BY KATHY LOHMER
On a strong bipartisan vote, the Minnesota House approved legislation that funds judiciary and public safety priorities over the next two years and strengthens a number of current statutes that have kept lawbreakers out of jail or prison.
Included is a provision I championed that strengthens the penalty for intentional public highway obstruction.
As we’ve seen with recent protests on Interstate 94, the lives of protesters, not to mention drivers and emergency personnel, are put at risk when an angry group decides it wants to shut down a freeway.
Current law notes it is illegal to obstruct a highway, but the misdemeanor penalty clearly has done nothing to deter this behavior. By making the offense a gross misdemeanor, it increases the probability for a stay in jail, higher fine and longer probation. The one thing this provision does not do: limit the rights of people to protest or speak freely.
The bill also strengthens criminal sexual conduct laws by eliminating stays of imposition and adjudication for sex crimes, increasing supervision post incarceration for some crimes from ten years to life, and increasing the length of punishment for those convicted of child pornography crimes.
Funding for police training is also a major component of the bill. New money is allocated to local law enforcement agencies to help them pay for officers’ training costs, and to help officers in dealing with suicidal and mentally disturbed people. The plan also improves our judicial system, and allows the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to replace an outdated predatory offender registry.
I was truly pleased with the support this legislation received. The Minnesota Senate also has a public safety bill of its own, meaning the House and Senate will soon hold a conference committee made up of an equal number of representatives and senators to craft a compromise plan that can be approved by both bodies. I will keep you updated on its progress.
As always, I am interested in your feedback. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at [email protected] or contact my office at 651-296-4244. You can also send mail to my office address: 501 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.
Kathy Lohmer, (R-Stillwater) represents District 39B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.