Bills raising penalties for freeway protests move forward at Legislature

REUTERS/Adam Bettcher
Police are seen as people gather on I-94 last July to protest the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.

For FOX 9, Tim Blotz says, “Shutting down a freeway is already against the law.  Both Zerwas’ and [Kathy] Lohmer’s bills along with two companion bills in the Senate would raise the penalties to gross misdemeanors. That means the penalties rise to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. But at a House hearing on Wednesday, opponents to the bills argued it will suppress free speech. ‘Take your shovel and dig Martin Luther King back up. Dig Malcolm X back up and charge them with protesting,’ shouted John Thompson.” Don’t give them any more ideas.

Rachel Stassen-Berger of the PiPress says, “Minnesota Republican House members on Wednesday amplified their moves to increase penalties for people who block highways, airports and mass transit as part of protests. … [Nick] Zerwas, who has sponsored measures to increase penalties for highway protests, has also offered a bill that would allow local governments to charge demonstrators for the cost of policing their protests. On Wednesday, he acknowledged that measure is more controversial than the highway protest bill and said he was looking for common ground on the issue.”

Or better yet, why doesn’t the state pay us to file? At MPR, Bob Collins says, “Finding things that Democrats and Republicans can agree on might seem like an impossible task, but here’s one possibility: We shouldn’t have to pay money to file our taxes. Increasingly — and logically — more people are doing taxes with tax preparation software offered by companies which are happy to take $19.95 to file them with the state of Minnesota. Five Republicans and Seven DFLers have filed legislation in the House of Representatives to study the idea of allowing Minnesotans to file their state returns for free.”

The latest on Friday’s Snowpocalypse. Says Paul Huttner at MPR, “The heaviest snow band with this storm still has the capability to generate 6″ to 12″ snowfall totals.Locally heavier snowfall totals up to 18″ are possible. … The system is one of the most powerful to wrap up over Minnesota this winter. In addition to plenty of moisture, a tight pressure gradient will generate plenty of wind-driven snow.”

Thank you, Mitch. Aimee Blanchette of the Strib reports, “While holding her 3-month-old son outside of Brass Knuckle Tattoo Studio in Uptown, Nora McInerny rolled up her sleeve to show off her newest tattoo. Two handwritten words in black ink glistened beneath clear plastic wrap and tape: ‘She Persisted’. ‘Those words remind me of every woman I know who has kept going even though it’s difficult or it might make you unpopular’, McInerny said. ‘I just thought it was a perfectly beautiful sentiment. Also, I’m incredibly impulsive.’ What started as McInerny’s impulsive idea turned into something bigger when on Tuesday, more than 100 women (and a guy or two) lined up and waited at the Minneapolis ink shop for their turn to get a tattoo of the now infamous quote from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when trying to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren earlier this month.”

Now this is getting somewhere. At KARE -TV, Ellery McCardle reports, “Solar windows could be the next big thing to cut down on your energy bills. After years of research, The University of Minnesota found the technology is one step closer to becoming a reality. Researchers say the idea has been around for decades, but there was not a way to create solar windows without using toxic materials. … The team’s hope is to develop inexpensive solar windows to create a more energy efficient world and cut down on energy consumption especially in urban areas where there is less space to install solar panels. Kortshagen said he hopes to see solar windows on the market in three to five years. For now, there is more research to do.”

Well Fargo’s tangled web gets stickier and stickier. A Reuters story by Suzanne Barlyn says, “Prudential Financial Inc, the target of probes and lawsuits related to whether Wells Fargo & Co retail bankers improperly sold its insurance, may press the bank to cover costs it has run up because of the flap, according to a filing. ‘The company has provided notice to Wells Fargo that it may seek indemnification under the MyTerm distribution agreement,’ Prudential said in a Feb. 17 regulatory filing. It was unclear how much in costs Prudential may seek.”

Even in the era of HD auto-focus Sasquatch is always blurry. Mike Mullen at City Pages says of the latest bigfoot video, “… is this piano music bed really supposed to evoke a woodland beast that’s survived for millenia without leaving a single corpse in the scientific record, thereby setting up the possible if not likely reality that Bigfoot is, in fact, immortal? Is ascribing lousy taste in music our way of looking down our nose at the ‘missing link’? How can we tell this ‘image’ was ‘captured on a trail cam in Minnesota’? Does anyone recognize anything in this photo aside from vague hints of the colors green, yellow, and black?  Why do all those colors wash out, and why does the image become very bright around the 24 second mark, but only briefly? Did you guys notice that too? Is that close-up supposed to… help? Has this really been watched more than 15 thousand times since Monday? Does anyone believe this ‘video’ proves anything except people are superstitious, incredibly bored at work, and just looking for anything to click … ?”

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/23/2017 - 07:08 am.

    Freeway Shutdown Bill

    I am very opposed to this. There is nothing in this legislation for job creators.

  2. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/23/2017 - 08:34 am.

    Sasquatch? Not the best image, but…

    I do wonder if the ‘figure’ had small hands and grunted loudly and beat his chest a lot…photo does make one speculate on varied conclusions?

  3. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/23/2017 - 11:26 am.

    Out-state bills for urban protests

    The Star Tribune’s article on the GOP legislative attempts to increase criminal penalties for protests that temporarily block highways added three factors we should keep in mind: (1) None of the House or Senate bill authors are from the Twin Cities but from far-out places like Alexandria; (2) all the protests in Minnesota that have temporarily blocked highways/roads have taken place in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis or St Paul, maybe Bloomington) and not out-state; and (3) these bills are replicas of [ALEC-inspired?] bills that are being considered or passed in a number of other GOP-controlled state legislatures.

    In other words, this does not respond necessarily to a Twin Cities problem although the law will apply mainly to Minnesota’s large cities. It is ideological and based on controlling political speech by certain “elements” of our non-rural society. And it’s been thought up by folks working with Really Big Money out there, the Koch brothers most importantly.

    It would be good to know if any legislator from St. Paul or Minneapolis, or even Ramsey County and Hennepin County, is listed as co-sponsor for this. Especially, any Democrat.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/23/2017 - 02:09 pm.

      Bill Authors

      House Authors: Zerwas; Cornish; Franson; McDonald; Johnson, B.; Fabian; Miller; Daudt; Nash; Dean, M.; O’Neill; Howe; Uglem; Grossell; Heintzeman; Backer; Newberger

      Senate Authors: Ingebrigtsen; Limmer; Johnson

      Can’t swear to it but pretty sure there aren’t any Democrats among them.

      Not sure about the districts they represent but, as with the above, wouldn’t be surprised if all (or, at the very least, most) of those people live outside the “metro area.”

      (Each author name on the bills is a link to their personal legislative web page that contains the details of the area they represent. Just a little too lazy to check each one to “confirm your suspicions,” but the info’s there.)

      • Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/23/2017 - 03:39 pm.

        All R’s

        I got a little rattled when I just saw “Johnson” and had to make sure it wasn’t Sheldon! Then I went ahead and confirmed the rest are all R’s as well (both House and Senate).

  4. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 02/23/2017 - 12:40 pm.

    Fairness under the law

    Charging people for police costs in this one case is very Republican. Good way to cut taxes and place additional restrictions on people you don’t like who often in little position to pay them. And a year in jail for being part of a protest.

    Have you priced out that briilliant idea? Not just the cost of prison, but the likely additional costs from children who lose parents and people who get caught in the revolving door of our justice, where every future court appearance and day of jail time is expensive. .

    The old South found a much more economical solution for protestors – a firehose and attack dogs in they were feeling charitable, a mob and a rope, or maybe a bullet in the head if they went.

    And all this hoopla because people are inconvenienced – probably in most cases delayed just about as long as when we have heavy snow, traffic is stopped at a rail crossing.or a road is closed for a parade.

    If you want to be fair, think of the police and judicial costs of big business that is charged with being guilty of wage theft. Do bad employers or fraudsters get charged police and court costs. I recently read that Wal-Mart stores decided to loosen its shoplifting protections – the result was a very sharp increase in police calls. Should a WalMark be charged for all police calls, when not charging allows then to spend less on security employees and systems?

    Opening this up is a Pandora’s box. If you charge one category of people for police costs, what is the justification for not extending it. And one final illustration. You are caught speeding or drunk driving. Rather than paying the fine, you want it to go to court and make the police office testify. If you are found guilty, do you want the charge beyond your fine to include the the cost of the police officer testifying? Drunk driving is a more serious than blocking a road in peaceful protest, so how do you like that idea? I’m guessing if it affects you, not much.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/23/2017 - 02:48 pm.

      Fairness under the law: Part two

      If this law is passed and signed by the Governor, I would propose the creation and passage of a law (based on the precedent that would be established) that says something along the lines of:

      “Any Minnesota State Legislator who Authors or Co-Authors legislation that is passed by both bodies of the Minnesota Legislature — as well as the Governor who signs that legislation into law — shall be personally liable and responsible for any and all costs incured by the State of Minnesota in defense of that law, should it be challenged in court and found to be unconstitutional according the laws of the State of Minnesota or the United States of America.

      “All costs shall be divided equally among all Authors, Co-Authors, the Governor and their heirs and descendants and no part of that amount shall be forgiven by any bankruptcy or similar law of the State of Minnesota or the United States of America.

      “No part of this law shall be changed and no part of each individual share of financial responsibility shall be relieved by any state or federal Executive Order or state or federal legislative attempt to repeal, modify or replace this law.”

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/23/2017 - 03:19 pm.

      Can We Charge Wall Street

      For tanking the global economy? Think of the costs to the federal and states’ unemployment compensation systems alone.

  5. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/23/2017 - 12:46 pm.

    Never on Sundays great political issue?

    Seems like a lot of time wasted on Sunday sales legislation…can’t they buy enough booze during the week to supple one’s needs? Or is profit the only motive or is the prime objection?

    If I recall, once upon a time there was an ancient seer who could turn water into wine: just with a snap of his fingers almost. No craft wines back then I suppose so the picture is different…no competition or profit either I assume?

    And think of a great sales gimmick…no bottles. Just wine skins?

    And another suggestion: why not make it a profit-free product for a day and just pass a collection plate?

    My point here is, if I have one…there are so many problems in this good nation and somebody’s pushing for Sunday’s laws…now there’s one really dumb issue to waste time on,eh?

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/26/2017 - 07:41 pm.

      Sunday Sales

      The Sunday sales bill should take minimal time to discuss and pass. And, hopefully, our legislators can work on more than one item at a time.

      What’s really a complete waste of time are items like bathroom bills and protest bills, which the Governor will simply veto. At least the Sunday sales bill Dayton says he’ll sign and it actually benefits people.

  6. Submitted by James Hamilton on 02/23/2017 - 03:24 pm.

    Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    The GOP freeway bill is a sham, fodder for the 2018 elections. They know Dayton will veto the bill. They know they’ll never have the votes to override that veto.

    What they should also know is that the bill is little more than trouble in waiting, a law that would be subject to extremely arbitrary enforcement, directed at those whose message gores the ox of whomever is in power at the time.

    Let’s drop the pretense and get to work on the real issues facing Minnesota, by which I most emphatically do not mean the Stand-Your-Ground bill being marketed as pro-gun legislation.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/24/2017 - 10:08 am.


      It’s part of the grand old Republican tradition of hippie-punching.

      Frankly, I’m a little surprised there wasn’t something about jail time for using the “wrong” bathroom.

  7. Submitted by James Hamilton on 02/23/2017 - 03:28 pm.

    E-Filing for Dummies

    How much study could this possibly require? The state already is equipped to receive the filings from multiple sources. Is it receiving a taste of each transaction?

    At MPR, Bob Collins says, “Finding things that Democrats and Republicans can agree on might seem like an impossible task, but here’s one possibility: We shouldn’t have to pay money to file our taxes. Increasingly — and logically — more people are doing taxes with tax preparation software offered by companies which are happy to take $19.95 to file them with the state of Minnesota. Five Republicans and Seven DFLers have filed legislation in the House of Representatives to study the idea of allowing Minnesotans to file their state returns for free.”

  8. Submitted by John Appelen on 02/24/2017 - 01:10 pm.

    Personally I can think of no reason to allow protestors to block our streets and or highways. I hope additional deterrents will prevent this in the future.

  9. Submitted by Phil Dech on 02/24/2017 - 03:27 pm.

    I just wish

    that Republicans might actually try to address the reasons why people are protesting, rather than how to punish protesters more.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/26/2017 - 07:48 pm.

      Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

      It seems the whole effort is to simply silence people rather than sit down, talk with them, and find out what their concerns are. Heavens forbid they talk to their constituents at town hall meetings or go to a protest to find out why people are so ticked off.

      Instead it’s all about finding ways to dismiss the protestors as the Other, people who must be punished at all costs for defying authority and disrupting the status quo.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/27/2017 - 02:00 pm.


        I thought it was about keeping people from standing in the middle of our roads, just because they have an axe to grind.

        I keep recommending that they go protest in front of the homes of the gang members. If you want to stop violence, it may make sense to protest the source.

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