ST. PAUL – Emily’s Law passed a committee hearing Thursday, March 13, inching closer to finishing what was started during the last legislative session and becoming law.
Emily’s Law calls for the age of adult certification for juvenile violent offenses to be lowered from 14 to 13. The legislation also lengthens the amount of time the offense stays on the perpetrator’s record and does not allow the record to be expunged until the perpetrator turns 28. At least a dozen other states have set the adult certification age at below 14 and several are as low as 10 years old.
This bill was created in response to the June 17, 2006 death of 2-year-old Emily Lynn Johnson. She died of a severe head injury one day after being assaulted by a 13-year-old boy at day care in Fergus Falls.
Several legislators from the Fergus Falls area – representing both parties - have joined forces to give the bill a true bipartisan flavor.
“The committee showed with its votes that we must hold people accountable for their actions,” author Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said. “People must be held especially accountable when it’s something as serious as the loss of a life.”
Nornes and co-author Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said they remember the effect Emily’s Law had when it reached the floor last year. It was a late night, but members of the House – and the gallery – were riveted to Westrom as he recited a newspaper article printed the day after Emily’s funeral.
“The point of this bill is to provide the most appropriate justice for both victim and perpetrator,” Westrom said. “There is no guarantee a 13-year-old will be tried as an adult, but it only makes sense to provide our legal system with that option. Each case still will be considered on its own merit.”
Emily Johnson’s parents, Travis and Lynn Johnson, testified Thursday. They were present last year when the bill passed the House floor before it ultimately stalled in a conference committee.
“Thursday was a step in the right direction,” Travis Johnson said. “We still have a long way to go and, by no means, is this a done deal, but at least we got our foot in the door. All we’ve asked for is for the committee to give us this hearing. Now that we got it things are moving in the right direction.”
In addition to Nornes and Westrom, Republican Reps. Morrie Lanning, Moorhead; and Dean Simpson, Perham have signed onto the bill. Paul Marquardt, Dilworth; and Linda Slocum, Richfield, are DFL authors on this bipartisan bill. Former minority leader Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, also is on the bill, having signed it while he still was in office.
Rep. Nornes is serving his sixth term in the Minnesota House. He can be reached at the Capitol by calling 651-296-4946. He is also available by email at email@example.com. His office is located at 277 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.