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Bill creating $35 million fund to reimburse mutual aid costs heads to Floor

A bill that would create the State Aid for Emergencies account and fund it with $35 million is headed to the House Floor.

HF445 was approved, as amended, by the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday on a 12-9 party-line vote. Four non-metro DFL members did not vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), the measure, which has no Senate companion, would create a state contingency fund to reimburse local communities for public safety overtime and staffing costs provided through mutual aid after significant “critical incidents” occur.

Mariani said the impetus for the bill was the substantial costs in overtime, supplies, food, and lodging for officers from other law enforcement agencies who answered the call to help Minneapolis police quell the civil unrest after last year’s death of George Floyd in police custody.

[MORE: Read Session Daily story on first committee hearing of HF445]

Local governments asking for extra law enforcement assistance would be eligible to get 75% of their expenses reimbursed; agencies responding to a request for mutual aid would be eligible for 100% reimbursement.

There’s an urgency to get the SAFE account established, Mariani said, because more civil unrest is expected when the trial for the first of the four ex-Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd’s death is scheduled to begin in March.

Republicans said they generally support the idea for the fund, but all voted against the bill when the committee failed to adopt an amendment offered by Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge).

It would have prevented state police agencies – the State Patrol and DNR conservation officers – from being eligible for reimbursement from the SAFE account if they responded to a mutual aid request.

Johnson said he didn’t want to “incentivize” the city of Minneapolis to rely on state resources for policing duties, and instead take steps to increase the size of its police force, which is down more than 200 officers since the Floyd killing.

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