Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Ron Latz said removing a measure to restore voting rights to freed felons was his biggest compromise of the legislative session, but that it didn’t have a chance in the House.
“It wasn’t going to happen. (Republican House)Speaker (Kurt) Daudt made clearly to me that they were not going to accept it in the House, no questions asked,” Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said Sunday evening, hours after a conference committee passed its joint Public Safety and Judiciary Finance and Policy Bill. The measure still awaits final vote in the House and Senate. “There was no way to make it happen.”
Giving up the felon voting rights measure “was not easy at all,” he said.
“I think it’s not there yet in the Republican caucus,” he said. “It will take some time. The Speaker was very sincere in his commitment to work with me in the interim, to learn more about it, to understand more about it, and I intend to take him up on that.”
Although the policy bill includes a controversial measure to legalize the sale of firearm suppressors, more commonly known as silencers, Latz said the bill is a different version than what was under threat of veto from Gov. Mark Dayton.
Latz said the bill’s initial incarnation included a provision that would not allow local law enforcement chiefs the discretion to deny an application for a permit. In a compromise, they may now sign off on application.
“When there are applicants who don’t automatically disqualify because of a criminal record, but (police chiefs) know in their community they wouldn’t be safe, they’re able to deny that,” Latz said. “That was law enforcement’s main concern.”
Latz said he’s very pleased with the 60-day compromise on license plate readers, calling it a “very healthy balance.” His measure to regulate footage from police body cameras was removed. It didn’t completely surprise him, he said.
“I really did hope it would get some traction in conference committee, but I was realistic that it was a long shot,” he said. “It was more than symbolic. I wanted to keep the issue in the public’s eye and promote the importance of it.”
Overall, he called the funding and policy bill one that makes great strides.
“We have the resources to make some very significant investments in preventing people from becoming felons and helping victims,” he said.