The white feather (
by Steve Timmer
Feb 25, 2024, 1:00 PM

DFL legislators, we need to talk

There are at least three (3) things — that’s how lawyers express stuff — that make it manifest that we are in election season.

School resource officers – You will recall that last year, as part of the omnibus education bill, restraints — so to speak — were placed on the ability of school resource officers — cops on the city payroll, not the schools’, but in schools — to place students in prone positions where they couldn’t breathe or express the fact they couldn’t breathe. Teachers haven’t been able to do this for a long time (and they are the first line of defense in discipline matters), but these are burly, armed and licensed police officers, for crying out loud! We can’t possibly hold them to the same standard as a small, female middle school teacher. What was the Legislature thinking?

There was a great hue and cry from the law enforcement community about potential liability for officers — who are, of course, unless they go completely apeshit on a 7th grader, indemnified by the city that employs them — a hue and cry that was picked by the clot of whiners known as the Republican caucuses in the Legislature.

So, in an election year, the DFL majorities in the Legislature cut and ran and decided to backtrack. The “compromise” that the caucuses came up with, according to the Reformer’s Deena Winter, is that okay, kids can be thrown to the ground and a knee placed on their neck or back, but in the next year or two, the SROs will have to trained how to do that.


Law enforcement officers are already supposed to be trained in restraints like this for people bigger and older than your average middle schooler, or even high schooler. You may recall the restraint issue was part of the trial of Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd.

And it’s all without a single hearing or a single witness to an incident where an SRO was unfairly charged (the DFL decided it was going to do this before the session started). It’s all stupid Republican kabuki theater, and the DFL, and apparently the governor, too, fell for it.

My advice: if Republicans want the law of SROs changed, make them make a public, legislative record of why it should be changed.

Deena Winter would be there to listen to it.

Gun control/ban of assault weapons – Last year, the Legislature, in an early-trifecta burst of courage, enacted a private gun sale background check requirement and a “red-flag” law. It required the trifecta to do it; you know where Republican hearts are on gun control.

This year, Sens. Marty and McEwan are pushing assault-type weapons — you know, the kind that shot up Burnsville recently — bans, but caucus leadership is skittish; Speaker Melissa Hortman said of House companion bills, nyet! Sen. Marty expressed disappointment:

“It’s still disappointing to me how the public is ahead of the politicians on this one,” said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville. Marty, a longtime gun control advocate, said he hasn’t heard whether his assault weapon bill will even receive a hearing this session, but he’s not optimistic. Many of his Democratic colleagues, he said, are “scared.”

“I think the DFL perspective on this is bad,” Marty said.

I agree with Sen. Marty.

Copper-sulfide mining ‘Prove it First’ – This is another can’t get no respect from leadership bill. It didn’t get any respect last year either. There was a hearing scheduled — but not published — in the Senate, but it was scotched by DFL leadership. This is another bill authored by Sen. McEwan, and she expressed frustration over that:

“There’s a lot of anger and frustration amongst clean water activists in Minnesota with DFL leadership in general and there’s good reason for that,” McEwen said.

Here’s a little bit about what the anger and frustration is about:

That anger stems from the lack of a hearing in the Senate on SF 1416, known as the “Prove It First” bill, which states that before a copper-sulfide mine in Minnesota can be permitted, there must be independent scientific proof that a copper-sulfide mine has operated elsewhere in the United States for at least 10 years without causing pollution and that a mine has been closed for at least 10 years without causing pollution. (The House version of the bill is HF 1618.)

You know, you would almost think that Tom Bakk was still in leadership in the Minnesota Senate. He’s still around the halls of the Capitol of course. Present leadership had this to say:

In response to those accusations, Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said she welcomed advocacy organizations to bring their issues to the Capitol.

“As of today, we have one month before our first committee deadlines for bills to advance,” she said. “In the second week of the legislative session, my colleagues are working in committees to advance the work of Minnesota.”

I think this is more in the nature of a non-response.

Maybe the time periods in the bill are wrong; maybe the limitation to a copper mine in the US as an example is too restrictive, but whatever, without a hearing, the issue won’t be aired and citizens will be less informed.

– o O o –

Some of you remember the golden age of the last DFL trifecta after the 2012 election. It lasted two year after independent expenditure groups buried the DFL in disinformation in the 2014 election in the wake of the Citizens United decision. The DFL could have done something about that, too — electioneering and disclosure legislation — but the DFL blinked. There were multiple things left on the table by Trifecta I.

I think that’s a cautionary tale. The trifecta won’t last forever; maybe it will last only two years. That’s why you do as much as you can while you can. Don’t let the Republicans scare you away from doing that.

How about some solid messaging on these issues now, DFL, rather than being back on your heels later in the session and when the election for the House really heats up?

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