Republicans insist they remain tight with law enforcement

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Republican leaders on Friday, Feb. 24, dismissed the idea that a rift had developed between themselves and the Minnesota law enforcement community.

Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, engaged in a digit-driven discussion with Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, on the Senate floor prior to passage of a controversial self-defense bill. Michel joined with Democrats in voting against the bill. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

“We absolutely are,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, of being supportive of law enforcement.

Zellers spoke the day after the Senate, as the House has already, passed a self-defense or Castle doctrine bill that a number of law enforcement associations opposed.

Zellers, as other Republicans, pointed to the warnings voiced about the consequence of passing conceal carried gun permit legislation back during the Pawlenty Administration.

They were dire predictions, he noted.

“And it came back and it was nothing,” said Zellers, taking reporters’ questions.

Zellers said he had spoken with his local law enforcement about the bill. He suggested the warnings voiced by law enforcement association officials did not necessarily match the beliefs of the rank and file.

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, appearing with Zellers, echoed some of the themes of the self-defense legislation debate.

“This bill is about what happens in the court afterwards,” she said, highlighting the legal presumption in the legislation that a defender has acted in good faith and it’s up to the state to prove otherwise.

“The facts are really important here,” she said.

Ortman spoke of ensuring the rights in the U.S. Constitution had meaning. Law enforcement should never feel threatened by this, she argued.

“It’s a balancing of rights,” she said.

Discussing other issues, Ortman commented on the American Legislative Exchange Council — the conservative public/private group of lawmakers and business people that originated in 1973 when state legislators, including then Illinois State Rep. Henry Hyde (future member of Congress), conservative activists, including a veteran of then Gov. Ronald Reagan’s 1968 presidential campaign, along with others launched the council, according to the council website.

Recently, Democrats and others have been accusing Republicans of using generic legislative exchange legislation as the stuff of their bills.

But Ortman indicated that she personally had written several lawsuit reform bills recently vetoed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

But she unapologetic about where the ideas for good legislation come from.

It shouldn’t matter, she argued.

For her part, Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, repeated her themes voiced on the Senate floor of lawmakers not listening to the experts in law enforcement concerning the Castle doctrine bill.

It was disappointing that the Senate passed the bill, she said.

Teacher skills test signed into law

On other issues, Sen. Ted Daley, R-Eagan, saw a job begun last year finished this week when Dayton signed into law legislation Daley carried dealing with teachers needing to pass a basic skills test before entering the classroom.

Daley, a freshman lawmaker, has seen a handful of his bills signed into law.

Sex offender notification bill passes 

On Thursday the Senate quickly passed a sex offender notification bill the House had passed earlier. The bill dealt with the pending conditional release of a person in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) into a half-way House in the metro.

Dayton quickly signed the bill into law.

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jessen supported the bill, but in a statement had a warning.

“This legislation provides improved notification to the community,” she said.

“However, my hope is that this bill represents the first step in an ongoing bipartisan effort by the legislature and the administration to reform this program. As of Jan. 1, 2012, there were 635 clients in the MSOP program and its costs and growth trajectory are simply unsustainable in the near future,” she said.

“I believe we can, and must, find bipartisan solutions to the challenging public safety and constitutional issues surrounding the treatment of this population,” Jessen said.

Supporters line up behind Bachmann

Sixth District Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s campaign website lists a shoal of serving and former Republican lawmakers endorsing her re-election effort.

Included on the list is former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty, who in the throes of the presidential campaign last summer repeatedly suggest Bachmann hadn’t accomplished anything in office.

But Pawlenty is on the list as well as former U.S. senator Norm Coleman, Rod Grams, former congressman Mark Kennedy, and area serving state representatives Kiffmeyer, Anderson, McDonald, Hackbarth, Abeler, Scott, Dean, and Lohmer. In addition, state senators Brown, Senjem, Kruse, Jungbauer, Benson, and Vandeveer are found on the list.

Bachmann indicated this week her intentions to run for re-election in the 6th Congressional District though redistricting left her with a home address in the 4th District.