GOP criticizes Democrat ‘lip service’ on public safety

Republicans say the DFL's solution is to give more money "to violence-interrupters and grow the state government bureaucracy."

The Minnesota State Capitol building (Minnesota Department of Administration/Flickr)

Republican leaders in the Minnesota House are growing increasingly frustrated with their Democratic colleagues over their apparent stonewalling of public safety bills.

Last week House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt and Rep. Brian Johnson, GOP lead on the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, wrote a letter to Chair Carlos Mariani expressing these frustrations.

The letter accuses Mariani of giving “lip service” to improving community safety while refusing to advance bills that Republicans believe will accomplish the objective.

“The DFL’s solution is to give money to violence-interrupters and grow the state government bureaucracy by tens of millions of dollars and dozens of new [full-time equivalents] in an office building in St. Paul,” the letter reads.

Not only did Daudt and Johnson’s letter point out that multiple Republican-led bills to decrease crime and hire more officers went unheard, several Democrat-authored bills along these lines were also ignored.

Just a couple of the bills listed include HF 3139 and 3140, which increase penalties for using a car to flee a police officer, and HF 3581, which expedites the training of police officers.

“When Republican members — in the spirit of working together — tried to amend these bills onto the omnibus, DFL Committee members voted no,” the letter says. “We stand ready to work with you to pass real public safety solutions.”

The Minnesota Senate, controlled by Republicans, has had greater success in passing these bills. As the letter points out, the chamber has “advanced a public safety bill that includes many of [the House GOP’s] initiatives,” such as cracking down on carjacking, stricter penalties for repeat violent offenders, and increasing transparency in charging and sentencing decisions.

Earlier this month, Mariani’s committee advanced a DFL-backed public safety budget, described as a $200 million investment “in proven, transformative, and innovative solutions.”

“Our House DFL public safety budget invests in additional capacity for law enforcement to effectively do their jobs, improves a wide variety of criminal justice practices, and truly empowers communities to prevent violence. We can’t continue taking a ‘same old, same old’ approach and expect better public safety outcomes. The critical components in this bill address the root causes of crime in a collaborative way to improve public safety everywhere in Minnesota,” Mariani said of the bill.

The main provision in the bill is called the Public Safety Innovation Act, which provides funding to “help local officials, police chiefs, prosecutors, and community organizations working on the ground team up to immediately address the increase in violence.”

A second component of the bill includes money for recruiting police officers and establishing “partnerships between law enforcement and social workers, mobile crisis teams, and violence interrupters.”

Other provisions call for better training for police, more accountability, and response grants for tackling the opioid epidemic.

Republicans are growing more concerned about the amount of state money flowing into nonprofits, such as those that provide “violence interrupter” services. They have introduced a bill that would create new rules for nonprofits that take state money.