On the first day of National Police Week, a plan to fund the Public Safety and Corrections departments along with the state’s judiciary received legislative approval Monday — National Peace Officers Memorial Day — but it is expected to be vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) and Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), HF896/ SF803* calls for an additional $13 million for peace officer training assistance, and it would require additional officer training — 16 continuing education credits within a three-year licensing cycle — in “crisis intervention and mental illness crises; conflict management and mediation; and recognizing and valuing community diversity and cultural differences.”
In total, the omnibus judiciary and public safety conference committee agreement calls for $2.25 billion in spending, an $85 million increase over projected base, nearly the midpoint between initial increases put forth by the House and Senate. Dayton proffered an almost $262.2 million base increase.
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The conference committee agreement contains no money for salary increases in judicial and executive branch agencies; however, employee health insurance cost increases are included.
“Life will go on with this bill … everything is going to be OK,” Cornish said before the 75-54 House vote. The bill was passed 34-32 by the Senate about 90 minutes earlier.
His optimism was not shared by members on the other side of the political aisle.
Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) noted that without adequate funding to cover negotiated contracts, the Corrections Department would likely need to lay off 200-250 corrections officers, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension could be forced to cut 180 employees and 40-50 public defenders could be eliminated.
“We all want a fair justice system, but we need funding,” said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn(DFL-Roseville). “We can call this a public safety bill, but it’s not making more Minnesotans safe.”
“This proposed budget would leave our district courts without enough judges to manage a rising caseload in an effective and timely manner,” Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said in a May 2 statement. “It would jeopardize our state’s drug courts, DWI courts, and veterans courts, which are effective tools for combating the rise of substance abuse in our state.”
Gildea said the total agreement covers 30 percent of Judicial Branch requests. For example, Dayton sought $1.7 million more per fiscal year to fully fund treatment courts; the agreement calls for $100,000 annually; Dayton seeks $980,000 annually for cybersecurity needs, the agreement has zero.
Four court filing fee reductions — which would total almost $8.6 million in lost revenue — are included, including the civil court filing fee dropping from $310 to $280, and small claims court filing fee decreasing from $65 to $50. Another $242,000 would be lost by eliminating harassment restraining order filing fees for the respondent. Limmer said civil motion and filing fees have doubled since 2002.
Other proposed General Fund increases include:
As for policy, protestor penalties, a vacant western Minnesota prison and Real ID are arguably the most high-profile provisions.
The agreement would increase the penalty from a misdemeanor to gross misdemeanor “for a person to interfere with or obstruct traffic that is entering, exiting, or on a freeway or entering, exiting, or on a public roadway within the boundaries of airport property with the intent to interfere with, obstruct, or otherwise disrupt traffic.”
Sometimes we need to disrupt the lives of some Minnesotans to better affect the lives of other Minnesotans, said Rep. Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley).
To address potential prison needs, the agreement would prohibit the Corrections Department from expanding a current, or constructing a new, facility unless the department submits an outside, independent appraisal completed within the previous 90 days that estimates the market value of the now-empty Appleton prison. The initial House plan would have required the department to use the 1,600-bed facility — currently owned, but maintained by a private company — when the department determines it has an insufficient number of prison beds to house the current or projected population.
The Public Safety Department would be prohibited “from adopting any final rule that amends, conflicts with, or has the effect of modifying requirements in Minnesota Rules, parts 7410.0100 to 7410.0800,” which, in essence, would prevent the department from using its rulemaking authority to issue driver’s licenses for undocumented residents.
Cornish believes the Legislature should have final say, not “unelected bureaucrats.”
Additionally, state statute would be clarified so off-duty peace officers have the right to carry firearms in — and cannot be prohibited from entering — private establishments.
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