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Troopers could guard lawmakers

Published (3/23/2012)
By Nick Busse
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State Patrol officers could be assigned to protect state lawmakers and other high-ranking state officials if they’re believed to be in danger.

That’s the premise of HF1607, sponsored by Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine). The bill would authorize state troopers to provide security on a short-term basis in response to “credible threats” against legislators, Supreme Court justices and constitutional officers.

The House State Government Finance Committee approved the bill March 20 and sent it to the House floor. Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) sponsors the companion, SF1283, which awaits action by the full Senate.

Woodard said the bill is partially a response to the January 2011 mass shooting near Tucson, Ariz., that killed or wounded 19 people, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. After that incident, Gov. Mark Dayton convened a joint executive-legislative committee to make recommendations on improving security in the Capitol Complex. The provisions of the bill were among their recommendations.

The bill does not specify criteria for what constitutes a credible threat. Instead, Woodard said that decision would be left to the governor and the commissioner of public safety.

The bill would also establish an Advisory Committee on Capitol Area Security. The committee would address day-to-day security concerns as well as make recommendations to the Legislature on security issues. It would be subject to the state’s open meeting law and would sunset on June 30, 2022.

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