2015 Legislative Session Wrap-Up Benjamin Feist, Legislative Director

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1 2015 Legislative Session Wrap-Up Benjamin Feist, Legislative Director The 2015 session of the Minnesota Legislature was marked by the return of divided government and a focus on the State s biennial budget. In the regular session, the Legislature passed an historic low of 80 bills, three of which were vetoed by Governor Dayton. With the emphasis on budgetary matters, few policy bills made it through the process, disappointing advocates across the ideological spectrum. On the other hand, legislative inaction also meant that a host of bills that could infringe on Minnesotans civil liberties did not become law. The ACLU-MN made significant progress on its legislative agenda during the first year of the biennium. All seven of our priority issues met committee deadlines in at least one chamber, and several bills were part of negotiations up until the very end of the special session. Four ACLU- MN priority bills were included in the Senate Judiciary Policy omnibus bill. Unfortunately, they were removed in conference committee before the omnibus bill made it to the Governor s desk. We are pleased to report that one priority issue, regulation of Automatic License Plate Readers, became law this year. Looking back on the 2015 session, we can highlight a handful of victories with bills signed into law and bills defeated. We look forward to further advancing these issues in the second year of the biennium ACLU-MN PRIORITY BILLS THAT PASSED Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR) (Ch. 67/HF 222/SF 86): Signed into Law. The new law creates important restrictions that prevent ALPRs from infringing on civil liberties. Police use ALPR cameras that capture images of license plate numbers, allowing them to monitor and track the movement of vehicles. For years, the ACLU-MN has argued against the retention of non-hit license plate data on innocent individuals. The new law s 60-day retention period represents a compromise between privacy advocates and law enforcement s request for a 180-day retention period. It also provides many important protections requested by the ACLU-MN and other advocates, such as: (1) classifying ALPR data as private; (2) requiring a warrant to use ALPRs to monitor or track an individual criminal suspect; (3) limiting law enforcement access and sharing, and (4) establishing public accountability measures. o WIN: Vote: House (96-35); Senate (55-11); signed by Governor Dayton; effective August 1,

2 2015 ACLU-MN PRIORITY BILLS THAT DID NOT PASS Drone Privacy (HF 1491/SF 1299): Stripped out in conference committee. This bill would require the government to obtain a search warrant before using an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, for surveillance. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and ultimately the full Senate as part of the Judiciary Policy omnibus bill (SF 878). Unfortunately, this provision was stripped from the omnibus bill in conference committee because it was not given a hearing in the House Public Safety Committee and was not part of the House omnibus bill. o The ACLU-MN drafted language, testified in committee, negotiated with law enforcement and actively lobbied for this bill. We will continue our support of the bill next session. Police Worn Body Cameras (HF 430/ SF 498): Stripped out in conference committee. This bill would regulate the retention and data classification of body camera footage. While police worn body cameras have the potential to increase police accountability and deter misconduct, the ACLU-MN supports a strong, statewide policy that also includes safeguards for personal privacy. Despite voicing our concerns in several hearings, the final Senate bill did not set requirements for when officers needed to activate and deactivate the camera and would classify most of the footage as private data. The ACLU- MN believes that these outstanding issues undermine the value of body cameras for accountability and transparency. The Senate bill passed the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate as an amendment to the ALPR bill; however, the provision was removed in conference committee due to privacy concerns from House members. o The ACLU-MN will actively lobby for language that is consistent with our policy framework in the 2016 session. Data Privacy Amendment (HF 327/ SF 32): Held up in committee. This bill would propose a ballot amendment to add electronic communications and data to the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects under Article 1, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution. The ACLU-MN supports this approach because it expands individual rights and does so in a way that is consistent with our traditional understanding of the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. The bill was heard in the House Civil Law, Government Operations and Elections, and State Government Finance Committees, but was not given a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. o The ACLU-MN testified in several House committees and will support the bill next session. Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform (HF 456/SF 384 & HF 415/SF 385): Stripped out in conference committee. We worked with the Institute for Justice to introduce two bills this session to strengthen Minnesotans due process and property rights. The Innocent Owner bill (HF 456/SF 384) would allow spouses and other innocent owners to raise claims when their co-owned property is forfeited, and allow them to get their property back in instances where they did not know about the crime. The Reporting bill (HF 415/SF 385) would require law enforcement to report how it spends the forfeiture 2

3 proceeds it receives, and prohibit them from using the proceeds for officer salaries, overtime and other benefits. The bills passed the House Civil Law Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee with broad bipartisan support, but they were not given a hearing in the House Public Safety Committee. Both provisions were added to the Senate Judiciary Policy omnibus bill (SF 878), but were later stripped out in conference committee. o The ACLU-MN actively lobbied on the bills, testified in committees and negotiated with law enforcement. We will continue to support these reforms next session. Voting Rights Restoration (HF 342/SF 355): Stripped out in conference committee. This bill would restore voting rights to individuals with a felony conviction immediately upon release from incarceration. Currently, individuals with a felony record must wait until they are fully off parole or probation to vote in Minnesota. The ACLU-MN acts in a leadership role with the Restore the Vote Coalition, which has expanded to include over 70 organizations. The Senate bill passed the Judiciary and Elections committees and was included in both the Judiciary Policy (SF 878) and Elections (SF 455) omnibus bills that passed the full Senate. Despite bipartisan support, House Republican leadership would not allow the bill to be heard in the House Public Safety Committee or included in either House omnibus bill. Although the bill did not become law this session, Governor Dayton included Rights Restoration on his list of priorities for the special session, and the coalition further increased public awareness of the issue. o The ACLU-MN lobbied on this issue through its leadership position in the Restore the Vote Coalition, and will actively support Rights Restoration next session. OTHER BILLS POSITIVELY IMPACTING CIVIL LIBERTIES Religious Objection to Autopsy (Ch. 60/HF 1935/SF 1694): Signed into law. This law recognizes a limited constitutional right to object to an autopsy due to sincerely held religious beliefs. The ACLU-MN consulted with the proponents of the bill and advised on religious freedom issues. o WIN: Vote: House (128-3); Senate (64-0); signed by Governor Dayton; effective August 1, Anti-SLAPP Protection (Ch. 49/HF 906/SF 1025): Signed into law. Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) laws prevent lawsuits from being used to silence an individual s free speech rights. The new law gives people stronger protections against retaliatory lawsuits for making good faith reports of crime to the police. The ACLU-MN supported this bill along with the Minnesota Sheriffs Association. o WIN: Vote: House (130-0); Senate (62-0); signed by Governor Dayton; effective May 20,

4 Immigrant Driver s License Legislation (HF 97/SF 224): Stripped out in conference committee. This bill would create a Driving Privilege License for undocumented immigrants in Minnesota. The ACLU-MN supports this legislation as it promotes public safety, allows undocumented immigrants to operate vehicles within the law, and has the potential to decease instances of racial profiling. The Safe Roads MN Driver s Licenses for All Coalition aggressively lobbied and organized on the issue this session. The bill passed the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee, but did not receive a vote in the House Transportation Committee. It also passed the Senate as an amendment to the Transportation omnibus bill, but was stripped out in conference committee. o The ACLU-MN will continue to support this issue next session. Early Voting (HF 2036/SF 414): Stripped out in conference committee. This bill would allow for in-person voting 15 days prior to Election Day. The language was included in the Senate Elections omnibus bill (SF 455), but it was stripped out in conference committee. o The ACLU-MN lobbied on this issue through its participation in the Voting Rights Coalition, and will support the bill next session. Voter Pre-Registration (HF 391/SF 206): Stripped out in conference committee. This bill would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote. The language was included in the Senate Elections omnibus bill (SF 455), but it was stripped out in conference committee. o The ACLU-MN lobbied on this issue through its participation in the Voting Rights Coalition, and will support the bill next session. BILLS NEGATIVELY IMPACTING CIVIL LIBERTIES Abortion Clinic Licensure (HF 606/ SF 616): Stripped out in conference committee. This bill would create onerous licensure and inspection requirements for certain clinics that perform abortions. The bill passed several committees in the House and was added to the House Health and Human Services ( HHS ) omnibus bill. The bill was not heard in the Senate, and was narrowly defeated on a Senate floor amendment to the Senate HHS omnibus bill (29-32). Abortion Funding Ban (HF 607/ 685): Stripped out in conference committee. This bill would prohibit the use of public funds for abortion services in Minnesota. In 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Doe v. Gomez that it was unconstitutional to selectively fund pregnancy and birth-related services while refusing to cover abortion services. Regardless of constitutionality, the bill passed several committees in the House and was added to the House HHS omnibus bill. The bill was not heard in the Senate and was not included in the Senate HHS omnibus bill. 4

5 Transgender Student Discrimination (HF 1546/SF 1543): Stripped out in conference committee. The so-called Student Safety and Physical Privacy Act would prevent schools from adopting transgender-inclusive policies. The bill would require transgender students to use the school facilities for their physical sex rather than their gender identity. The House bill was added as an amendment to the House Education omnibus bill, but an attempt to do the same in the Senate was defeated. The ACLU-MN weighed in with a letter of opposition, which was quoted in the Senate floor debate. Digital Estates (HF 200/ SF 476): Held up in committee. The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act ( UFADAA ) would grant a personal representative or other fiduciary potentially unfettered access to a deceased person s entire online life, including bank accounts, photo albums, accounts, text messages, voic , social media profiles, and dating messages. The ACLU-MN has significant privacy concerns with this approach for both the decedent and third parties. The National ACLU and other civil liberties organizations sent a letter in opposition to UFADAA to each state legislature where the issue was introduced, including Minnesota. The bill was tabled in the House Civil Law Committee without a vote and not heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. o The UFADAA bill did not move forward this session. 5

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