Democrats from Edina and Woodbury vote against SRO fix bill in Senate

The bill now heads to a conference committee.

Those who voted no on the bill that many in the law enforcement industry had been asking for since August include: Sen. Alice Mann of Edina, left, and Sen. Nicole Mitchell of Woodbury.

A coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Minnesota Senate voted to approve the “SRO fix” bill on Monday. But HF3489 came nine votes short of passing the chamber unanimously.

Those who voted no on the bill that many in the law enforcement industry had been asking for since August include: Sen. Alice Mann of Edina and Sen. Nicole Mitchell of Woodbury. Neither articulated their opposition to its merits during a floor debate that lasted more than three hours on Monday afternoon.

Other DFL senators who voted against the bill are: Liz Boldon of Rochester, Jennifer McEwen of Duluth, Erin Maye Quade of Apple Valley, Omar Fateh, Zaynab Mohamed and Bobby Joe Champion of Minneapolis and Foung Hawj of St. Paul.

All 32 Republicans in the chamber and 25 Democrats voted in support of the bill.

Champion, who, as Senate president, is the second-ranking Democrat, didn’t explain his opposition to the bill on Monday. Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy of St. Paul voted for the bill.

Republicans were able to get votes from two DFLers, Fateh and McEwen, on a floor amendment that would expand the definition for when “reasonable force” may be used by school staff to include preventing theft, damage, or destruction of property. That differs from language approved in the House of Representatives last week, so a conference committee was scheduled to hammer out those differences at a meeting Tuesday morning.

Once the conference committee comes to an agreement, both chambers are expected to pass a final version, which will then head to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz.

The hope among Republicans and bill author Sen. Bonnie Westlin is that the conference committee can complete its work before the end of the week.

“This is a good bill,” said Westlin, DFL-Plymouth. “It is a thoughtful bill. It has input from any number of stakeholders, agencies, the other body and this body and I’m proud of the work that we did. I’m proud of the bill that we produced. And I believe to my core that this bill will, in fact, be better for our kids.”

Bill author Sen. Bonnie Westlin speaks on the Senate floor Monday. (Minnesota Senate Media Services/YouTube)

Early in the discussion over the bill, Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, offered an amendment he said would effectively negate the change to the law that went into effect last August. It would instead require districts to report annually data from the prior school year about any reasonable force used on students to prevent bodily harm or death to the student or another.

“What this will do is it will take us back to the law that existed in the 2022-2023 school year and allow us to collect the data and truly understand if we have a systemic problem and any solution we have is based on data, not on individual anecdotes,” Pratt said.

Democrats asked for a recess to consult with one another on the amendment. When the Senate returned, the amendment was defeated by Democrats, with the support of Republican Sen. Jim Abeler of Anoka.

Westlin said Pratt’s amendment would “completely undo the hours and hours of work” that legislators and stakeholders put into finding a compromise solution to the law enacted in August that prohibits school employees and agents from using the “prone restraint and certain physical holds.” The language of the SRO “fix” legislation would exempt school resource officers from this prohibition.

The bill also would create a model policy for SROs that would be developed by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board by Dec. 31, 2024. Republicans in the House have criticized the model policy provision.

“There’s one good thing that comes out of the debate today,” said Sen. Zack Duckworth, R-Lakeville, “and that is I think it’s undisputed that our school resource officers are extremely valuable members of the family of our schools throughout the state of Minnesota.”


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.