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Minnesota Legislature

House judiciary panel wastes no time in approving omnibus finance bill

Members of the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division take up amendments to HF2705, before approving the omnibus bill April 9. Photo by Paul Battaglia

It took just under 30 minutes Tuesday for the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division to finish its markup of the omnibus judiciary finance bill.

The proposal is a $1.06 billion funding request for the 2020-21 biennium, which represents a 12.3 percent overall increase over current funding levels.

The bill would fund Minnesota’s court system, including treatment courts, Guardian ad Litem Board, Board of Judicial Standards, new judge and public defender positions, and provide pay raises for many current judges. It would also provide funding so the Department of Human Rights could hire 17 additional full-time employees, 13 of whom would staff new regional offices in Bemidji, Duluth, Rochester and Worthington.

[MORESee the spreadsheet]

Among other policy provisions, it would eliminate administrative forfeiture and modify criminal forfeiture by connecting criminal seizures to the prosecution of the underlying criminal offense. Language from HF10 is included, even though it was previously passed by the House. That bill would strengthen protections against sexual harassment. It awaits committee action in the Senate.

House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division 4/9/19

The division approved HF2705, as amended and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it is scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Its companion, SF802, as amended, is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday. Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) sponsors that bill.

Tuesday’s quick outcome was hailed by many representatives who have participated in their share of marathon markup sessions, and earned praise for Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), the division chair.

“I think you’ve set a record on the fastest time a judiciary omnibus bill or any omnibus bill has ever passed through a committee,” said Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge).

Lesch said the quick work at marking up and moving the omnibus bill forward illustrates how division members set aside ideological differences and worked together from the beginning of session.

“It’s been contentious at times … but I think we’ve arrived at resolutions in the way that Minnesotans expect,” he said.

The three amendments added Tuesday were largely technical, and did not substantially change the bill from when it was unveiled to the division April 4.

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