By Dan Linehan
The Free Press
— Rep. Tony Cornish is on a key committee to craft a final public safety bill but doesn’t think he’ll have to play defense for the Second Amendment.
“I kinda think if the DFL really wanted guns to go on the bill, they wouldn’t have put me on the conference committee,” he said.
Neither the House nor the Senate has any gun control measures riding with their main public safety bills, said Cornish, R-Good Thunder. One possible exception is House funding for background checks — just the funding, not the authority for the checks — that he expects will be stripped out.
Even without these controversial provisions, the public safety bill still has fee increases that Cornish doesn’t like.
Among them is a $15 charge for traffic tickets that he worries will lead officers to write fewer tickets and result in less money for the state overall.
The purpose of this conference committee, which met for the first time Wednesday, is to hash out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Cornish predicts that won’t be difficult.
“It’s not a controversial bill with huge differences between the Senate and the House,” he said.
Cornish is the only Republican of the five House members of the committee and said he got the spot in part because he voted for the Democrats’ public safety bill. (The fee increases were in the judiciary bill, which Cornish voted against.)
One difference between the bills is that the House includes $1.6 million for the Minnesota School Safety Center. The center, which isn’t currently funded, recommends policies and procedures for schools to prevent and respond to school violence. Cornish will be trying to keep the funding in the final bill.
The House also includes more money for specialty courts, including for drugs, veterans and mental health. Cornish said the success of Mankato’s drug court helped him support the extra funding.
So how would Cornish prefer to fund specialty courts and school safety if not through these large fee increases?
He said he’d prefer to rely on the regular tax growth, along with a very small, inflation-only increase in fees and permits.
Those separate gun bills, including a bill from Rep. Michael Paymar to expand background checks, are effectively dead after House Speaker Paul Thissen told the Star Tribune Wednesday that there will be no gun bill on the floor this year.
Cornish had predicted as much earlier in the day and the session.
“The DFL doesn’t have the votes to pass it,” he said Wednesday.
The Free Press was unable to get a Democratic