Minnesota lawmakers are largely unified around the need to improve the way rape cases are investigated and prosecuted. But a proposal to eliminate the statute of limitations for sex offenses drew out some sharp differences.

Two rape victims who called on a public safety conference committee Thursday to eliminate the state’s nine-year statute of limitations were left to look on somberly as the proposal encountered deep skepticism from a pair of veteran legislators.

Asma Mohammed said she was sexually assaulted when she was 12. But she said she was not ready to talk about her attack until 15 years later. Sarah Super, also a rape survivor, said the statute of limitations does more to protect perpetrators than survivors. She argued that the ability to report attacks more than nine years after they occur could empower victims and help authorities identify serial offenders.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, raised concerns about fading memories and lost evidence. Yet the bill’s sharpest criticism came from Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, a defense attorney. Latz suggested the change could set a “dangerous precedent” of pursuing unprovable cases that may still “destroy the life of the accused.”

“We are here not to do political justice,” Latz said. “We’re here in our job as legislators to do constitutional justice … to make sure that what’s done is constitutional and fair.”