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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL)

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Legislative Update - August 9, 2019

Friday, August 09, 2019

Dear neighbors,

Thanks to all those who invited me to attend their Night to Unite/National Night Out get-togethers earlier this week! It was a great opportunity to meet new people and catch up with old friends.

A favorite moment from neighborhood block parties – minnow racing!

Night to Unite helps build inclusive and safe communities in our area and across the nation. Taking the time to meet our neighbors and learn a bit about one another is the first step in ensuring that everyone feels welcome and included. Forming positive relationships with law enforcement and first responders helps prevent crime. It’s a great example of a community-centered approach to public safety – one that focuses on forging strong communities to prevent crime, rather than relying solely on punishment.

My colleagues and I used this perspective to inform the policy changes we made this session. We passed legislation that makes our criminal justice system more just and our families and communities safer.

Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault and Gender-Based Violence

Lifting up the voices of victims and survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence was a top priority for me and many of my colleagues this session. I’m proud that we successfully fought for legislation that will help survivors get justice and prevent these crimes from happening in the first place.

We closed several legal loopholes that made it difficult or impossible for survivors to seek justice. One of the more abominable policies that we repealed was the marital rape exception. This law shielded rapists from prosecution if they were married to their victim at the time of the rape. One Minnesota woman was instrumental in getting this law off the books. You can read about her story here.

We also eliminated an exemption for unwanted touching of the buttocks and passed two laws that will help hold offenders who abuse children accountable. I introduced one of them, a policy that establishes a 120 look-back period for determining if the perpetrator was in a position of authority. The other clarifies the definition of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Finally, we established a working group that will examine Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct laws and recommend changes. While we made some progress this year, there’s more work to be done to improve these laws.

Updating our state’s sexual harassment laws was a top priority this session. Despite passing the House 113-10, a bill that would have made it easier for victims of sexual harassment to access justice wasn’t included in the final public safety bill due to opposition from Senate Republicans. My colleagues and I will continue to push for this change next session.

This week I attended the groundbreaking for the first public memorial to honor survivors of sexual violence in the country. I’m grateful for the work that so many people have done to make this possible.

Improving School Safety

Minnesotans deserve to be safe in all public places, but it’s particularly important that children feel safe in school. That’s why we provided aid to help school districts improve safety and security. The funding can also be used for things like counseling, drug abuse prevention programs, and police liaison services.

In the public safety budget, we increased funding for the Minnesota School Safety Center (MSSC), which conducts hundreds of school safety trainings. MSSC trains teachers and support staff from districts across Minnesota to assess possible threats and building security, create emergency plans, prepare for an active shooter or a violent intruder, and more.

There’s more to be done to help schools recognize and manage concerning behavior. I championed a bill that would require school boards to establish teams to conduct safety assessments that passed the House but didn’t make it into law. I’ll continue advocating to make our schools safer and to connect students with underlying behavioral or mental health issues to the resources they need to address them.

Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Dangerous People

Minnesotans have made it clear that they expect us to do more to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. This year, the House passed two common-sense measures to prevent gun violence. The first would expand criminal background checks to ensure that the buyer is allowed to have a gun before it changes hands. The second would establish extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), also known as red flag laws. If law enforcement becomes aware of red flags that indicate that someone is a danger to themselves or others, ERPOs allow them to go to court to keep guns out of the situation.

Both of these policies are supported by a majority of Minnesotans of all political and ideological backgrounds. They’re also already being used in other states, and research suggests that they’ve helped prevent shootings and suicides. However, Senate Republicans blocked criminal background checks and ERPOs this year.

I’m heartbroken by the tragedies that occurred in Dayton and El Paso this past weekend. It’s clearer than ever that the status quo isn’t working, and it’s time for action.  

On Wednesday, I joined more than a thousand Minnesotans in the call for change. You can read more about the Honor Them with Action rally here.

Please continue to contact me with your thoughts on public safety or any other issue. It is an honor to represent you.

Sincerely,

Ami Wazlawik
State Representative

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