Here is the latest news from Saint Paul.
Harassment Restraining Orders
This session, I am working on legislation to protect women and children from violence by making changes to how Harassment Restraining Orders (HROs) are handled. Currently in statute, only sheriffs are able to notify an offender that an HRO has been filed against them. Under working group recommendations, my bill would make it easier to notify someone receiving an HRO, allowing any peace officer to find and serve a person with an order.
While this may seem like a small change, it’s a commonsense reform that will allow people to be served with an HRO sooner, and has the potential to protect women and children more quickly.
I am working with the city of Saint Paul on this bill, and hope we can get it signed into law this year.
Addressing Mental Health and Chemical Dependency
In the Public Safety Committee last week, we had an excellent discussion about the overwhelming problem of chemical dependency and mental illness in our prisons, and strategies on how we can reduce recidivism and help people in need.
Currently, only about 30 percent of people in our prisons are getting chemical dependency treatment, when between 85-90 percent have a dependency problem. Part of that reason is that about 50 percent of prisoners are serving six months or less, and resources are lacking.
Whether it’s an alcohol or drug addiction, or a diagnosed mental illness, the underlying common relational factor is pointing to previous trauma(s). Providing treatment options, including trauma-informed therapy for people going through our courts and prison system can help reduce the number of repeat offenders, get people the help they need and save lives.
I am glad that we were able to begin discussing this issue in committee last week. It feels like we’re finally having the right conversations about not only who is in prison, but why they are there and how we can make real changes that contribute to long-term solutions for Minnesotans in our criminal justice system.
Civil Forfeiture Bill
In response to a recent Minnesota Supreme Court ruling regarding the civil forfeiture of vehicles, I have introduced House File 389. Currently, if someone is arrested for a DUI, for example, and their car is impounded, the co-owner of that vehicle like a spouse or family member has no standing in court. Both the offender and the second owner have been forced to forfeit their rights to the vehicle.
My legislation, which has bipartisan support, would allow the second owner to petition the court and plead their case to get their vehicle back. This gives people a fair chance to get their property returned to them, especially if they did not know it would be used for unlawful behavior.
House File 389’s first stop will be in the House Civil Law Committee. I will keep you updated on the bill’s progress this session.
If you need assistance on an issue pertaining to state government, my office is available to you. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 549 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.