Two gun-control measures considered a top priority by Minnesota Democrats were left out of a $2.3 billion public-safety spending bill headed for final passage Wednesday in the Republican-controlled Senate, pushing the gun debate into end-of-session budget negotiations.
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, chairman of the Senate’s public safety committee, said the two DFL-backed firearms bills represent stand-alone policies that are not “germane” to the Senate spending package, which includes $9.5 million to hire more corrections officers and make security upgrades in state prisons.
“I believe in a separation of issues,” Limmer said. “Individual policies, those will all be considered by the Senate and then passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee separately.”
The Democratic-led House folded two key gun-related measures into its public safety budget bill: One would expand background checks to gun shows and other private transfers; the other would create “red flag” protection orders that allow judges to remove firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Senate Republican leaders did not hold hearings on either proposal this session. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, who previously said he would “do everything in my power” to block new gun measures this session, said last month that he would allow hearings on the gun bills only if the House passed them as stand-alone measures.
As part of a broader House budget bill, the DFL gun measures now depend on the Legislature’s final spending talks in May.
In addition to funding corrections, judicial and law enforcement programs, Limmer’s bill provides $300,000 over two years to bolster security for religious nonprofits and other groups at risk of attack from violent extremists.
The bill also adds $287,000 to the state corrections budget in anticipation of a repeal of the state’s marital rape loophole, which shields spouses and cohabitating partners from prosecution for certain types of sex offenses. Limmer said Wednesday that he expected the Senate to pass the repeal with in “the next few weeks.”
The House passed the marital rape measure unanimously in February.