We continue to work on agency finance bills this week. Yesterday, we passed a two year public safety finance bill on a strong, bipartisan vote of 94-37.
The H.F. 896 puts nearly $2.3 billion toward public safety over the next biennium. This includes funding for of the Department of Corrections, six of the 11 divisions of the Department of Public Safety, Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Courts, Tax Court, Board of Judicial Standards, Guardian Ad Litem Board, Public Defense Board, Sentencing Guidelines Commission, Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, and Uniform Law Commission.
We provided additional funding to assist local law enforcement agencies for training in wide variety of areas, including dealing with many types of mental-health related crisis situations. The bill also increased penalties for those that choose to put other people’s lives risk by engaging in violence while protesting and illegally obstructing freeways and access to airports.
These activities are already a violation of law, but recent experience has shown the consequences apparently are not considered significant enough to deter that kind of activity. We cherish our right to free speech, but that right does not include putting others at risk when exercising that right.
The bill also strengthens law enforcement and our judge’s hands when dealing with sex-related crimes with heavier penalties and longer supervision for convicted sexual predators, dedicates funds to combat sex trafficking, and increases penalties on those who possess and disseminate child pornography.
We also passed H.F. 140, which overhauls the state’s system for licensing K-12 teachers. The current state’s teacher licensure system is extremely complicated to the point of being dysfunctional. It is not helpful in attracting new students to the teaching profession and it makes it very difficult for even the best qualified teachers from out of state to become credentialed in Minnesota.
Our changes to the teacher licensure system closely follow the recommendations put forward by the Office of the Legislative Auditor in 2015, which indicated that teacher licensure system had some very serious issues and is in need of significant changes.
Today, we are working on the higher education and Legacy Amendment finance bills. I would expect both to be on their way to the Senate for consideration by early this evening.