Committee Summary: House Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy, March 4

Reporting by Adam Majid, UpTake Fellow

Minnesota’s House Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy gathered on March 4, 2022 at 10:30am to ratify amendments and hear testimony House Files 3464 and 1152. Each bill was co-authored by committee member Rep. Jaime Long (DFL – Minneapolis).

According to Long, HF 3464 addresses two complications in Minnesota’s clemency system, “Right now, the workload for reviewing pardons falls on three of the busiest people in the state – the governor the attorney general, and the chief of [Minnesota’s] supreme court.”

HF 3464 would introduce a commission to screen pardon applications and then deliver reviewed petitions to the parole board with recommendation. The bill’s second function would be to close a hanging thread presented to legislators by the Supreme Court.

After last year’s Shefa v. Ellison decision the opinion of the court was that Minnesota’s constitution did not make clear how many of the parole board’s three members needed to voice favor for a clemency application to be granted.

Tim Morin, a firefighter and business owner testified to his experience being denied his pardon because only two of the three members of the parole board supported his application. Constitutionally it appears that this burden of unanimous assent is a de facto procedure not explicitly required by the Minnesota’s guiding legal documents. Long’s bill would etch into law a new threshold for clemency that an applicant would only require the pardon of both the Governor and one member of the parole board.

H.F. 1152, otherwise known as the Clean Slate Act, is an attempt to increase work opportunities for misdemeanor offenders by clearing records that might discourage potential employers conducting background checks. This bill would not expunge felony offences, enhance-able misdemeanor offenses, or criminal sexual conduct.

Testimony came from officials representing the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, the MN County Attorney’s Association, and the Warehouse District Business Association. Evident in testimony was the urgent desire to increase work opportunities in the context of the ongoing labor shortage.

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