Minnesota House passes public safety bill; much left unfinished with one week left in the legislative session
UPDATE 5/16/23 – After hours of debate, the Minnesota House of Representatives has passed a major public safety bill.
The $880 million public safety package includes both new funding and new policies – but what seemed to get the most attention from lawmakers are measures that will require background checks on private gun sales, as well as the red flag law that will allow guns to be taken away from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.
The bill passed with a vote of 69-63 that took place shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning after about nine hours of debate. On Friday, the bill passed the Minnesota Senate with 34 votes in favor, and 33 votes against it.
Republicans say what’s in the bill won’t protect Minnesotans, and they say they wanted more involvement in creating it.
“If somebody is going to commit a crime, a new law is not going to impede them from committing the crime. They don’t think that way,” said Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia).
“Members, these provisions are saving lives in other states that have them, they’re in use well in other states, they’re very popular with Minnesotans because they know that they do in fact save lives,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul).
The bill also strictly limits the use of no-knock warrants by police, makes it easier for some prisoners to have their prison sentences reduced, includes money for crime prevention programs in the BCA and allows judges and public defenders to get pay raises.
“Democrats are imposing new restrictions on law abiding gun owners but have yet ignored year after year after year our efforts to make sure that gun criminals are actually held accountable,” said Rep. Lisa Demouth (R-St. Joseph).
The bill will now head to Governor Tim Walz’s desk. He is expected to sign it into law.
A previous version of this report can be found below.
INITIAL REPORT 5/15/23 – The Minnesota House began debate on a contentious public safety and judiciary bill later Monday afternoon with just one week left until the deadline to adjourn the 2023 legislative session.
The $880 million dollar package of spending and policy provisions includes two key gun control measures Republicans have blocked for many years. As the minority party in both the House and Senate, there’s nothing they can do to block them now.
One provision would mandate background checks for private gun purchases and at gun shows. Another would create “red flag” or “extreme protection” laws to take guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Democrats say their bill will make Minnesotans safer.
“We have extremely important investments in public safety,” said House bill author Rep. Kelly Moller, DFL-Shoreview. “This bill has transformational and historic investments that cover everything from violence prevention to rehabilitation to everything in between.”
RELATED: KSTP-TV/SurveyUSA poll: Minnesotans back gun safety legislation by wide margins
The bill does include a wide array of measures in addition to the gun provisions, including limits on “no-knock” warrants by police, pay raises for judges and public defenders and more money for crime prevention programs in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. It also includes provisions Republicans say are soft on crime, like making it easier for some prison inmates to have their prison sentences reduced.
“The conference report was put together by one party with not one single Republican on that conference committee,” Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, said as she made a motion to send the bill back to the conference committee. “Folks, public safety and our courts affect every one of us in all of our districts. There was not a good reason for not putting at least one Republican conferee on the committee.” She pointed out Republicans represent 48% of the legislature.
As for the gun laws, Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch, criticized a decision to strip the bill of a provision that would have called for mandatory sentences for criminals who commit a crime with a gun.
“Until the Democrats are willing to get serious about enforcement of actual gun crimes, no one is going to take you seriously,” she said. “You have provisions in this bill to criminalize law-abiding gun owners.”
A vote in the Minnesota House is expected Monday night on the public safety and judiciary bill, which the Senate passed Friday night on party lines, with 34 Democrats in favor and 33 Republicans against.
Lawmakers are also still debating a bill to legalize sports betting, although the odds for that are starting to dwindle as the end of the session nears.
RELATED: Minnesota lawmakers say they’ve got agreement on plan to legalize sports betting
Additionally, a conference committee is still working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill to legalize recreational marijuana, which was approved by both chambers near the end of last month.
RELATED: KSTP-TV/SurveyUSA poll: Minnesotans support legalizing marijuana, sports betting
The session is scheduled to wrap up on Monday.
Track the status of several high-profile bills with KSTP’s Legislative Tracker.