$450M Minnesota bill would benefit African American communities, reform police training

Ben Henry
Updated: March 04, 2021 10:27 PM
Created: March 04, 2021 10:18 PM

House File 784 is aimed at bolstering African American communities and better policing across the state. Those communities, according to the bill's lead author, Rep. John Thompson (DFL-St. Paul), need some help.

"For the longest time, it felt like it fell on deaf ears," Thompson said about calls for help in the past.

Totaling more than $450 million, the bill's text reads that it will adopt "provisions that address racial injustice and systemic racism."

If passed in its current version, the bill would help create jobs, strengthen job training, increase affordable housing and assist with homeownership. It would also hold parts of the state government accountable and create and staff human rights offices throughout the state.

Minnesota House representatives speak on recent passing of George Floyd policing bill

Thompson said, while he has been working on creating this kind of change since 2019, the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody and the civil unrest that followed, highlighted the need for it even more.

Police reform is also in the bill's current version – Thompson would like to see peace officers pass a psychological evaluation and a written examination on cultural competency before being allowed to serve.

HF 784 did make it through its first committee Thursday, but not without opposition. Some Republicans felt more time was needed to discuss the bill and others didn't feel comfortable with only African Americans benefiting from the legislation – Republican Rep. Steve Drazkowski, of Mazeppa, called the bill divisive and racist.

The bill is now on its way to its second House committee hearing. Thompson said he's optimistic but also pointed out it could have little success in the GOP-controlled Senate.

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