Archived Story

Child abuse bill stands chance in Minn. Senate

Published 1:03pm Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A bill to tighten the law on child abuse may catch a last-minute save.

Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Chair Warren Limmer said Friday he would request the bill be granted an exception so it could be heard in committee. If allowed and the bill moves through the committee hearing, it will stay alive for this legislative session.

Normally, bills not heard in either the Senate or House by last Friday’s deadline would not be part of this legislative session. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee will decide whether to allow the exception for the Senate.

If it’s not granted a hearing, there is a possibility the bill could be instead added as an amendment to a separate, existing public safety bill on the Senate floor, said Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin. Sparks said he doesn’t know when an exception could be made, but the decision would come from Sen. Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester.

The news of a possible exception comes after strong pushes in legislative committees from Sparks and Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin.

“We’ve had several requests in the Senate to have a hearing on the bill,” Sparks said.

The bill was laid over in the House.

“We were very excited to hear the news late Friday,” said Sparks. Exceptions like the one proposed happen very rarely, he added, which makes him optimistic.

“We’ve done everything the chairman has asked us to do.”

The child abuse bill would change the phrase “substantial bodily harm” to “demonstrable bodily harm” in regard to parental restraint of a child. It was spurred by the sentencing of the Dexter couple Brian and Charity Miller last July. The parents were convicted of chaining their now 6-year-old son to his crib and withholding food and bathroom access from him and his now 9-year-old brother.