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House public safety panel approves omnibus bill proposing ‘critical funding and reforms’

After 30 amendments and more than four hours of discussion, the omnibus public safety and criminal justice reform finance received committee approval Thursday.

The proposal calls for $1.8 billion to fund the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Corrections and other public safety agencies and commissions through the 2022-23 biennium.

The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee approved HF1078, as amended, on an 11-8 party-line vote and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Every person deserves to live with human dignity in their community. To deliver on this promise, we have the responsibility to ensure our systems treat all Minnesotans with fairness and respect, while delivering justice,” Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), the committee chair and bill sponsor, said in a statement.

“We have the ability to deliver critical funding while enacting reforms Minnesotans are counting on, and this bill does exactly that,” he said.

Republicans object to the police reform provisions they say would unduly burden law enforcement agencies and officers and prevent them from successfully doing their jobs.

All the major law enforcement organizations in the state have sent letters of opposition to this bill, said Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge).

The Senate omnibus bill is SF970. Sponsored by Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), it awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

Amendments aplenty

A delete-all amendment was approved first before amendments were offered to that proposal.

Mariani successfully offered an amendment that would appropriate $1 million each year of the biennium for local law enforcement agencies to purchase wearable body cameras, provided agencies also provide a 50% funding match. Mariani also offered a technical amendment to his amendment that was adopted.

“We stepped up big on body cameras, which so much of our law enforcement communities want, and our citizen communities also want,” Mariani said. “That’s new, and that’s a big step.”

Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL-Edina) successfully offered an amendment that would establish that an offender who commits an offense as a juvenile, and is sentenced to life imprisonment or a period of confinement that would exceed 15 years, must be made eligible for release after serving 15 years in custody. Rep. Marion O'Neill (Maple Lake) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have made 25 years the incarceration minimum.

Mariani successfully offered an amendment to appropriate $500,000 each year of the 2022-23 biennium for grants to organizations selected by the Opiate Epidemic Response Advisory Council to provide services to address opioid addiction. Grant recipients must be located outside the seven-county metropolitan area and in areas with disproportionately high incidents of fentanyl overdoses.

Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope) successfully offered an amendment that would require the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training to evaluate a law enforcement agency’s rate of arrests and stops involving minorities compared to that of their white counterparts when the POST board does compliance reviews of agencies. The amendment was adopted along party lines

What’s funded by the bill

The Department of Corrections would be funded with $1.3 billion, including:

  • $933 million to run the state’s 11 prisons;
  • $280 million for community services, such as conditional release programs; and
  • $61.6 million in operations funding.

The Department of Public Safety would receive $448.9 million, to be distributed among its various divisions, including:

  • $157.2 million for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension;
  • $135.8 million for emergency communication networks;
  • $108.6 million for Office of Justice Programs;
  • $28.8 million for the fire marshal and the Board for Firefighter Training;
  • $12.4 million for homeland security and emergency management; and
  • $5.2 million for gambling and alcohol enforcement.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

Policy provisions in the omnibus bill

Notable policy provisions in the bill would:

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