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Voting rights restoration, review board added to Reimagining Act

It was a long Monday for the “Reimagining Public Safety Act,” but it gained more provisions than it lost by day’s end.

A bill built around increased training and transparency for police officers now bears the number SSHF92. Sponsored by Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), it was approved, as amended, by one committee and two divisions and is on its way to the House Ways and Means Committee.

In the House Government Operations Committee, an amendment was added that would restore voting rights to convicted felons immediately upon their release from prison. Current law returns the right to vote after the completion of a sentence, including probation. Secretary of State Steve Simon put the desired result of the provision succinctly: “If you’re in prison, you can’t vote. If you’re out, you can.”

House Government Operations Committee (Remote Hearing) 6/15/20

“I have supported this for a number of years,” said Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R-Greenfield). “If you’re not a threat to be in public, how are you a threat to vote?”

The bill, as amended, was approved by the committee, 10-6.

In the House Judiciary and Civil Law Division, the act was amended to insert language that would establish an “Officer-Involved Death Review Board” in the Department of Public Safety to collect, review and analyze data related to each officer-involved death that occurs in the state.

Another amendment approved in that division removed language in the original act on creating critical incident stress management teams with which emergency service providers can consult. A few division Republicans expressed disappointment, saying it was the provision that they were most solidly behind. But Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL-Shoreview) said the plan is to replace it with improved language.

The division approved the bill on an 11-7 vote.

The discussion of the removal of language on critical incident stress management teams was also an issue in a later meeting of the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division. More than one Republican called it the most important part of the bill. That division also voted to remove it.

In an amendment approved by that division, the “Office of Community-Led Public Safety Coordination” became a “community-led public safety coordinator” in the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Justice Programs, and most language on “co-responders” was changed to such things as “community-based responses to crises” and “mental health crisis response.”

Other provisions within the bill would:

  • establish standards for crisis intervention and mental illness crisis training for peace officers;
  • require the development and implementation of autism training for peace officers; and
  • require officers whose use of force results in injury or death to file a report to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division approved the bill by a 10-7 party-line vote.

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