The House heard a bill from the governor this week that would establish an account that pays for cost-sharing reimbursements to local governments and state agencies during public safety events that exhaust local resources, including mutual aid requests. The bill, known as the SAFE Act, sets up $35 million to cover expenses that aren’t covered by other available federal and state disaster assistance programs after a local or state emergency is declared. The funds would be available to pay for overtime costs, travel expenses, food, lodging, and incidental supplies for law enforcement officers.
The House bill also addresses community concerns and works to rebuild trust– law enforcement departments must establish a public assembly response policy and a peace officer standard of conduct.
The issue is time sensitive as the state prepares for possible unrest during the upcoming March trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer facing charges for the murder of George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes. Outreach efforts are already occurring to stress the importance of peaceful protests but, as was witnessed over the summer, there is little to prevent outside agitators from causing problems. The SAFE Account would provide a level of assurance to all Minnesota cities concerned about public safety.
Republicans, however, have chosen politics over policy with this important legislation and have yet to even introduce the bill in the Senate. They instead have a proposal that would cut Local Government Aid (LGA) for communities that cannot reimburse partners for mutual aid. Their proposal aims to punish Minneapolis based on false premises while ignoring the fact that these types of emergencies could happen anywhere in Minnesota, including in cities that don’t receive LGA.
Republicans are referring to the SAFE Act as a $35 million bailout for Minneapolis, even though this fund could be used across Minnesota for events in the future. In fact, their caucus recently asked the governor for $7.6 million in assistance to address the civil unrest of this summer.
The Governor’s SAFE Act proposal is supported by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, and others. It should be a simple, good-governing bill that prioritizes Minnesotans’ safety while providing aid for our communities across the state.
Time is of the essence as we look at upcoming events the state needs to prepare for but, unfortunately, the path for this bill becoming law is unclear as Republicans continue to play politics. Senate DFLers will continue to fight for Minnesotans’ safety despite these roadblocks. (HF 445)