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House and Senate bills increasing penalties for obstructing highway, airport or transit traffic await final floor votes. In this photo, demonstrators block a portion of Interstate 94 on Nov. 16, 2015, in Minneapolis after a police shooting. (AP photo: Star Tribune)
House and Senate bills increasing penalties for obstructing highway, airport or transit traffic await final floor votes. In this photo, demonstrators block a portion of Interstate 94 on Nov. 16, 2015, in Minneapolis after a police shooting. (AP photo: Star Tribune)

In the Hopper: Catching up on where bills stand at Capitol

In this special edition of In the Hopper, we run a status-check digest on many of the bills we’ve covered so far this session—and a few we never got around to.

A flurry of #MeToo-styled bills spotlighted last week are not included here. However, one update: A last-minute effort to resuscitate the stalled House File 3030, a bill from Majority Leader Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park (forming a Capitol sexual harassment task force), failed to be granted a floor vote just before the holiday break.

So here is where things stand on select bills of interest to attorneys as recess winds down. They are listed in no particular order.

Status check

Civil forfeitures: House File 3725 (lead author, Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud) would require that a criminal conviction be on the books before a defendant’s property can be seized and sold off. The bill is opposed by law enforcement but passed March 20 in the Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee, which forwarded it to House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance. Knoblach said last week that he expects to revise the bill significantly before that committee takes it up sometime in April.

Protester penalties: House File 390 (Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River) increases penalties for obstructing highway, airport or transit traffic. It has cleared committee hurdles and had a second reading on the House floor. Its Senate companion (Senate File 676) also had a second reading. Both await final floor votes.

Guns laws: Two pieces of gun legislation from Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, were heard in the House Public Safety committee but were laid over. He was subsequently unable to revive the bills—one for universal background checks, the other for gun-violence restraining orders. Similar bills from Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, never had hearings in the Senate Judiciary committee. They all appear dead this session.

Sex crime mini-omnibus: Senate File 2699 (Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove) increases child pornography offense penalties, among numerous other provisions. It was approved by Senate Judiciary in a unanimous voice vote on March 6 and forwarded to Senate Finance. That committee had yet to hear it at the break.

Non-paternity: House File 1719 (Rep. Abigail Whelan, R-Ramsey) modifies the statute of limitations on non-paternity actions and establishes uniform procedures for adjudicating them. Its main effect would be to normalize time limits for bringing such actions at three years. It was laid over for inclusion in a possible omnibus bill by the House Public Safety committee.

Amelioration doctrine: House File 2855 (Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge) would limit use of a legal doctrine that applies newly passed sentence reductions to cases still under appeal at the time of enactment. Unless specified in statute, the bill says, the doctrine would not apply at sentencing. It was laid over on March 15 for inclusion in a possible omnibus bill.

Nondisclosure limits: Senate File 2491 (Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester) would require disclosure of financial settlements between victims and sexually harassing elected or agency officials. It would also restrain them from making nondisclosures agreements a condition of settlement. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary committee in amended form on March 29 and was referred to Senate Rules and Administration.

Appleton prison: House File 3106 (Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg) permits the state to spend up to $139 million to buy and upgrade the former Prairie Correctional Facility. A motion to refer the bill to Public Safety failed, and it was instead referred without recommendation to the House Capital Investment Committee, which had yet to take it up before the break. Its Senate companion has not been taken up and sources indicate it has little chance of passage in the upper chamber.

Butt touching: Two essentially identical—though not companion—sex-conduct bills have moved to the House and Senate floors. House File 2800 (Rep. Regina Barr, R-Inver Grove Heights) and Senate File 2750 (Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville) both delete an exemption for the groping of clothed buttocks from the state’s fifth-degree criminal sex-assault statute. Both have had second readings on their chamber floors.

Felons’ vote: House File 951 (Rep. Raymond Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis) would restore felons’ right to vote upon release from custody. A motion to debate the bill attracted one GOP members’ support in House Public Safety, but that failed to keep it from being tabled. It is unlikely to advance this session.

Protecting cops: The consecutively numbered House File 3610 (Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge) and House File 3611 (Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook) both aim to protect cops. Johnson’s bill increases penalties on their assailants, while Grossell’s would forbid local governments from disarming officers who aren’t in any trouble. Johnson’s bill was referred to Ways and Means, which hasn’t taken it up. Grossell’s was referred to Government Operations and Elections Policy, which passed it on March 27 and forwarded it to the House floor. There it has had a second reading.

Cop audits: House File 3259 (Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover) would tighten the rules related to biennial audits of both automated license plate readers and police body cam usage. On March 13, it passed the Civil Law committee and was referred to Public Safety. It could still be acted on there because Public Safety is a finance committee exempt from the March committee deadlines. Scott’s House File 3258 is similar, but lacks the body-cam provisions; it also has inched forward along with its companion, Senate File 2922 (Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove). Limmer’s bill passed through Judiciary on March 12 and was referred to Senate Finance, which hasn’t taken it up.

Female genital mutilation: Senate File 2525 (Limmer) modifies the penalties for female genital mutilation and expands the state’s anti-FGM education and outreach requirements. A key provision would increase penalties against adults who deliver a child to have the procedure performed. The bill has no House companion but has cleared its Senate committee hurdles and had a second reading on the Senate floor.

Estate Taxes: House File 3274 (Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove) would attribute ownership to a decedent’s surviving spouse for farm and small-business estate tax-exemption purposes. The House Taxes Committee laid it over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill on March 6.

Secure facility assaults: House Fill 4044 (Rep. Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato) expands criminal assaults at secure treatment facilities to include tossing or otherwise transferring bodily fluids onto employees. The bill passed the House Public Safety on March 27 and has had its second reading on the House floor. The Senate version hasn’t moved through Judiciary,

Student privacy: House File 1507 (Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton) would create a Student Data Privacy Act and expand protections for the student data that is maintained by education technology providers. Both it and its companion, Senate File 1961 (Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake) have made numerous committee stops. On the final day before the holiday break, Pratt’s version passed out of Judiciary and was re-referred to the E-12 Policy Committee, where Pratt is chair. Lucero’s version most recently was referred to Education Finance, which has not yet taken it up.

The Legislature goes back to work on April 9.

About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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