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Minnesota House of Representatives
Republican Caucus

463 State Office Building, 100 Constitution Ave., St. Paul, MN 55155 (651) 296- 2273

For Immediate ReleaseFor more information contact:
March 16, 2000Sandra Whalen (651-296-5529)

(ST. PAUL) -- Keeping with their commitment to get tough on repeat offenders and sexual predators, Minnesota House Republicans today delivered a crime prevention package that gives law enforcement officers vital tools to effectively track Minnesota criminals. The bill received unanimous support by the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The legislation will create an integrated criminal justice information system to connect law enforcement agencies across the state and crack down on sex criminal offenders with tougher registration requirements and enhanced penalties. The dual-feature bill is known as "Katie's Law," after 19-year-old Katie Poirier who was abducted last year from a Moose Lake convenience store.

"This law will have the two-fold effect of making life tougher for sex offenders, while making it easier for law enforcement to identify and keep a step ahead of them," said House Crime Prevention Chairman Rich Stanek (R- Maple Grove), author of the bill.

In the private sector, computer technology has progressed at a rapid pace over the past 10 years. However, government's use of that technology has not quite kept up, due in part to limited budgets and the lack of a clear blueprint to guide the thousands of separate government systems to a uniform organization, Stanek said.

"In Minnesota, connecting criminal justice databases statewide is a vital link that needs to be made for the safety of our youth and others who would be vulnerable to predatory criminals," he said.

Currently, the state has about 1,100 different agencies and departments that access criminal records. Because most of their computer systems were developed independently, systems are incompatible with each other and little information is shared between individual departments on repeat offenders, added House Judiciary Finance Chair Sherry Broecker (R-Little Canada), House sponsor of the crime package.

The House crime package also incorporates recommendations from the Katie Poirier Abduction Task Force regarding the tracking of sex offenders. "Katie's Law" proposals will enforce and build on current sex offender registration requirements by:

increasing penalties for failing to register; bringing new offenders under the registration law; restricting felons' name changes; building a DNA database of known offenders; requiring lifetime registration for violent or predatory sex offenders; allowing flexibility in the statute of limitations for prosecutors; and, posting information about Level III sex offenders on the Department of Corrections website.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has been building a DNA database for several years. As sex offenders are forced to register, the number of samples matching evidence left at the scene of crimes will increase and more information will be useable in the statewide database.

The integrated information network has received widespread support from Minnesota law enforcement agencies, business leaders and legal experts, Stanek said. The bill has strong bipartisan support, and although Gov. Jesse Ventura says he supports the idea of the improved information sharing, he has admonished legislators who are seeking any funding for items not on his own agenda.

Stanek, whose House Crime Prevention Committee carefully crafted both measures, has challenged the Governor that the failure to fund such a vital public need would be irresponsible. "Good information is the foundation of any effective criminal justice system," Stanek, a 16-year Minneapolis police officer, said. "Without it, law enforcement officers have one hand tied behind them."

Critics of the bill have questioned its funding, but Broecker stresses that the package addresses law officers' vital needs immediately and stays within the Department of Public Safety and BCA's limits on what can reasonably be accomplished this year. "The bill goes a long way toward making Minnesota safer for our families."

The Minnesota Senate has yet to pass their companion bill, and differences between the House and Senate will likely fuel debate in a conference committee later in the legislative session.