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February 23, 2021

SAFE Bill Debated Twice in House

Twice last week, the Minnesota House of Representatives took up and debated the State Aid For Emergencies (SAFE) Act (H.F. 445). However, on neither occasion was there sufficient support in the chamber to pass the measure. The bill, chief authored by House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee chairman Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), would establish the State Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) account to assist local governments who provide law enforcement and safety personnel to help respond to public safety incidents.

The $35 million appropriation bill has garnered heavy criticism from Republican lawmakers who view the bill as a bailout for the City of Minneapolis. The city, which has incurred a significant increase in public safety costs related to the death of Georgy Floyd, anticipates the possibility of needing additional resources during the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. Most critics of the bill argue the City of Minneapolis should be responsible for the increased costs and point to a December 2020 City Council decision to cut roughly $8 million in funding to the City’s police department as a source of funding that could have been utilized for this purpose. However, the bill received opposition from Democrats too, with a handful of members from Minneapolis and St. Paul voting against the bill after expressing concerns with increased police funding in their communities without further policing reform.

After being laid over last Monday, H.F. 445 was brought back up for discussion and a vote on Thursday before eventually failing on a 62-72 vote. The bill was subsequently tabled and legislative leaders continued to negotiate over the weekend. With the Chavin trial set to begin March 8, 2021, there is significant urgency to pass the bill in the House of Representatives and begin discussions with the Republican-controlled Senate.

Recreational Marijuana Bill Moves Forward in House

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Legislature took its first step towards legalizing recreational cannabis when the House Commerce Committee passed H.F. 600 (Winkler). More than 60 people testified in support of the measure, with many arguing that marijuana legalization will be a boost to the state economy. Proponents believe the bill attract new businesses, create new jobs, and generate new tax revenues. Supporters are also pushing for decriminalization of marijuana in an attempt to begin addressing racial and socioeconomic disparities created by current drug enforcement laws. The bill was not without its critics as numerous lawmakers expressed public safety concerns and raised question as to how business will be able to handle or regulate marijuana use by their employees.

The bill was passed out of the Commerce Committee on a 10-7, party-line vote and was referred to the House Labor, Industry, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee where it is set to be heard later today. The Senate is not expected to take up the proposal this session as Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) previously issued a statement outlining his concerns with the legislation.

Senate Votes to Eliminate Governor’s Authority Over Schools

Four Democrats and two Independents joined Senate Republicans last Thursday in voting to end Gov. Walz’s emergency authority related to public schools. The bill, S.F. 2, authored by Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) amends Minnesota law by adding statutory language prohibiting the Governor from altering school schedules or activities, or ordering schools closed.

The Senate has voted to remove Gov.Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency authority numerous times over the last year, criticizing the governor’s approach to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is the first time such a vote has received such a large number of DFL votes. The Governor has announced further easing of COVID-19 restrictions over the past few weeks - including further guidance to public schools for reopening classrooms across the state for all students. S.F. 2 is headed to the DFL-controlled House of Representatives where it is unlikely to be taken up and considered.

Important Dates

February 26
State budget forecast is released

March 12
1st Committee Deadline - committees must act favorably on bills in the house of origin

March 19
2nd Committee Deadline - committees must act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other house

March 26 - April 5
Easter/Passover Break - the legislature is in recess

April 9
3rd Committee Deadline - committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills

May 17
The legislature must adjourn

Please note: Committee deadlines do not apply to the committees on Capital Investment, Ways and Means/Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Legislative Administration.

Please reach out to any of the Larkin Hoffman Government Relations team members with any questions. 


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