court date – often due to not receiving notice of the court date – to sign a document stating they will show up for court, keeping individuals from being incarcerated unnecessarily.

Despite Republican opposition Senate DFLers fought for and were able to pass this important legislation.

Regulating the use of no-knock warrants

This prohibits LEOs from using no-knock warrants if the only crime alleged is drug possession and requires a warrant application for any other no-knock warrant requests.

POST Board Policy Bill

This modifies current data classifications of certain data regarding peace officers, increases the POST Board Complaint Investigation Committee (CIC) to include four individuals, one of which must be a member of the public, and makes other technical changes.

Modifications to the POST Board Police Misconduct Database

This will create a more effective early warning intervention system for law enforcement, keeping problem officers off the streets and better ensuring that those sworn to serve their communities are doing so.

Travis’ Law

This requires 911 operators to refer calls involving mental health crises to mental health crisis teams when appropriate.

Mathew’s Law

This requires the POST Board to adopt a model policy that addresses the use of confidential informants by law enforcement.

Civil asset forfeiture reform

This reform is expected to reduce civil forfeiture, which disproportionately affects people of color and poor people, by up to 75%.

$75 fee can be reduced/waived, or replaced with community service

This gives the courts the ability to reduce or waive the $75 state surcharge or offer a community service alternative for individuals that would see a financial a hardship due to the surcharge. Judges are required to consider ability to pay before setting finem and adds language to the state’s citation form notifying an individual, they may have to pay a surcharge and that they can ask for a reduction of the surcharge based on ability to pay.

This should help lift Minnesotans out of a cycle of poverty that many fall into due to the fees and fines associated with the criminal justice system.

Criminal Sexual Conduct working group recommendations

These are the recommendations from the state’s criminal sexual conduct working group. It includes the fix to the state’s definition of mentally incapacitated, creates a new crime of sexual extorsion, and makes a number of other clarifying changes.

It was only due to the hard work from Senate DFLers and advocates that this was included – Senate Republicans had refused to give the bill a hearing until Senate DFLers forced them to.

Eliminating statute of limitations for certain sexual conduct crimes

Criminal sexual conduct crimes are often silencing in nature – it can be incredibly difficult for individuals to come forward with a report after they are assaulted. This will allow victims to seek justice regardless of how long ago their sexual assault took place.

This is only in the bill because Senate DFLers brought forward an amendment – Senate Republicans have refused to hear this language or move it forward for the past several years.

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation of sexual conduct allegations

This requires the BCA to investigate when a member of the Minnesota National Guard accuses another member of sexual assault requirement.

Immunity for those seeking aid for sexual assault victims

This grants immunity from certain controlled substance offenses and underage consumption offenses for persons who seek emergency aid for a sexual assault victim.

Hardell Sherrell Act

This is a prison safety bill, named after an individual who died while incarcerated as a result of unsafe conditions.

Juvenile justice

This requires that alternatives to arrest be considered for juveniles and bans the use of restraints on juveniles unless there are mitigating circumstances.

Data on extended jurisdiction juveniles is also required to be collected and reported.

Offender ID and meds upon release

This requires the Department of Corrections to help individuals in incarceration acquire IDs, give medication that would be needed upon release, and requires the Department of Corrections to establish a homelessness mitigation plan.

Security audits

This requires biennial security audits of the state’s correctional facilities.

Alert categories created for dementia and Alzheimer’s

This gives funds to the criminal alert network to increase membership, reduce the registration fee, and create additional alert categories, including a dementia and Alzheimer’s disease specific category.

Fentanyl testing strips

This removes fentanyl testing strips from the state’s definition of drug paraphernalia, to help prevent and reduce fentanyl overdoses.

Crime of child torture law established

This closes a loophole in state law, allowing justice for victims of child torture.

Commission on Data practices reestablished

This reestablishes the legislative commission on data practices and personal data privacy.

Police reforms

Senate DFLers expected Senate Republicans to keep their promise when they said they would continue to look for ways to address the systemic racism in Minnesota’s criminal justice and policing system. However, we’ve come to the end of regular and special session and have yet to see the demands from our communities met.

While the Judiciary Omnibus Bill had a handful of small provisions – sign and release warrants, regulating the use of no-knock warrants, and establishing better ways to track warning signs of bad cops, there is so much left to do.

Senate Republicans refused to hear bills that would eliminate pretextual traffic stops, modify body camera policies, establish citizen law enforcement oversight councils, requires the establishment of policies for response to public assemblies, and more.

Senate Republicans have done nothing but act as a roadblock. We will continue keep our promise and demand justice for our communities despite this obstruction.

Restore the Vote

Minnesotans lose the right to vote until they have been released from probation or supervision, even while they are living in the community and never spent any time in prison or only served a short sentence. This unfair law disenfranchises more than 47,000 Minnesotans as they are unable to vote due to a felony conviction on their record. Current law unnecessarily and excessively discourages positive participation in society, perpetuates racial disparities, and adds costs and complications to voting.

Restoring the vote allows Minnesotans to have a stake in their community, and a voice in who represents them and makes 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.

Senate Republicans have once again refused to hear this bill or move forward in restoring the vote for the roughly 47,000 Minnesotans affected.

Adult-use recreational cannabis

Senate DFLers again introduced a bill this session to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis. The bill would create a regulated system to buy, sell, and produce cannabis, with similar restrictions as tobacco and alcohol to ensure public safety. The bill would also expunge the records of past cannabis convictions. Minnesota disproportionally convicts more people of color on charges related to cannabis than white Minnesotans. The legalization of adult-use cannabis in Minnesota and the expungement of these past convictions are steps forward in addressing the real racial disparities within the state.

Senate and House DFLers have put in a lot of difficult work on this bill, with considerations towards impaired driving, landlord rights, zoning laws, operation outlines, and continued education on the effects of cannabis.

Minnesotans agree that it is time to have a conversation on legalizing cannabis, and many agree that it is time to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis. The House passed a bill to legalize and regulate adult-use recreational cannabis this session. Senate Republicans, however, have refused to even entertain the idea of a conversation around the bill, refusing to give the bill a hearing in committee, along with a number of other bills that would address the negative effects on a failed war on cannabis. There was no discussion of adult-use recreational cannabis in the Senate this year.

Senate DFLers know Minnesotans want and are ready to have this conversation. We are too, and it is disappointing to see Senate Republicans once again failing to listen to Minnesotans. 

Gun violence prevention

Senate Republicans have once again refused to hear bill that would save Minnesotans lives.

The first bill, 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. The second bill would extend criminal background checks to most private sales, gun show markets, and online transactions.

In a nationwide study from 2009 to 2016, roughly 42% of mass shootings produced documentation that the attacker displayed dangerous warning signs before shooting.

Minnesotans routinely complete background checks for the transfers of pistols and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons from dealers. This bill would apply that standard to all firearms and would extend the background check for the transfer of any firearm between almost all private parties.

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 give the bills a hearing, and there was little discussion on gun violence prevention from the Republicans this session.