After Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) banged the gavel a little after 9 a.m. Tuesday to call to order the omnibus judiciary and public safety supplemental budget bill conference committee, he outlined the three major focal points of the Senate’s position.
He said the Senate bill focuses on supporting law enforcement agencies and officers, increasing penalties for violent crimes, and requiring county prosecutors to be more vigorous in prosecuting accused criminals.
That was followed by four House DFL conferees who basically said the bill produced by the Republican-led Senate was shortsighted and missed real opportunities for sustained investments in community-based support and intervention programs that have been proven to reduce crime rates.
House positions include police accountability reforms to increase trust in law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system, plus money to fund community-based crime-prevention programs such as grants for prevention, intervention, mental health and wellness of at-risk juveniles.
That prompted Limmer to say, “We came in as a lamb, and we’re going out as a lion, but nevertheless, I think we’ll have a good discussion.”
The committee took no votes on adopting provisions from the two omnibus bills, but Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), who sponsors HF4608/SF2673* with Limmer, said he expects the committee could adopt some “same or similar” provisions perhaps as early as Wednesday's gathering.
But time is tight.
Limmer said Republicans would not be available to meet on Friday or Saturday due to the party’s state convention in Rochester.
Some common ground on judicial funding
Both sides agree the judicial system needs more money to rectify years of underfunding.
Each version includes a 6% salary increase for judges and staff at the Supreme Court, District Courts, and Court of Appeals. And both would appropriate $50 million in fiscal year 2023 — plus another $100 million in the 2024-25 biennium — to increase salaries of public defenders and hire more of them.
However, only the House version would boost funding for Legal Aid attorneys: $47.94 million in fiscal year 2023.
The two bills differ in additional supplemental spending: the House $340 million in fiscal years 2022-23, $134 million more than the Senate.
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Senate-only funding and policy provisions
The Senate focuses on taking immediate and “vitally important” steps to counter the steep increase in violent crime across the state, especially in the Twin Cities, Limmer said.
“The Senate plan puts more money into supporting the men and women who keep our communities safe, holds violent and career criminals accountable for their actions, and creates a more transparent and accountable criminal justice system,” Limmer said.
Notable funding provisions appearing only in the Senate version include:
Notable Senate-only policy provisions include those that would:
House-only funding and policy provisions
Notable funding provisions appearing only in the House version include:
Notable House-only policy provisions include those that would:
Some common ground on police body cameras
Both versions contain funding for local law enforcement agencies to purchase body cameras to be worn by police offices while on duty.
The Senate would appropriate $5 million for grants to local law enforcement agencies for the purchase of body-worn cameras and storing the video images captured by them. It would require a 25% local match.
The House would provide $15 million, but would require body camera footage be released to families within five days after a deadly force incident and to the public within 14 days.
The House would also appropriate $1.5 million for body cameras for correctional officers working in state prisons.