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Legislative Update (2-19-20)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Neighbor,

This week, House Republicans rolled out a package of bills to combat a rise in violent crime in parts of the Twin Cities, including on light rail lines and around entertainment venues.

The bills target many of the issues driving that spike in violent crime – including gang and drug trafficking activity – as well as the need for additional officers and tools for law enforcement to combat crime on the light rail lines and in communities.

Here are some examples of what we’re working to clean up:

  • The Star Tribune recently reported that two thirds of neighborhoods in Minneapolis saw an increase in overall crime in 2019. This includes a 70-percent spike in the Minneapolis Downtown East neighborhood.
  • Two people were shot near Allianz Field in St. Paul and a “brutal group robbery and attack” took place outside Target Field.
  • 2019 saw an all-time high in serious crimes committed on Metro Transit light rail.
  • St. Paul saw a doubling in the homicide rate in 2019, much of it connected to gang violence.
  • Minnesota’s Violence Crime Enforcement Teams saw major increases in the amounts of meth, heroin, and cocaine compared to 2018, with much of it being trafficked by gangs and produced and smuggled into the United States by Mexican drug cartels.

Here is a quick overview of proposals announced Monday in a “Safety in our Cities” package:

  • A bill to boost penalties for gang members who use firearms in commission of a crime. Currently, prosecutors are not pursuing gun charges against criminals who commit crimes using guns because the penalty level is not high enough.
  • A bill to increase funding for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for gang and drug trafficking efforts.
  • A bill that would require cities with regional or statewide sports and entertainment facilities to have adequate law enforcement near those venues, or risk losing Local Government Aid from the state.
  • A bill that would increase enforcement of fare evasion, increase sworn officers for Metro Transit police, and install interactive cameras on light rail platforms.
  • A bill that would prohibit cities from disarming officers in good standing.

We are committed to combating violent crime and improving public safety. Taxpaying citizens who paid the freight to build these facilities for games, concerts and other events should be able to enjoy themselves without having to worry about being subject to criminal acts. Minnesotans from all around the state have been asking for something to be done and these bills would be a good start.

On a separate but similar note, I have authored a bill to fund our Minnesota State Patrol training program for new recruits. Many of our current State Patrol officers are reaching retirement age and we’ll need replacements ready to roll. This is an issue we pick up from time to time and this is a year we need to address it again.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time House Republicans were conducting a press conference to unveil this package of “Safety in our Cities” bills, Democrats were hosting a press conference of their own to talk about raising your taxes and/or using the state’s over-collection of tax dollars to solve climate change. I’ll leave it at that.

-Steve

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