Governor Walz made a request of the Legislature in January to establish an account to pay 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 issue is time sensitive as the state prepares for possible unrest during the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer facing charges for the murder of George Floyd. 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 this week, however, have chosen politics over policy with this important legislation by bringing a very different version of the bill to the floor.
Their version of the bill would allocate only $20 million to a law enforcement operation, or “LEO”, account. Language in the bill also delays implementation of the use of deadly force policy the Legislature passed last summer as a response to the murder of George Floyd. There is also a provision in the bill that would prohibit the state’s disaster assistance contingency account from being used to pay for damages from civil unrest – despite that account being set up to provide assistance to our communities when in distress.
The bill passed the Senate and was sent to the House, where it is unlikely to pass without serious changes. Time is of the essence as we look at upcoming events the state needs to prepare for but, the path for a consensus bill becoming law is unclear as Republicans continue to play politics. Senate DFLers will continue to fight for Minnesotans’ safety despite these roadblocks. (SF 1354)