Finally, the thermometer is back on the positive side of zero. Yeah!
During Thursday’s House floor session we witnessed the rare occurrence of the majority putting a bill forward for a vote when it did not have the votes to pass it. House File 445 would create a special account for emergencies and put $35 million into that account to pay law enforcement agencies that respond to help other municipalities.
An example being pointed to is the upcoming trial of the police officers involved in George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Part of the impetus for a special funding bill was that Minneapolis has not yet reimbursed all the local agencies that sent help during last year’s almost weeklong rioting, looting and burning.
In addition to delaying reimbursements to other local governments, the Minneapolis City Council also significantly reduced funding for their own police department. By not paying for the aid rendered, Minneapolis puts the bill on the local property taxpayers in the cities or counties that responded to help.
The bill failed on a 63 yes, 71 no vote, with eight of the majority party members voting against their own colleagues’ bill.
I did not support the bill for several reasons. First, it is not just a funding bill; it includes a number of policy and accountability flaws, including making it very easy for the state to corner most of those dollars and leave the local units of government hanging. The items that would be eligible for reimbursement are so broad some have described it as simply a big slush fund.
More importantly, the Senate has a better approach that would use the state dollars that Minneapolis gets every year via local government aid (LGA) to reimburse those agencies that came to their aid in the past and, if necessary, in the future. LGA was created many years ago to supplement cities’ public safety budgets. Minneapolis will get about $78 million in annual LGA in 2021, which is 14% of the total $5.6 billion of state LGA dollars that will go out to Minnesota cities in 2021.
The money to pay up past-due debts and deal with future public safety issues is already available as part of Minneapolis’ 2021 LGA funds. That is a better way to deal with this issue.
Please enjoy this nice break in our recent very wintry weather.