As legislative session begins, lawmakers review changes to SRO law

The urgency to revise one of last year’s more controversial law changes was evident as soon as the Minnesota House gaveled in to start the 2024 session.

Immediately, several GOP lawmakers argued that a bill regarding School Resource Officers should be fast-tracked to an immediate full vote.

"Republicans are ready today," said Rep. Lisa Demuth of Cold Spring, "to bring this bill forward, amend it to make sure we address all issues raised by law enforcement… and pass it."

The motion, which House Speaker Melissa Hortman later called "political theater," did not pass. But that does not mean it’s not a high priority. And for both parties.

Three House committees will hear the bill in the first three days, with the intent of getting a full vote quickly.

"It’ll be on the floor early next week to provide the clarity people are asking for," said Speaker Hortman.

On the Senate side, it gets into the hearing process on Wednesday with a likely full vote in the next two weeks.

"We want to be bi-partisan, we truly do," said Senator Zach Duckworth, a Republican and Assistant Senate Minority Leader. "This is not Republicans vs. Democrats when it comes to the safety of our kids."

Last year, a number of departments pulled their officers from schools after the law severely restricted the use of restraints on students, particularly any type of prone restraint.

Police departments feared it opened their officers to criminal charges, despite reassurances that was not the intent.

The bills this year would clarify the wording of the law, most notably in stating that officers are not school employees and, therefore, not subject to the tighter restrictions on force.

They would also establish training requirements and model policies.

Some testifiers at the first committee hearing on Monday afternoon asked that the law remain as it is. Some asked that officers remain out of schools altogether. But many more are in favor of revisions, including school districts and law enforcement groups.

The process is set to move quickly, but those behind the bills say it’s important it includes a lot of input, even as it is on the fast track.

"We want to make sure we hear these folks out, but more importantly, we also want to hear from our youth," said Rep. Cedrick Frazier, a DFL’r from New Hope and chief author of the House version of the bill.

"We’re going to have these hearings, we’re going to have them communicate to us what they’d like to see, what they believe they need in their school districts," said Frazier.