The Minnesota House in April discussed the omnibus bill for public safety and finance that, among many other things, closes loopholes related to domestic violence, limits the ability of people who are a danger to themselves or others to have access to a gun, addresses juvenile justice reform, offers funding for youth intervention grants and an Office of Restorative Justice, supports a Ramsey County therapeutic home, and increases appropriations for violence prevention.
This report details a few areas of debate related to amendments that were proposed.
Andre Locke had spoken to the committee about the death of his 22-year-old son, Amir, who was killed by police executing a no-knock warrant nine seconds after they entered a Minneapolis apartment without knocking first. Rep. Brion Curran (D-Vadnais Heights), a former police officer, proposed the original bill (HF2290), indicating that it is dangerous for people in the residence as well as police officers to suddenly and forcibly enter a home. She has said that the pursuit of justice should not be put above the lives of innocent bystanders, such as Amir Locke, who was sleeping in the living room and not mentioned in the warrant when he was killed.
Rep. Paul Novotny (R-Elk River) is a retired police officer who says the element of surprise is important to prevent destruction of evidence of a crime. “They need to be rare, they need to be safe, and they should be legal,” he has said. In discussion of the omnibus bill, “This (no-knock search warrant) bill was negotiated after a long time and a lot of work, after the 2020 special sessions. A lot of work was put into this that all sides agreed to and that was a public safety bill that I voted for.” He said the 2023 version of the bill wording is amended “due to one incident” [Locke’s death in 2022].
An A36 amendment proposed by Novotny sought to remove language that indicates the subject of a no-knock warrant must become alert and able to comply. It was not adopted, 63-67.
Rep. Matt Grossell (R–Clearbrook) proposed A3 amendment to reverse Curran’s bill and delete all no-knock warrant provisions in the bill, saying: “You’re trying to fix something that doesn’t need to be fixed. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way no-knock search warrants, or any other search warrants, are applied for in this state.”
A point of order was called after Grossell said, “If [Rep. Curran] cared about law enforcement officers or the people inside those dwellings…”
He finished by saying, “The amendment that you just adopted is not going to protect anybody: law enforcement or civilians or citizens, it is not.”
An extensive discussion involved a provision in the omnibus bill that creates a registry in which complaints about bias and hate incidents can be logged by members of the public; the data could help detect patterns of issues in a community.
Rep. Harry Niska (R—Ramsey) indicated a “registry of biased incidents” is “government surveillance of our speech.”
Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R–North Branch) said the language of the bill would “create an entirely new category of crimes. There is no other reason to collect this data and it’s terrifying.”
Rep. Walter Hudson (R–Albertville) pointed out that it can be personal bias when someone reports an incident, and detailed a previous conversation between representatives, which led Speaker Melissa Hortman to ask that conversations be taken outside the floor if they don’t relate to the debate about a bill. She advised people to speak from their own point of view and “not surmise what other people are thinking and meaning.”
Hudson replied, “Let me just say, I wouldn’t have to surmise if clear answers were given and clear language was used and you actually said what you meant. … There’s been a long list of disgusting things that have happened in this Chamber over the course of this session, but this ranks right up there.” He indicated that his white colleague was the target of bias during the floor session, and that it is “ a dark moment. We’re going to explicitly target non-criminal speech for scrutiny by the government for undisclosed purposes.”
She said what is disgusting is not the bill, but that the legislature wasn’t talking about mosques “being burned down, synagogues being burned down, people being targeted because they’re from Asia … That’s the reality that we live in and today what we choose to talk about is ‘this censors speech.’ I am disappointed.”
Updated May 17: The vandalism of Masjid As Sunnah in Saint Paul comes about three weeks after fires were started inside two south Minneapolis mosques in April. The criminal threw a chunk of concrete several minutes after the last congregant left morning prayer. The Tawhid Islamic Center is the sixth mosque to be damaged in the past month.
Rep. Becker-Finn pointed out that the data outlined in the bill is about collection of an incident, not reporting a person.
Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (D–Saint Paul) said during anti-Asian hate periods related to the pandemic, she was “really and truly afraid” for her children. “Nobody committed a criminal act against me, nobody committed a violation of human rights against me, but somebody did call me a gook and threw garbage against me. What is the cost of collecting that data?”
Rep. Frank Hornstein (D–Minneapolis) said the bill was put into action after the bias crime that occurred in Charlottesville because people felt hate crimes are under-reported, and the FBI has identified it as a serious issue. People behind the bill feel there should be a mechanism for reporting that does not rely solely on going to the police.
Rep. Patti Anderson (R–Dellwood) replied to Her’s comment: “You asked what’s the cost of collecting this data. The cost of collecting this data is the cost of liberty, it’s the cost of freedom. It is a line, it is an absolute road to oppression.”
An amendment that would limit the registry to hate crimes and not hate speech, was not adopted, 61-70.
Law Enforcement Violence Interrupters
Rep. Jeff Witte (R–Lakeville) suggested the A31 Amendment that would redirect money from “unaccountable nonprofits and violence interrupters and instead give it to our law enforcement to combat violent crime” — $20 million to violent crime enforcement teams; $60 million to local law enforcement agencies to combat violent crimes including gangs and drug trafficking, car jackings, murders, and assaults; $20 million to the State Patrol for air patrol assistance in combatting violent crime.
Rep. Kelly Moller (D–Shoreview) replied, “This is one of those amendments that is defunding violence prevention, meaning you are defunding the abilities of local governments to apply for violence prevention grants. … Rep. Cedric Frazier’s [existing] bill addresses the issue of violent crimes in communities. Our bill puts $75 million into the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to help local jurisdictions address those crimes.”
The amendment was not adopted: 62-68.
Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement
Rep. Grossell proposed A24 amendment to delete the Law Enforcement Citizen’s Oversight Council to investigate allegations of misconduct. “This bill was proposed because of problems in Minneapolis,” he said. “This is not a problem over other parts of the state.”
Rep. Frazier responded by saying these councils were allowed under Minnesota law for local jurisdictions to enact until 2012, when that power was taken away. “Fast forward to May 25, 2020. We had one member talk about it as an incident. It was the murder of an individual in broad daylight in the city of Minneapolis that was seen around the world that sparked a lot of what we’re still dealing with today.”
He added that civilian oversight boards are meant to develop trust.
Rep. Novotny indicated the city of Minneapolis could create a civilian oversight board without the support of state law.
The amendment failed 60-68.
Red Flag Law
Rep. Brian Johnson (R–Isanti) proposed amendment A14, which would make it a felony to falsely charge someone in order to get their weapons taken away. He said, “I feel it’s only fair if you’re going to restrict somebody’s firearms falsely and with intent to harass or abuse, it should be a felony as well, because we’re talking about somebody’s constitutional rights.”
Moller amended that amendment with A43, noting that a first false report would be treated as a gross misdemeanor, and two false reports would be a felony.
Johnson said he was disappointed in that amendment, because “[Red flag laws] are restricting a constitutional right, a God-given right for us to keep and bear arms. It’s actually in the Bible.”
Moller’s amendment passed.