MN Senate passes public safety plan, House nearing vote

A man in a yellow tie
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, chairs the Senate judiciary and public safety committee and authored the Senate public safety bill.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

The Minnesota Senate passed a $200 million public safety bill Monday aimed at getting tough on crime throughout the state.

The vote was 48-19.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, who chairs the judiciary and public safety committee and authored the bill, said careful attention is needed after the recent rise in crime, including support for law enforcement.

“In recent years the defund the police movement and other anti-police rhetoric has diminished and denigrated our law enforcement community to the point that it’s an encouragement to the criminal element in our state,” Limmer said.

Under the bill, cities would get help for attracting police officers to the job and current officers would receive one-time bonuses. Prosecutors would be directed to take on more criminal cases. The measure also includes more money for courts, prisons and police body cameras.

Limmer noted the bill also includes a requirement that the Senate confirm members of the sentencing guidelines commission that are appointed by the governor.

“They’re driving policy decisions that should be handled by legislators, not by political appointees,” he said.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, referred to crime coverage on television news as justification for the bill.

“Every night there’s crime going on, unbelievable amounts of crime going on,” Ingebrigtsen said. “That’s the data I bring. That’s the data my constituents are concerned about.”

Several Democrats criticized the bill. Senate Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen, DFL-Edina, said Republicans are taking the wrong approach.

“The majority’s bill wrongfully asserts that locking Minnesotans up with harsher sentences deters crime,” López Franzen said. “It also ignores the reality that certainty of being caught is a stronger crime deterrent than the punishment.”

Meanwhile on Monday the DFL-controlled Minnesota House moved closer to taking a vote on its competing public safety bill.

Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said during a Ways and Means Committee hearing Monday that the bill seeks to try new approaches rather than relying on traditional tactics.

“The core of this bill is innovation,” Mariani said.

Gov. Tim Walz offered a similar message about public safety Sunday during his state of the state address.

"If we really are serious about getting tough on crime, then we need to get tough on the causes of crime because that's where it begins,” the DFL governor said. “That means moving back upstream, tackling economic inequality issues, talking about housing, talking about gun violence and then talking about issues like mental health and addiction."

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