House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, introduces House File 63, the public safety/judiciary agreement, during a House Rules committee hearing on Sunday. (Image courtesy House Public Information Services)
The 223-page bill has $2.64 billion in 2022-23 funding; few police reforms make cut
No-knock warrant limits are included the judiciary/public safety compromise budget agreement, which finally was laid out in bill form and distributed in the dark of night early Sunday.
But with just a few exceptions, other police-accountability measures demanded by DFLers—particularly members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus—are not included in the bill.
Meanwhile, a provision said last week to be an area of House-Senate accord—a new model policy to protect protesters’ First Amendment rights—also is missing. It will be enacted administratively, House Public Safety Chair Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said Sunday. “Not needed,” he said.
New limits on civil asset forfeitures are in the bill. They would help protect innocent owners from having cars seized and sold by law enforcement, and would prohibit cops from seizing any less than $1,500 in cash during drug raids, unless the money can be connected to crime.
Democrats successfully inserted language authorizing judges to reduce or waive court fines and fees for the indigent into the final bill. And a GOP priority measure, allocating $2 million for new violent crime enforcement teams, also made the cut.
The bill includes a major, bipartisan rewrite of the sex-crimes criminal code, including one provision that eliminates a statutory “intoxication loophole” condemned by dicta but upheld by a state Supreme Court ruling in March.
Further, it contains the Department of Corrections-backed Reentry and Homelessness Mitigation Plan. That requires Corrections to provide 30 days of prescribed medicines to released inmates, allows prison IDs to be used when applying for driver’s licenses, and requires DOC to develop homelessness mitigation plans for released offenders.
The Healthy Start Act, which authorizes DOC to put pregnant moms on supervised release for up to a year so they can care for and bond with their infants, also is in the bill.
While he was happy with those measures, DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said Sunday that he was disappointed that other initiatives are missing.
Notably absent, he said, is the Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act (MRRA), a Walz administration plan that would allow prisoners to shave time off custody and probation if meeting rehabilitation goals. It was rejected by Senate negotiators, Schnell said. “MRRA is a smart justice initiative that would improve public safety outcomes and save taxpayers money,” he said.
As the special session enters its third week, the 223-page public safety omnibus was the last of the legislature’s 13 major budget bills to achieve at least tentative bicameral agreement. Issued as House File 63, the bill had no Senate companion at the time of this writing. But that is coming.
“Earlier today we began closing the public safety bill after reaching general, bipartisan agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in a written statement Saturday. “Some small issues are still being worked out, but I am confident we will finish the bill and keep Minnesotans safe.”
“It doesn’t include some of the important police reform and accountability measures pushed by the House,” Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said in her own press statement. “But it is a step forward in delivering true public safety and justice for all Minnesotans despite divided government.”
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, the Senate’s Judiciary and Public Safety committee chair, spoke to Session/Law via text message Sunday. He said the agreement keeps the focus on “the safety of all our citizens and the proper role of government’s reaction to criminal behavior.”
Overall, he added, “I believe it is a bill that responsibly addresses budget needs of our criminal justice system, as well as creating a balanced approach to law enforcement reforms.”
The legislation is expected to be debated on the House floor Tuesday. It’s not clear when the full Senate will take it up. But barring some unforeseen snag, both chambers are moving into position to pass the bill before July 1.
That means even a partial government shutdown has likely been averted.
Aside from the no-knock warrant language, the omnibus includes just a handful of policing policies. One of those, Matthew’s Law, relates to the way law enforcement handles drug-addicted confidential informants. Another, dubbed Travis’ law, would dispatch mental-health professionals along with police on some emergency calls.
A third provision adds a civilian member to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board committee that determines whether complaints against officers are well founded. And there is a new requirement for law enforcement agencies to share some forms of private police data with the POST Board.
Another measure—the Hardel Sherrell Act—will help ensure that people in custody suffering medical emergencies get proper care. Limmer characterized that as a police accountability measure, but Mariani says it’s more aptly seen as corrections reform.
Mariani, speaking to the House Rules committee Sunday, said there is much to like in the compromise bill. But he lamented the paucity of police accountability. “It’s a great disappointment to me and it should be a great disappointment to the House,” he said.
Mariani said many “commonsense” measures were proposed and negotiated, some of which law enforcement had grown “comfortable” with. But Senate Republicans were unwilling to consider them, he said.
“That’s probably due to the fact that the Senate held not a single hearing on the preeminent issue of our age, throughout its entire several months of being in session,” Mariani said.
A finance spreadsheet for the $2.64 billion FY2022-23 compromise budget also was released Saturday.
It includes a 2.5% pay raise in FY2022 for judges and court staff; $15.2 million worth of raises for public defenders; and a $5.6 million boost for civil legal services, which can be used by legal aid offices either to boost pay or add attorneys.
It spends $931,000 to create a new judgeship for the 5th Judicial District—a change necessitated by increased prosecutions expected to flow from the sex-conduct criminal code rewrite.
The bill also includes $400,000 over two years to provide the first substantial pay raise for foreign-language court interpreters since 1999.
The courts get $500,000 to continue beefing up physical security. But the Judicial Branch gets no new money for cybersecurity upgrades, or to continue developing its newly launched Minnesota Court Records Online system. The spreadsheet suggests that the courts seek federal funding instead.
The legislation gives the Minnesota Department of Human Rights an additional $222,000 over two years to hire one full-time FTE to process caseloads. The department had asked for four FTEs.
There is $1 million over two years to hire four employees for a new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Office. Limmer had earlier opposed the office’s creation as an expansion of government bureaucracy, but it made the final cut.
DOC gets $19.835 million over two years to cover a 2.8% boost for staff health care and pay increases. It also gets $541,000 in FY2022-23 for increased bed need related to the sex crimes statutory overhaul.
But Corrections takes a $16.794, two-year budgetary hit on 2022-23 to adjust for an inmate population that declined when courthouse operations and prosecutions slowed during the pandemic.
No extra money is included to beef up the state’s multi-jurisdictional threat-information hub, known as the “Fusion Center,” at the Department of Public Safety.
But DPS’ Bureau of Criminal Apprehension does get $4.169 million over two years to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities, comply with FBI security requirements and upgrade critical infrastructure. It gets another $3.692 million for law enforcement salary increases.
Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday that he hoped Democrats would be able to squeeze no-knock warrant language into the final bill. He got his wish.
The bill prohibits no-knock warrants in cases where the only crime suspected is drug possession—unless there is reason to believe the drugs are for more than personal use. The same measure requires law enforcement to carefully detail why they are requesting a no-knock warrant and includes strict reporting requirements after a warrant is executed.
As to the protester protections, Mariani said by text Sunday that, while there was tentative agreement at one point, it was eventually dropped.
The POST Board already voted earlier this year to re-write its model policy to include protester protections, Mariani said. So legislation wasn’t really needed, particularly given the changes Senate negotiators wanted to make to the proposal.
“They wanted to amend out the involvement of community-based groups in developing the policy at POST,” Mariani said. “Since POST is already moving, we didn’t want to say it was OK to exclude regular citizens.”
During Sunday’s Rules Committee hearing, Mariani said some “substantive and technical amendments” will be offered to the House version, probably on Monday. But he also acknowledged under committee questioning that, in order to get the omnibus bill passed without forcing a July 1 shutdown, “logic would dictate that we remove those provisions.”
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who doubles as Rules chair, said any proposed amendments will be posted to the House website 24 hours before it reaches the floor on Tuesday.
Limmer said he is not sure when his version of the bill will be heard by Senate Finance, the one committee stop it likely will make on its way to the floor. But that committee’s chair, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said Saturday that she expects to hear it today or Tuesday.