School resource officer bill, local gun control proposal highlight Capitol action

School resource officer bill, local gun control proposal highlight Capitol action

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(KSTP) – Conference committees usually convene to work out differences in a compromise between House and Senate bills. A conference committee on school resource officer bills in the House and Senate reached a compromise Tuesday by essentially disregarding a Senate bill and sending the original House bill back to the floors of each chamber.

The committee decided not to accept a Senate bill that would have allowed school resource officers and other school personnel to use “prone restraints” on students who threatened to steal or damage school property. Instead, the bipartisan committee unanimously agreed to the House bill that only allows officers to use physical restraints to subdue unruly students. The bill also requires the officers to undergo new training for dealing with students.

RELATED: Senate approves SRO law clarifications

Sen. Bonnie Westlin, DFL-Plymouth, serves on the conference committee and voted against the Senate amendment on Monday. 

“What this literally did was it expanded the use of prone restraints in our schools, not constrict them,” she said. “I’m glad that we have the opportunity today to correct what I see as a grievous error so that we can move this forward so that we can get our SROs back in schools so that everybody has clarity and understanding about expectations.”

Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, also agreed to reject the Senate amendment but reminded Democrats if they had consulted law enforcement last year when they passed the original SRO bill, they wouldn’t be in this position.

“I think in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably an improvement over the whole system and the safeguards people wanted to put there are there,” Abeler said as a member of the conference committee. “On behalf of my people on my side of the aisle, I have to say we could have had these discussions last year and we wouldn’t have had to deal with it this year.”

The SRO bill will now go back to the House and Senate floors for votes later this week. Conference committee reports cannot be amended, so it will be either an up or down vote.

Also on Tuesday, the House Public Safety Committee heard a bill that would allow local governments to ban guns in public buildings like city halls and recreation centers and in city and county parks. 

“We want to make sure our local governments feel safe,” says Rep. Samakab Hussein, DFL-St. Paul, the author of the bill. 

State law already bans guns in schools and courthouses, but this would give local governments more control in areas where city and county meetings have become increasingly contentious. 

“There have been times that I’ve been concerned for my safety, the safety of my colleagues and, most importantly, the safety of the community in attendance,” testified Minneapolis City Council Member Linea Palmisano.

Gun rights advocates oppose the bill because they say it targets law-abiding citizens. 

“I want to be really clear who we’re talking about here,” said Rob Doar, vice president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus. “This bill affects permit-to-carry holders. It’s already illegal for people to carry firearms in public places unless they have a permit to carry.”

A permit-to-carry instructor, Craig Burris of Lakeville, says a patchwork of laws across the state would be cumbersome.

“In the past 30 days, I’ve been in multiple city and county parks, DMVs, libraries and the Lakeville City Hall,” Burris told lawmakers. “Imagine if I had to look up the law for each city and county to know if I could legally enter a park, city building or county property.”

“This will do nothing to stop crime,” Burris added. “As we already know, criminals don’t obey gun laws.” 

No vote was taken on the bill. It could be included in a larger public safety bill later in the session.