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Public safety omnibus bill conferees start task of resolving major differences in policy provisions

The House and Senate have a $46 million difference in the amount each body proposes to fund the Department of Public Safety in the upcoming biennium.

But the two omnibus judiciary and public safety bills are worlds apart on policy, specifically police reform and accountability, with the House proposing more than two dozen changes and the Senate proposing a minimal number.

That was the starting point Monday for the first meeting of the omnibus judiciary and public safety policy and finance conference committee. Nonpartisan House and Senate staff presented a detailed walk-through of the budget numbers, highlighting similarities and differences between the House and Senate versions of HF1030/SF970*.

The House proposal would spend $2.846 billion, and the Senate $2.8 billion for the 2022-23 biennium.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

Discussion of policy differences also began, and is scheduled to continue Tuesday.

Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), the Senate sponsor, said the much smaller Senate bill – 79 pages versus 354 pages in the House – is by design.

“This is a budget year, and this is a budget bill,” he said. “There are a few policies in it, but only the policies that trigger expenses.”

In acknowledging the many police reform and accountability provisions proposed by the House, Limmer said he is not interested in “vilifying all police officers” because doing so could prevent them from keeping the public safe at a time when violent crimes are increasing.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), who sponsors the House bill, said the House language is “not anti-cop” and recent civil unrest resulting from fatal interactions with police officers requires significant legislative action.

He said a police reform package passed during a July 2020 special session was a start, and more deaths, particularly of Black men, at the hands of police officers are signs of a “seriously broken system” that needs fixing now.

[MORE: View House language; Senate language]

Police reform measures in House version

Policy measures on police reform and accountability only in the House version include provisions that would:

Two Senate-only policy provisions would establish the crime of child torture and set a 25-year felony punishment for those found guilty of committing the crime.

The other would require the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission to increase the severity level rankings in the sentencing guidelines grid for two types of child pornography crimes.

Provisions included in both House and Senate versions

Several policy provisions appear in both House and Senate versions, including those that would:

  • authorize the Department of Corrections to place pregnant and postpartum female inmates in community-based programs;
  • create a new crime of sexual extortion;
  • permit the prosecution of criminal sexual conduct crimes regarding the assault of an incapacitated person to include victims who were voluntarily intoxicated;
  • establish a 911 telecommunicator working group to establish statewide standards for training and certification;
  • provide people released from prison with 30 days of non-narcotic prescription medications; and
  • authorize the use of an inmate’s prison-issued ID as a valid secondary form of identification when applying for a state-issued identification card or driver’s license.

Both bodies would transfer money from the General Fund to the Disaster Assistance Contingency Account, which sets aside money that can be used to quickly respond to disasters such as floods, tornadoes, and blizzards. The House would replenish the fund with $30 million, the Senate’s proposal is $20 million.

The account became controversial when Gov. Tim Walz proposed to use $15 million from it to reconstruct buildings damaged by fires during the civil unrest in the Twin Cities in 2020.

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