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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL)

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House approves compromise Public Safety and Judiciary Budget

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Today, the Minnesota House passed the compromise Public Safety and Judiciary budget bill and amended it to include sign and release warrants. In addition to funding the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Rights, and the judicial branch, the bill includes several criminal justice and police accountability reforms which House DFLers have been advocating for all session. However, Senate Republicans rejected many other meaningful changes Minnesotans have been calling for to ensure communities can receive justice.

“Our budget agreement advances several important solutions to help Minnesotans experience public safety in their communities, but it’s incredibly disappointing Senate Republicans refused to accept some of the most meaningful reforms we put forward, including those with bipartisan support,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL – Saint Paul), chair of the House Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Committee. “One conviction and one prison sentence of one police officer doesn’t heal the trauma with which our communities continue to live. It’s not acceptable for a system that has failed too many Minnesotans to allow peace officers – with the solemn duty to protect and serve – to largely continue operating with impunity and a reckless disregard for human rights. As a result of the shortcomings within the budget compromise, we commit to continue this important work until we ensure all of those who betray the public’s trust can be held accountable, and Black, Indigenous, and Minnesotans of color can be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. We welcome the Governor’s executive actions, which are necessary due to the Republican Senate’s failure to respond to Minnesotans’ calls for greater accountability for law enforcement.”

House DFLers succeeded in delivering new regulations on no-knock warrants, modifications to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board’s police misconduct database to create an early warning system to keep bad officers off the streets, and Travis’s Law, which requires every law enforcement agency, when responding to a mental health crisis call, to include a referral to mental health crisis teams when one is available. The budget also includes Matthew’s Law, which requires departments to have a model policy on confidential informants, the Hardel Sherrell Act, which includes jail safety reforms, and funding for community organizations working to prevent crime and perform youth outreach.

The bill was amended on the House floor to include sign and release warrants. This policy would have prevented the killing of Daunte Wright, who had an outstanding warrant because a previous court summons had been mailed to the wrong address. These situations with incorrect addresses are unfortunately common, and a sign and release warrant takes down the temperature in an officer interaction because there is no need to take someone into custody. They are notified of their trial date and asked to sign. Sign and release warrants are one step we can take to de-escalate tension and free up police officers to respond to higher priorities and emergency calls more quickly. 

“Our hard work and commitment to improving our judicial system for the most vulnerable Minnesotans has paid off in the judiciary portion of this budget bill. My committee worked tirelessly to vet and pass quality legislation that will improve our justice system so it works better for Minnesotans who don’t have privilege, power, or a wealth of resources,” said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL - Roseville), Chair of the Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee. “This bill includes major reforms which will ensure that Minnesotans are not punished unduly for living in poverty. I am proud of the work the House DFL did in this bill and with it’s passage Minnesota will become a more just state.”

The budget decriminalizes poverty with significant reforms to Minnesota’s fines and fees structure, requiring personal circumstances to be considered. Earlier this year, a survivor-led working group gave lawmakers a series of recommendations to update Minnesota’s sexual assault laws, which the budget also incorporates, to give victims of intimate partner violence a better opportunity to receive justice. Following recommendations of a separate taskforce, the budget creates the new office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women and girls, while establishing a new taskforce on Missing and Murdered African American Women. The budget also reforms Minnesota’s civil forfeiture law, updates the state DWI law by expanding the use of ignition interlock to keep people safe on the road, and recognizes the right to fair representation by increasing funding for public defenders and court interpreters.

“Our final budget funds public safety and the judiciary, helps victims and survivors of sexual assault receive justice, and includes needed reforms to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “It doesn’t include some of the important police reform and accountability measures pushed by the House, but this is a step forward in delivering true public safety and justice for all Minnesotans despite divided government.”

Since the murder of George Floyd last may by a Minneapolis police officer and the subsequent shooting death of Daunte Wright at the hands of a Brooklyn Center officer this April, Minnesotans have demanded stronger police accountability measures. Despite these vocal calls for change, and a global spotlight on Minnesota, Senate Republicans remained intransigent in their objection to many proposals, several of which previously earned bipartisan support. Legislation to prohibit certain pretextual traffic stops, and eliminate the statute of limitations for wrongful deaths or sexual assaults by law enforcement were among the items Senate Republicans blocked. Additionally, Republicans blocked common-sense juvenile justice reforms, human rights protections, and probation reforms, aimed at offering people a better chance at redemption, from the final agreement.

“After George Floyd was murdered, Minnesota became the epicenter of a global movement for police accountability,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “House Democrats have engaged with Minnesotans and members of law enforcement to build a system of public safety where all Minnesotans can be safe at home, at work, and in their community.”

A spreadsheet listing budget appropriations is available here. Video of the House Floor session will be published on the House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.

In July 2020, the Legislature passed and Governor Walz signed into law significant police accountability legislation, including changes to the use of force, prohibiting “warrior training,” banning chokeholds, reforming arbitration, requiring the duty to intercede, data collection and regulatory reform – including reforms to the Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board and the creation of a new advisory council with citizen voices — investigatory reforms, mental health and autism training, public safety peer counseling debriefing, and extension of training funds for the POST Board.