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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Joe McDonald (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, March 10, 2023
Pub Safety

Dear Neighbor,

House and Senate Republicans this week put forward a Safe & Sound Minnesota public safety plan to confront the threat of violent and repeat criminals, strengthen police and improve training for law enforcement, and hold judges and prosecutors accountable with public data and information.

Public safety is one of the top issues Minnesota faces at this time, with an abnormally high rate of violent crime happening in our state. This was a significant point of discussion last summer and into the fall. Republicans and Democrats alike expressed support for addressing the lawlessness that is occurring on streets in Minneapolis, St. Paul and beyond.

It is a shame that we are now halfway through the 2023 legislative session without making any progress on passing legislation to improve our situation. In fact, the House majority has seemed to be more interested in reducing punishment for criminals than cracking down on violent crime and stopping the revolving doors for repeat offenders.

As a photographer by trade, I work with a lot of local high school students on their senior photo shoots. Of course, we often discuss what they plan to do after graduation. Students and parents alike have mentioned apprehension over the University of Minnesota due to safety concerns.

This is unacceptable and I recently had the opportunity to address the U of M president during a House Higher Education Committee meeting. Remember, this is the same university that severed ties from the Minneapolis Police Department back in 2020. That move certainly did not help improve safety for students, so it was good to see the U announce last August it was resuming a working relationship with MPD.

The U currently is requesting $10 million in state funding to make safety improvements on the campus and I asked the president what would happen if they don’t get this funding. I was told student safety would remain a priority for the university regardless – and it better be – but that does not ease concerns from a statewide perspective caused by the majority not following its words with action.

On the other hand, the Safe & Sound package includes 17 different bills from 15 different Republican authors across the state. Confronting the criminal threat would include new laws to add a new crime of carjacking to state statute, increase penalties for fleeing police in a motor vehicle, align fentanyl to the same weight thresholds and penalties as heroin, and increase sentences for those convicted with at least two prior crimes of violence.

To address crimes of gun violence, the package specifically increases the penalty for transferring a firearm to an ineligible person and requires a court to ensure someone who has been ordered to give up their firearms has indeed done so.  

Republicans continue to support our state’s law enforcement officers with strong recruitment, training, and retention plans. The Safe & Sound Minnesota plan provides $1 million for Pathway to Policing, the award-winning program that brings new recruits into public safety from other careers. Also included is $5 million for college scholarships and technology to help law enforcement students prepare for their role, and $15 million for bodycams for law enforcement departments. The plan also fulfills a request of $168 million for police and first responder pension funds.  

Tough laws and great law enforcement officers can only do so much, however. The Safe & Sound Minnesota plan also puts in place transparency and accountability measures for the state’s courts. New data reporting would help legislators and the public understand how many felony-level offenses go uncharged, as well as a database by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission for the public to conduct research about judges and their decisions to follow criminal sentences created by the legislature. 

To address concerns that violent, repeat offenders are too often released, there is a new mandatory minimum sentence for dangerous criminals who commit crimes with a firearm. Finally, the plan would also make who posts bail payments public data. Recent scrutiny on non-profits bailing out violent criminals shows Minnesotans are at risk when these non-profits aren’t held accountable for their decisions.  

Watch for more as things unfold at the Capitol. If our state does but one thing, it should be to keep its citizens safe and I will continue working to make that happen.



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