ST. PAUL -- Key lawmakers have reached tentative agreements on several transportation and public safety issues, including tougher penalties for drunken driving, racial profiling and a requirement that children under 18 wear seat belts in vehicles.
The co-chairmen of the House-Senate committee dealing with those issues struck a tentative deal and presented it to members of the panel Friday.
"We made very good headway," said Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar.
The sole item endorsed by the whole committee Friday was one designed to reduce racial profiling in the state. The rest of the bill was expected to get a committee vote Monday.
The $4.5 million racial profiling component would require training for police and a public awareness campaign on the issue. Most of the money, however, would be spent on video cameras to be installed in squad cars for agencies that agreed to voluntarily collect racial data on traffic stops.
Under the bill, all officers would be required to say their names or badge numbers and the agencies they work for during traffic stops.
Negotiations on the issue had broken down a couple of weeks ago after representatives from the black community said they felt disrespected and state officials objected to a plan that forced officers to hand out cards with their names, badge numbers and a number to a toll-free complaint line.
Rep. Rich Stanek, R-Maple Grove and the lead House negotiator, introduced the new proposal Friday without the involvement of lead Senate negotiator Sen. Jane Ranum, DFL-Minneapolis.
Ranum called the proposal "window dressing" and said it was worse than doing nothing.
She originally had pushed for mandatory data collection statewide and most recently had compromised with voluntary data collection as long as officers handed out the proposed cards at every traffic stop, a provision that wasn't included in Stanek's bill.
Rep. Greg Gray, one of two black lawmakers in Minnesota, agreed with Ranum.
Gray, DFL-Minneapolis, said merely requiring officers to say their name and/or badge number didn't go far enough. Some people don't think about whether they were treated fairly during a traffic stop until hours later, he said. By that time, they've forgotten the name of the officer and have little recourse.
Stanek, however, said the bill was a good first step. It was approved 8-2.
A separate proposal to get tougher on people who are convicted of drunken driving multiple times was endorsed, but later set aside for discussion Monday due to a potential glitch with funding.
The provision would make a fourth DWI offense in 10 years a felony, punishable by three to seven years in prison depending on the chemical treatment counseling they received. It also would raise the surcharge for having a revoked driver's license reinstated from $40 this year to $145 next year and $380 in 2003.
And the Minnesota State Patrol can breathe a little easier because the committee seemed receptive to spending the $4.3 million needed to fully fund two training academies for state troopers.
"I couldn't be happier," said Col. Anne Beers of the State Patrol. "This was about survival."
The DFL-controlled Senate had wanted to bring the State Patrol back to its full complement of 566. By the end of the year, the patrol will have about 42 vacancies. The GOP-controlled House had proposed putting 17 more troopers on the road. The Senate's position was the one in the tentative agreement.
Capitol security, which includes the troopers who protect the governor, didn't fare as well. The proposal would slash that budget by about $400,000 -- the equivalent of three state troopers.
Other issues that are expected to be discussed Monday include whether those under 18 should be required to wear seat belts and whether to kill a measure this year that would allow police to use photographs in ticketing drivers running red lights.
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