Two bills making their way through the Minnesota House prompt Bluestem to worry whether a proposed law to impose up to a year in the hoosegow will create some empty seats on the conservative side of the aisle.
At the Star Tribune on Tuesday, we read in Janet Moore's informative piece, Proposed House budget would deeply cut Metro Transit bus service:
Local bus service provided by Metro Transit could be drastically cut back should a Republican transportation proposal move forward at the Legislature, the Metropolitan Council said Monday.
The House transportation bill would result in a $122 million reduction in state funding for local transit service over the next two fiscal years, according to Met Council Chair Adam Duininck.
That would severely affect local bus service — the system’s workhorse — and could force the Met Council to raise transit fares to generate more revenue, an option that is already being considered. . . .
Even with an unspecified rate hike, Duininck said, the measure would force the regional planning body to cut transit service by 40 percent. That could involve paring or eliminating existing routes and hours for both bus service and light-rail transit, although he didn’t offer specifics.
“This will have a real impact on peoples’ lives,” Duininck said, noting that 80 percent of Metro Transit passengers use the service to commute to work or school. He was flanked by business leaders and transit advocates at a news conference on Monday. . . .
Although we live out in Big Stone County, on a hobby farm six miles from the South Dakota border, we worry about our friends whose accessing to transit vehicles will be restricted by the Republican proposal. We're driving into the Evil Metro this afternoon for a alt-country concert at First Avenue and are happy a lot of folks are on buses.
But there may be justice for the bus passengers the Republicans would live at the curb. Over at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Tad Vezner reported Tuesday in Protester crackdown plan narrows focus at MN Capitol:
A batch of bills at the Minnesota Legislature geared toward cracking down on protesters have boiled down to one — a proposed rule to heighten criminal penalties against those that block “transit.”
Language added to the House’s public safety omnibus bill — debated during a hearing Tuesday — would increase criminal penalties against anyone who obstructs the “operation of a transit vehicle” in a nonviolent manner.
A bill with similar language, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, has progressed in the Senate.
Currently, state law forbids interference with a “transit operator” in ways that might distract them. If no force or violence is involved, the maximum penalty would be 90 days, while anything that involves violence is a felony offense.
The new language would make it illegal to interfere with “transit” (not just an operator), and criminalizes “restricting access to a transit vehicle.”
And the penalty for doing so in a nonviolent way — such as linking arms together in a peaceful protest — would be increased to up to a year in jail.
Surely, it's obvious that the House transportation bill restricts access to transit in a nonviolent way, but would indeed restrict "access to a transit vehicle" on a scale that members of Black Lives Matter protesting deaths of members of their communities have never achieved, should the Republicans manage to block 40 percent of Metro Transit.
It's not a crime now, but if the public safety bill gets signed by the governor, perhaps it could be. Bluestem thinks that maybe we do need something to deter these ruffians from keeping buses off the road.
Photo: The Minnesota House Republican transit plan.
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