ST. PAUL -- DFL legislators were skeptical of the House crime bill passed Wednesday. Most said it didn't go far enough to protect Minnesotans from the worst criminals.
"One of the key functions of government is to protect public safety," said Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown. As the DFL lead on the Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee, she helped crafted the bill, "but wouldn't call it great."
Republicans liked the bill. Judiciary Committee member Rep. Dale Walz, R-Brainerd, said, "Overall, it is a wonderful bill."
Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he was "pretty satisfied" with the bill. "It's the best we can do."
DFLers said more should have been done to locate and commit sexual offenders who are on the streets now, and not just lock up future offenders. Along party lines, Republicans voted down an amendment offered by Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center. The amendment required released offenders to be tracked down.
"There is so much work to be done," said Rep. Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm. "I think that the public has a right to know where these offenders are. I think that it is the responsibility of the government, who let them out, to go find them again."
Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, said, "I think that the state has a responsibility to evaluate those people, and not let them out of prison without that evaluation."
Walz, however, thought the bill was effective and could "stop some of these Dru Sjodin cases," he said, referring to the missing and believed abducted University of North Dakota woman from Pequot Lakes.
The House provisions are the state's first attempt to provide comprehensive legislation on methamphetamines. The bill provides tougher sentencing on people who buy ingredients for meth, funding for lab cleanup and education or meth awareness for retailers.
Judiciary Committee member, Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, said, "(The meth provisions) were probably a major reason why I voted for the bill."
Solberg said the meth provision was "another tough law with no enforcement."
Rep. Irv Anderson, DFL-International Falls, said Minnesotans don't want the drug used and the bill could curtail use, but more work is needed."An inch toward a given goal is better on this than nothing at all."
Murphy wasn't sure what would result. "We are just so new at it, we don't know if what we've done is harsh enough."
She added, "What we got is better than what we had. For this time period, what is in the bill is OK."
Murphy wanted to see more proactive measures included -- preventing crimes before they happened and rehabilitating people once they were in the system.
"The bill punishes rather than rehabilitates," Murphy said.
Hilty agreed, "It is absent of proactive and preventive measures."
Hilty and Murphy would have preferred funding for probation officers and rehab programs. Walz wanted more funding for public defenders. As a police officer, he sees firsthand that "they have a tremendous workload."
House and Senate members of the conference committee will have a chance to look at details further once the Senate passes its omnibus crime bill. No deadlines have been set by the Senate majority.
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