ST. PAUL — Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives on Monday, Feb. 17, brought forth a set of bills aimed at reducing violent crime in the Twin Cities metro area.
The proposals range from boosting the penalties for gang members who use a firearm when committing a crime to increasing enforcement of fare payment on public transit.
The legislative push comes after St. Paul and Minneapolis reported increases in homicides in 2019 and violent incidents on the light rail increased as compared to the year prior. And it met quick opposition from metro area elected officials, who were quick to call the efforts politically-motivated.
GOP lawmakers from Greater Minnesota and suburban districts brought forth the bills after they'd heard from constituents concerned about traveling to the metro area for a sporting event or show due to the reports of crime. And they along with Minneapolis Police Union President Lt. Bob Kroll said their bills could help curb drug trafficking and gang violence that spur some of the more violent crimes.
"I don't think that people's safety when they visit Minneapolis and St. Paul is a partisan issue," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said. "We think that everyone has a right to feel safe in these cities whether you live here, work here, visit here, whatever the situation may be. We feel that you have a right to be safe in these cities."
The bills would require a certain level of law enforcement near statewide sport and entertainment venues, boost the penalty for gang members who use a firearm to commit a crime, increase funding for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to boost gang and drug trafficking investigations, boost enforcement of fare evasion on public transit and increase cameras on light rail platforms and bar cities from disarming police officers in good standing.
House Democrats have proposed taking the opposite approach on fare evasion on public transit, saying they'd attempt to decriminalize the act and make it a petty misdemeanor.
Metro area lawmakers and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Monday rejected the plans and called the Republican news conference a political stunt.
“The sad fact is that they did not reach out. We did not get an email, we did not get a call,” Frey said. “This is an issue. This speaks to a lack of collaboration in government. This speaks to a lack of transparency in the facts and this speaks to an attempt to divide urban and rural areas against each other.”
The measures will require bipartisan support to pass through the divided Legislature. And lawmakers said Monday that they did not yet have Democratic sponsors in the House.