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House committee approves bill to add ‘more timely’ expansion to bias crime laws

For more than three decades, Minnesota laws have stipulated that certain crimes are subject to enhanced penalties if the crimes were motivated by bias against particular groups.

Sadly, recent events such as last week’s mass shooting in Atlanta directed at Asian Americans has made it clear that hate crimes are increasing, says Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls).

“With what’s happened in the past year, this issue has gotten even more urgent and more timely,” he said.

He sponsors HF1691 that would expand crimes motivated by bias to include bias against a person due to the person’s gender, gender identity, or gender expression, as well as bias against a person who associates with someone in a protected group.

Equally important, Hornstein said, the bill would establish procedures for community groups to collect reports from victims of hate crimes and report the data to the Department of Human Rights.

“Across the board, experts and law enforcement agree that hate crimes are seriously underreported,” he said. “And that underreporting undercuts our ability to respond to hate crimes effectively and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill, as amended, on a 10-8 party line vote Tuesday and sent it to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee. The companion, SF2003, sponsored by Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

The Department of Human Rights would receive an unspecified amount from the General Fund in the 2022-23 biennium to develop procedures for community groups to collect supplemental data on crimes motivated by bias and to provide support services for victims of those crimes.

Nicholas Kor, senior manager of movement building at the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, said bias crime victims are much more likely to report to community groups they identify with rather than to law enforcement agencies.

Kor is pleased the bill would establish hate crime reporting procedures for community groups.

“Right now we simply don’t have the support to play that role, and often when community members report to us, what we report [to authorities] is discounted,” he said.

Republicans voted against the bill, objecting to provisions that would expand the category crimes motivated by bias to include bias due to a person’s gender, gender identity, or gender expression.

Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton) said he believes there are only two sexes: male and female. He said he believes state law should not codify protections for people who he said are confused about their sexuality.

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