Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt lives in rural Isanti County, but he says his constituents and other Minnesotans travel to Minneapolis and St. Paul frequently for jobs, family gatherings, sporting events and concerts. And Daudt said they worry about their safety.
“What we want people to know is that this is a priority. We want to make sure that people in Minnesota know that this Legislature, and particularly Republicans in the Legislature, are committed to keeping people safe,” Daudt said.
The House Republican plan includes higher penalties for gang members who use guns in crimes, a boost in funding for gang and drug efforts at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and a crackdown on light rail fare evasion.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, would require cities to provide adequate law enforcement at sports and entertainment venues or risk losing state aid.
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“Minnesota taxpayers should be able to attend the venues that they have helped build and pay for without fearing for our safety,” she said.
Lt. Bob Kroll, the president of the Minneapolis police union, was on hand to support the Republican proposals.
“I hope these bills will be the start of a conversation on how the Legislature can support local law enforcement, and if needed, compel cities to prioritize resources to combat gang activity, violent crime and crime on or around light rail platforms and stations.”
Daudt accused city officials of being reluctant to put more police on the streets. He said it should be a higher budget priority for the cities.
But Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who listened as Republicans held a news conference on their plan, said Daudt and others are trying to spread misinformation.
Frey noted that the latest city budget included $2.7 million to add a third class of police recruits.
“To the extent that there are concerns about the way that Minneapolis does business, those lawmakers should actually give Minneapolis a call,” Frey said. “Public safety should not be a partisan issue. The problem is that the Republicans in the Legislature are consistently making it one.”
The Republicans don't have a majority of votes in the House to pass their bills. Frey said Minneapolis and other cities in Minnesota could do more if they received larger amounts of state aid.
Last week, Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle announced several initiatives aimed at stopping criminal activity on Metro Transit buses and trains, including the addition of more police. House Democrats are considering a bill to lower the penalty for fare evasion and to establish a system of “transit ambassadors” for light rail.
Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, also took issue with the Republican crime message. Hayden said a legislative call for more cops is too simplistic.
“What I wouldn’t want to do is from on high start telling cities how they should run their police departments,” Hayden said. “I think that they have fantastic chiefs and really good mayors. I think the city councils are starting to come around to know and to trust them to make sure that they are policing in the right way.”