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Omnibus public safety bill focuses on community-centered criminal justice reform

The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division unveiled its omnibus bill Tuesday that includes both policy matters and financing for the Public Safety and Corrections departments.

HF2792, as amended, is the “result of good collaborative work” from both sides of the aisle, said Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), the division chair and sponsor of the bill.

Mariani said the package focuses on community-centered public safety that would promote criminal justice reform by “prioritizing preventative over punitive measures.”

An additional information presentation is scheduled Wednesday; the offering of amendments and markup is planned for Thursday.

Among the 2020-21 biennial appropriations, the omnibus call for corrections to receive $1.29 billion and public safety $405.89 million.

Overall, the substance and funding levels reflect Gov. Tim Walz’s policy and funding request except in three areas, where the bill would:

  • phase out the Pathways to Policing Program;
  • fund up to 110 new prison corrections officers, instead of 120; and
  • phase in funding for the 110 officers over four years, instead of two.

The appropriation that would pay for the new correctional officers is $7.67 million for the biennium, and is a response to two corrections officers who died in the line of duty within the past year. Joseph Gomm was killed by a Stillwater Prison inmate in July 2018. Two months later, Joe Parise suffered a medical emergency while on duty after responding to fellow officers being attacked at the Oak Park Heights Prison.

The bill would establish and fund four new task forces:

  • Peace Officer Excellence Task Force ($250,000 in Fiscal Year 2020);
  • Dosage Probation Task Force ($200,000 in Fiscal Year 2020);
  • Cannabis Task Force ($100,000 in Fiscal Year 2020); and
  • Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women ($150,000 in the biennium).

Other notable provisions in HF2792 would:

  • establish and fund training for 911 dispatchers to give direction to emergency callers on how to perform CPR;
  • restore felons right to vote upon release from incarceration;
  • change the definition of fifth-degree sexual conduct to include touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks;
  • re-establish the Ombudsman for Corrections, which the Legislature eliminated in 2003;
  • permit employees of correctional facilities to administer emergency opioid agonists such as naloxone;
  • modify guidelines around the use of solitary confinement for prisoners;
  • require the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to develop a model policy for eyewitness identification;
  • require police departments to develop written policies for investigating sexual assault cases;
  • direct the POST Board to create a model sexual assault investigation policy for law enforcement agencies;
  • increase penalties for child pornography;
  • eliminate the existing statute of limitations for sex trafficking and other criminal sexual conduct offenses;
  • require the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission to review its guidelines on child pornography crimes;
  • adjust thresholds for marijuana offenses and penalties under current possession and sales law;
  • decriminalize cannabidiol that is derived from industrial hemp; and
  • require courts to release without bail defendants charged with a misdemeanor offense, other than domestic assault or certain DWI violations.

What’s in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus public safety and criminal justice reform finance bill:

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