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Session 2004

Session 2004: Public Safety

When lawmakers began the 2004 legislative session, the abduction of Dru Sjodin by a convicted sex offender was fresh in their minds. Toughening sex offender laws was among the few issues that all sides - House, Senate and Gov. Tim Pawlenty - agreed was a top priority. But like nearly every other major issue, agreement on details eluded them. The Senate would have reserved life sentences for so-called sexual predators, those convicted of repeat crimes. The House wanted mandatory life sentence for most first-degree sexual assaults, even for first offenses. Both would have ratcheted up penalties for other felony sex crimes.

Gun rights supporters celebrated the one year anniversary of the passage of the "concealed carry" law at the Capitol Wednesday. The law requires local sheriffs to issue handgun permits to any law abiding adult. But requests for permits have fallen far short of the 50,000 projected by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The BCA says 15,677 permits were issued from late May until December 2003. Opponents say the law is still dangerous, no matter how many permits have been issued. (04/28/2004)
Minnesota is putting more criminals on probation. Probation officers are struggling to keep up with their growing workload. Recent budget cuts are adding to the challenge. Some probation officers say public safety is affected when they can't implement the best tools available to keep criminals from committing new crimes. (04/19/2004)
Public Safety Commissioner Rich Stanek resigned under pressure Friday, bowing to new criticism over his admission in a deposition 12 years ago that he used racial slurs and told racist jokes. (04/16/2004)
The Minnesota House has voted overwhelmingly for a bill that would lock up the most violent sex offenders for life. The judiciary finance bill would also create tougher penalties for making methamphetamine, and merge the state's Gang Strike Force with regional drug task forces. (03/31/2004)
The House passed a bill 113-15 Wednesday to lower the state's drunken driving threshold from 0.10 percent blood alcohol content to 0.08 percent, but not until 2007. (03/31/2004)
A plan to reintroduce the death penalty in Minnesota was derailed on Wednesday when a Senate committee overwhelmingly voted to reject the proposal. The bill was modeled on an capital punishment proposal outlined by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The governor broached the subject last fall, in response to reports that a convicted Minnesota sex offender was suspected in the apparent abduction of college student Dru Sjodin. But now, Pawlenty says the proposal appears defeated for the year. (03/24/2004)
A Hennepin County judge has expanded and extended an injunction that allows churches to ban firearms from their property in spite of the state's concealed-carry gun law. Her latest order allows churches and religious organizations to ban guns not only from their parking lots and buildings but from licensed child care centers on their property and in space they lease to tenants, so long as the lease allows it. (03/16/2004)
The DFL Party began running a caustic television commercial on Tuesday that accuses Gov. Tim Pawlenty of bungling the release of sexual predators. (03/16/2004)
Five non-profit agencies have filed suit to throw out Minnesota's concealed handgun law. The law, which passed last year, requires sheriffs to issue concealed weapons permits to mentally-competent adults who pass a background check and go through training. The groups say the law violates their rights to operate their property as they see fit. Supporters of the law say the lawsuits are a desperate attempt to get rid of a law that isn't causing any problems. (03/15/2004)
The Minnesota House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill to lock up violent sex offenders for life. Only one person showed up to testify at a hearing on the measure Wednesday night, a man who opposes the bill. Some lawmakers on the committee also object to the tougher sentence, saying it goes too far. (03/11/2004)
Minnesota lawmakers are considering several proposals to toughen penalties for the state's most severe sex offenders -- indeterminate sentencing, life without parole and even the death penalty in cases involving murder. But even if they make it harder for some offenders to get out of prison, the changes won't affect sex offenders scheduled for possible release under current sentencing laws. (03/09/2004)
Members of Minnesota's Gang Strike Force say they're not happy with Gov. Pawlenty's proposal to merge the gang unit with the Minnesota Drug Task Force. Pawlenty's supplemental budget proposal includes a $3 million initiative for an agency that will investigate both drug and gang activity. Pawlenty and other supporters say the merger would save money and consolidate crime fighting resources. But critics say they're concerned the agency will suffer. (03/05/2004)
Opponents of a law that allows almost any Minnesotan over the age of 21 to get a handgun permit say they've collected 28,000 signatures to urge lawmakers to repeal the law. The effort is being led by former Gov. Arne Carlson and former V.P. Walter Mondale. (03/04/2004)
A proposal to reinstate the death penalty in Minnesota got its first hearing at the Capitol on Thursday. The bill would allow voters to consider the issue in November. Gov. Pawlenty announced in December that he supports capital punishment for extreme cases of first degree murder. Critics say the death penalty doesn't deter crime and has caused problems in many other states. (02/26/2004)
The push for tougher drunk-driving laws at the Capitol may have hit a snag. The Senate last week overwhelmingly passed a bill that would lower the blood-alcohol threshold from the current .10 to .08. But leaders in the House say the lower standard could present a hardship to the cities and counties that would be charged with enforcing it. They say they'd prefer to delay the tighter standard for another three years. (02/16/2004)
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