ST. PAUL, MN—On Wednesday the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission held a public hearing on a proposal to cap probation sentences at five years for most crimes.
The public meeting comes six weeks after the Commission likely violated the state open meeting law by proceeding with action on the recommendation which had been marked as a discussion item on the meeting's agenda. The proposal had not been posted online, and there had been no public notice that the commission would take action on the agenda item. In addition, there were major questions raised at the meeting whether the commission even has authority to recommend changes to probation lengths. There is no previous precedent for the commission making these changes, and no clear authority under state law. Today's meeting kicks off a five day comment period, and the move could be given final approval January 9th. If approved, the legislature could only block the recommendation by passing a bill and having it signed into law by Governor Walz.
Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, Republican Lead on the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Division, attended Wednesday's hearing and gave testimony. Rep. Johnson issued the following statement regarding the hearing.
"Capping probation for heinous crimes likes domestic assault, sex trafficking, and gang-related crimes is a brazen attempt by this unelected board to usurp the authority of the legislature. It also intrudes upon the court's authority to set sentences by making the probation cap mandatory. Furthermore, there is no clear authority for the commission to even make these changes in the first place. Commission members have repeatedly raised concerns about this rushed process and lack of clear authority, but it's apparent that the Walz Administration and Democrats are intent on jamming this change through. House Republicans will bring forward legislation to block this move, and make sure that the legislature is able to weigh in on this important issue."
Earlier this afternoon, Senate Republican Public Safety Chair Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, suggested the Senate would take up legislation in response to the move if it proceeded, calling it an "end-run around the Legislature" and "improper."