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Public safety conference committee wraps up work with agreements on gun measures, no-knock warrant changes

Co-chairs Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn and Sen. Ron Latz listen to public testimony during the May 9 meeting of the judiciary and public safety conference committee. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)
Co-chairs Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn and Sen. Ron Latz listen to public testimony during the May 9 meeting of the judiciary and public safety conference committee. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)

— UPDATED at 11:02 p.m.

After years of pushing for a change, supporters of a pair of gun-control measures could finally see their efforts come to fruition.

Included in the public safety and judiciary finance and policy agreement finalized by a conference committee late Wednesday are universal background checks for handgun sales and the extreme-risk protection order provision that would allow family members and others to petition a court to have firearms removed from a person found to pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

“This has been a long time coming,” Sen. Bonnie Westlin (DFL-Plymouth) said Wednesday regarding the so-called red-flag provision. Her best friend committed suicide by a firearm in 1991.

Conference Committee on SF2909 5/10/23 - Part 1

“Extreme-risk protection orders strike a balance between the rights of an individual to lawfully possess a firearm and our desire to keep that person safe as well as the surrounding community and others when that person presents a risk to themselves and to others.”

In a statement, House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring) expressed criticism of the process to include the controversial provisions, including negotiation occurred behind closed doors and action by the all-DFL conference committee came 14 minutes after the provisions were publicly posted and with zero debate. "These gun control measures violate the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, and are being forced into a budget bill to avoid an up or down vote because Democrats know these bills have bipartisan opposition and would not pass."

Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park), Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville) and Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL-Shoreview) led the conference committee on HF2890/SF2909* that also adopted a House-only provision that would significantly curtail when a judge can issue a no-knock search warrant to peace officers.

Judges can now approve such warrants under certain conditions, such as when the police can demonstrate they are unable to detain a suspect or collect evidence through a knock-and-announce warrant. Language adopted into the committee report would impose strict limits on obtaining no-knock warrants, including allowing them only when “the occupant or occupants of the dwelling will present an immediate threat of death or injury to the officers executing the warrant if the officers announce their presence or purpose prior to entering the dwelling.”

Adoption of judiciary funding

The adopted spreadsheet includes funding increases affecting judges, law clerks, public defenders, and Civil Legal Services lawyers.

[MORE: Read about House and Senate starting positions]

Conference Committee on SF2909 - part 3 5/10/23

Raises for Civil Legal Services lawyers, who represent low-income clients in civil cases, were a sure thing to be included, as both bodies had that in their omnibus bills, but at different levels.

The final amount is $30.7 million for the 2024-25 biennium, a bit closer to the House’s starting position of $37.1 million than to the Senate’s proposed $16.6 million, and a more than 85% budget increase, according to nonpartisan House Fiscal Analysis Department staff.

No compromise was needed to give public defenders significant raises, as both sides wanted to spend about $96 million for that purpose, with some of that amount used to hire about 200 more of them. That represents a more than 47% budget increase.

Finalizing how much money to spend for pay raises for district court judges was a point of difference between House and Senate bills. The Senate wanted to give 9% annual pay raises in fiscal year 2024 and 6% in fiscal year 2025, and the House proposing 4% raises each of the two years.

The compromise, as revealed by the spreadsheet, is 8% and 4% respectively.

[MORE: View list of articles]

What’s been adopted

The inclusion of the two gun-control measures and the limits on no-knock warrants were Wednesday’s big news items, but the committee also adopted items in other areas, including:

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