House Passes Controversial Public Safety Finance Bill

House Passes Controversial Public Safety Finance Bill Photo: KSTP

April 04, 2017 06:56 AM

Should protesters in Minnesota face stiffer penalties if they block interstates, public transit or the airport? Let lawmakers know your views!

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The Minnesota House on Monday night passed a controversial public safety finance bill that in part would increase penalties for protesting that blocks traffic, transit lines or at an airport. 

The bill passed the House by a margin of 94-37.

The legislative body had shot down an amendment to remove the part of the bill pertaining to the increased protest penalties.

That amendment measure failed 57-74 Monday, mostly along party lines. Lawmakers battled over the issue for several hours and testimonies grew heated multiple times.

Democrats say the measure is a thinly veiled attempt at stifling disenfranchised groups' right to protest.

Republican Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, says the bill is simply a matter of public safety. He says the changes in law would increase safety for police officers and prevent stoppages that have had serious effects on some of his constituents.

The bill would take the penalty for such protest-location crimes from a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 file to gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

RELATED: At Issue: REAL ID in Jeopardy at State Capitol; Lawmakers Debate Protest Legislation

"Criminal penalties are designed to dissuade actions or to punish someone who goes ahead with it," Zerwas said on KSTP's "At Issue" last month. "Clearly the penalties we have now are not dissuading people."

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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