Judiciary Committee budget bill fails to address community demands

The Senate this week passed its judiciary budget bill. The committee was given a $90 million target, which allows for some investments in the state’s court and corrections system, and in some public safety requests. Of the target, $20 million of that target was reserved for disaster assistance for our local communities.

The bill, however, is a stark portrait of what the Senate Republican priorities aren’t; the bill contains no policing and criminal justice reform, no justice programs, and little in the way of reducing the intersectional causes behind crime and recidivism.

There has been renewed focus on transformational changes to Minnesota’s criminal justice and policing systems in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent beginning of the Derek Chauvin trial. Republicans promised they would continue this important work after passing a bare minimum reform bill last summer but have not kept that promise. Senate DFLers are committed to working with the House and Governor Walz through the conference committee to bring these important measures forward.

Senate DFLers have also worked to address systemic injustices present through much of our societal systems, including fixing practices that further harm victims of sexual assault, rewriting laws that disproportionately affect our communities of color, and uplifting programs that work to eliminate these injustices. None of this work is included in the Senate Republicans’ budget bill as it was introduced, including the recommendations to improve our state’s criminal sexual conduct statutes, legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis and expunging related drug offenses, or the establishment of an Office for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

It was only due to the hard work of Senate DFLers on the committee and the incredible determination of stakeholders and victims that pressured Senate Republicans into accepting the legislative recommendations from the state’s criminal sexual conduct working group, including language that would address the state’s Supreme Court ruling on the definition of “mentally incapacitated”. Senate DFLers were also able to pass an amendment on the floor that eliminates the statute of limitation for some sexual criminal conduct crimes in the state. This was a victory for Minnesotans, but more work is still needed to address community demands.

Senate Republicans blocked amendments to the bill that would prohibit law enforcement officers from affiliating with white supremacist organizations, establish an office for missing and murdered indigenous women, and close loopholes and enhance the state’s hate crime laws.

Despite Republican roadblocks, Senate DFLers have and will continue to fight for the changes our communities demand as this bill works its way through the conference committee process. (SF 970)