Minnesota House Republicans outlined their public safety priorities for the legislative session on Tuesday, with proposals including a push to recruit more officers, sentencing reforms and tougher penalties for repeat offenders.
A set of bills introduced by Republicans would establish carjacking as a specific criminal offense, increase penalties for repeat offenders and require electronic home monitoring for those released without bail. The Republican-controlled Senate is proposing a similar set of bills.
“We believe this shouldn’t be a partisan issue, if criminals break the law they should be held accountable, especially if it is a violent crime against other Minnesotans,” said the House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, at a news conference Tuesday explaining his caucus’ public safety proposals.
The tougher sanctions are part of what Daudt called a three-pronged approach. The bills would also earmark $21.5 million for various recruiting and equipment expenses statewide.
Equipment spending includes $15 million for body cameras and $2 million for the ShotSpotters gunshot detection system in Ramsey County. Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, told reporters that smaller law enforcement agencies would be prioritized for millions in body camera grants.
“It’s the agencies that are struggling to pay for the costs of the systems,” he said. “We want to help them have the money to store and properly manage body camera evidence once it’s produced.”
Recruitment spending would include $2.5 million in education reimbursement for officers who remain on duty for a year in Minnesota and $1 million to attract new officers through the Pathways to Policing program, a pathway for candidates non-traditional.
The criminal justice system proposals include requiring county prosecutors to file felony charges if probable cause is present and reporting cases where charges have been dropped. Republicans are also pushing for unenforced minimum sentences for gun crimes to be posted on the sentencing guidelines website. Additionally, they want to put control of the sentencing guidelines in the hands of the legislature instead of the guidelines commission.
Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature have declared their commitment to improving public safety this session in the face of rising crime. Violent crime rose 17% in Minnesota in 2020 from the previous year, according to an annual Uniform Crime Report from the state Department of Public Safety. The state recorded 185 murders that year, breaking a record set in 1995. In 2021, Minneapolis reported more than 600 carjackings, up from 388 the previous year.
Democrats unveiled a $100 million public safety package in January that emphasizes a “community-based” approach, including programs to target the root causes of violent crime such as diversion programs for offenders juveniles. In the Senate, Republicans presented a $65 million recruiting proposal. Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said Republicans remain committed to those priorities.
With the Senate controlled by Republicans, the House controlled by Democrats, the final criminal justice legislation that reaches the governor’s office will need to reflect a compromise between the two chambers.
Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, the lead author of the Democrats’ sweeping criminal justice agenda in the House, called the Republican public safety proposals in the Legislature too narrow to fully tackle violent crime.
“They’re not even addressing the issues that are causing the rise in crime,” Frazier said in a phone interview with Forum News Service. “I’m still hoping we’ll get to places where we can agree on some things, but right now we’re far apart because they have a very narrow view and we have a view. very full and wide.”
Last week, the Democratic-Farmer Labor Leadership party in the House introduced its own $16.4 million officer recruiting program, separate from Frazier’s legislation. But a hearing on the proposal was canceled after Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee Chairman Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, told the Minnesota Reformer that he was not included in the process of introducing the bill.