Among other things, the bill provides $35 million for reimbursements to cities and other entities that provide mutual aid.
Gov. Tim Walz is urging the Legislature to quickly pass a measure that would strengthen and fund mutual aid for extraordinary public safety events.
The initiative was introduced on Jan. 28 as HF 445, authored by Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul). It was given its first hearing in the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee on Feb. 2 and was amended and re-referred on a party line vote of 9-7 to the Ways and Means Committee.
According to Gov. Walz and public safety leaders, there is urgency around moving the bill due to the potential for civil unrest when the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin gets underway in March in Hennepin County. Public safety officials are preparing for the possibility that multiple agencies and the National Guard may be called in to help keep protests peaceful and safe.
What’s in the bill?
Among other things, the bill establishes the State Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) account and aid program and provides $35 million for mutual aid reimbursements. Although the focus on civil unrest has largely been for events in the City of Minneapolis, the measure would apply to any location in the state when an extraordinary public safety event occurs.
The bill defines “public safety event” as “an unplanned or extraordinary event or series of events: (1) that exhausts available local resources; (2) where life or property are endangered and local resources are inadequate to handle the situation; (3) that requires mutual aid; and (4) where a state emergency is declared . . . or a local emergency is declared.”
A public safety event is also defined as an event “where the State Patrol makes a specific request for assistance from a local unit of government to support the State Patrol at a facility owned by state government, including but not limited to the State Capitol.”
The bill allows reimbursements from the SAFE account for the following:
- Overtime costs.
- Logistical needs, including food and lodging.
- Incidental supplies necessary to aid in the response.
- Backfill personnel costs incurred by a sending jurisdiction.
- Damaged or destroyed equipment costs incurred by a sending jurisdiction.
The League supports the legislation and, along with a number of other stakeholders, submitted a letter of support for the Feb. 2 hearing. In part, the letter states, “The League has long recognized the important role of mutual aid in providing essential public safety services across Minnesota. HF 445 strengthens existing mutual aid statutes and reinforces the important public safety partnership between the state and local units of government.”
On Feb. 3, League First Vice President D. Love, Mayor of Centerville, appeared at a media event with Gov. Walz, Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, and Steve Cramer of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, to urge broad support for the bill.
Bill faces uncertainty in Senate
The House measure currently does not have a Senate companion bill. Republicans, who hold the majority in the Senate, have given the bill a cool reception and indicated they will unveil their own proposal.
On Feb. 4, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne) held a media event to preview their alternative. It allows cities that provided mutual aid but haven’t been reimbursed for it yet to apply to have their local government aid (LGA) adjusted to match the amount owed. The funds would be provided by lowering the LGA from the city that owes the mutual aid payment.