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Judiciary, public safety finance bills clear House

Paul Demko//April 19, 2013

Judiciary, public safety finance bills clear House

Paul Demko//April 19, 2013

Rep. Michael Paymar (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

The judiciary finance bill cleared the House on a 71-59 party line vote on Friday. The bill provides $785 million in funding for the court system in the next biennium.

That includes $144 million for the state’s public defender system. That’s $4 million more than in Gov. Mark Dayton‘s budget and the same amount as the Senate. It includes $5 million for pay raises and $5.6 million to add personnel and decrease caseloads.

The most controversial provision of the bill  was $23 million in increased fees. For instance, the bill raises $13 million by adding an additional $15 fee on criminal traffic cases. Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, offered an amendment that would have removed the fees from the bill, but it was voted down.

Republicans complained about excessive spending in the bill. “There’s spending in this bill that the agencies didn’t even ask for,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, the lead Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

The Senate’s judiciary finance bill, by contrast, received bipartisan support, with 9 Republicans joining Democrats in voting for the legislation. The Senate bill did not include any fee increases.

The House also passed the public safety finance bill on a bipartisan basis. Just seven Republicans voted against the legislation, which spends $1.1 billion in general fund dollars.

There was some tussling over amendments. Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, offered up a proposal to transfer funding for two full-time employees from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

But Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, the lead author of the public safety finance bill, argued that the additional personnel were needed for the human rights department to shorten the time that it takes to investigate complaints of discrimination against businesses. “This will actually help business,” Paymar said. “That’s why they need the additional staff.”

The seven Republicans voting against the public safety bill: Reps. Tom Hackbarth, Joyce Peppin, Duane Quam, Steve Drazkowski, Joe McDonald, Mark Anderson and Ernie Leidiger.

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