Before being elected to the Senate, I served for eight years as the chief prosecutor for Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis and 45 suburbs. I know first-hand the vital role our law enforcement and public safety officers serve in keeping our citizens safe.
In recent years, especially since 9/11, we have placed ever greater responsibilities on our police officers, firefighters, and first responders, who have been expected to significantly expand their abilities to respond to crises. At the same time, law enforcement budgets have been stretched increasingly thin.
As we work to restore fiscal discipline to our budget, we must also ensure that on the local, state, and federal levels we provide the necessary resources to hire new police officers, purchase vital equipment, train law enforcement personnel, and acquire information systems to coordinate communications among first responders and various criminal justice agencies.
As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, I believe we owe it to our public safety officers to make sure they have the technologies and tools they need to do their job safely and effectively, helping protect communities and ultimately saving lives.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Providing our state and local law enforcement with critical tools to protect our communities. We must enhance and expand the programs that support local authorities as they prepare for and react to local crises or homeland security threats. The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Byrne Justice Assistance Grant programs have proven effective at providing state and local law enforcement with the support they need to hire, train, and equip public safety officers. As chief prosecutor for Minnesota's largest county, I saw for myself what a difference it makes when law enforcement officers can actually create a partnership with local communities in Minnesota. I will continue to champion these programs as well as other key federal initiatives for law enforcement and public safety.
- Enhancing cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement. We must continue to target violent crime and drug-related crime through partnerships among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. I've seen the tragic impact of the methamphetamine epidemic in rural Minnesota and the recent rise of synthetic drug use in our cities and suburbs. To tackle these drug scourges, we must continue to support law enforcement partnerships with proven track records in arresting and prosecuting drug traffickers and dealers.
- Responding to the rise of prescription and synthetic drug abuse. Teenagers now abuse prescription drugs more than any other illegal drug except for marijuana, and the majority of teens who abuse these drugs get them for free, usually from friends and relatives and often without their knowledge. We must provide consumers with safe and effective means to dispose of prescription drugs to avoid having them fall into the wrong hands. In just the last few years we also have seen an alarming rise in the production, sale, and use of synthetic narcotics - everything from synthetic marijuana to bath salts to hallucinogens. These new designer drugs have taken lives - including the life of a Minnesota teenager - and injured many others. We need to continue to fight to get these synthetic drugs off the streets and out of stores.
- Protecting children from predators - both on the streets and on the Internet. In a fast-changing society, parents need all the help they can get to protect their children from emerging threats to their safety. I know there are criminals who are intent on victimizing children. Federal support is essential to local law enforcement and the criminal justice system to make sure sex offenders and other potential predators can be identified before they are able to prey on any victims.
- Preventing domestic violence. During my eight years as County Attorney, I saw firsthand how domestic abuse destroyed families and trapped victims in dangerous situations. In these difficult economic times, victims should never feel forced to choose between personal safety and financial stability. I am committed to ensuring that women and children have the resources they need to protect themselves from violence, leave abusive situations, and hold their abusers accountable.
- Enhancing online privacy. More and more Americans rely on the Internet to shop, pay their bills, and connect with family and friends. At the same time, online sites and advertisers have become ever more sophisticated at tracking and gathering information about our online behavior, raising concerns that consumers' privacy may not be properly protected. Advertising can enhance consumers' online experience by providing the revenue to support free online news content and services, but we must protect consumers from new technology that might dig too deep into their personal information or share it with others to make a profit.
- Making our roads and highways safer. Too many drivers are texting behind the wheel or driving under the influence, instead of focusing on the road. The consequences of bad driving are devastating and demand greater action by us all - no text message is worth dying for. As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to keep our roads safe, and I will continue to work to enact laws that address distracted driving. This is particularly important for teen drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of American teens, and drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 years old are four times more likely to get in a crash than older drivers per mile driven. We must encourage safe practices and smart programs for training new drivers.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I've been fighting to strengthen our commitment to public safety:
- Championing the COPS and Byrne JAG programs. With federal law enforcement budgets increasingly targeted for reductions in recent years, I have successfully fought to defend funding for the COPS program that has a proven record of reducing crime by helping local police departments put more officers on the street. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included $1 billion for the COPS hiring program to help save over 5,000 law enforcement jobs and keep boots on the ground in communities across America. I have also fought to maintain funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which provides support to local law enforcement authorities for multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, anti-gang efforts, specialized prosecutors, and other crime-fighting initiatives.
- Providing first responders with life-saving communications tools. I was an original cosponsor of the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act to allow for state-of-the-art technology that will help first responders in both rural and urban communities at no cost to taxpayers. I helped pass legislation to implement a nationwide wireless network to allow our first responders to clearly communicate when disaster strikes and focus on doing what they do best - saving lives. As co-chair of the NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus, I included a bipartisan provision to reauthorize the federal 9-1-1 Coordination Office to manage the transition to the Next Generation 9-1-1 emergency response system based on high-speed digital wireless networks in the Spectrum Act, which was passed into law in 2011.
- Stemming the growing epidemic of metal thefts. According to one FBI report, "organized groups of drug addicts, gang members, and metal thieves are conducting large scale thefts from electric utilities, warehouses, foreclosed and vacant properties, and oil well sites for tens of thousands of dollars in illicit proceeds" every month. I authored the bipartisan Metal Theft Prevention Act to deter thieves from the lucrative practice of stealing high-priced metal from public and private infrastructure.
- Banning synthetic drugs. One study found that one in nine high schools students in America admitted to using synthetic marijuana in the past year. I introduced the Combating Designer Drugs Act to ban the substance known as 2C-E, a synthetic hallucinogen, and eight other similar substances. This legislation was a response to an incident in March 2011 where a Minnesota teenager died and ten others were hospitalized after overdosing on 2C-E. I also cosponsored two additional pieces of legislation to ban synthetic marijuana and bath salts. These bills banning dangerous synthetic drugs were signed into law in July 2012.
- Allowing for safe disposal of prescription drugs. I authored the bipartisan Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in October 2010, to provide consumers with safe and responsible ways to dispose of unused controlled substances. This new law allows individuals and long-term care facilities to deliver the most dangerous prescription drugs to law enforcement officials for safe disposal and also promotes the development and expansion of drug take-back programs.
- Supporting Drug Courts. During my time in the Senate I have fought to provide critical support to the nation's drug courts. Drug courts divert non-violent, substance abusing offenders from prison and jail into treatment. The drug court model is one of the most successful, cost-effective tools for cutting recidivism rates and reducing crime in our communities. Every $1 invested in drug courts saves more than $3 in criminal justice costs alone, and as much as $27 on fewer emergency room visits, health care, foster care, welfare and property loss. By using drug courts for low-level, non-violent drug offenders, we do more than just punish people for breaking the law. We can help people get clean and sober and make them productive members of society.
- Helping law enforcement find missing children. I authored the bipartisan Access to Information about Missing Children Act with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to help federal, state, and local law enforcement locate missing children whose whereabouts could be discovered though basic information on federal tax returns. This legislation has been supported by Patty Wetterling, my friend and child-safety advocate, whose son Jacob was kidnapped near his family's home in St. Joseph, Minnesota in 1989.
- Supporting victims of assault, abuse, and stalking. I cosponsored and helped lead the effort to pass the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in March of 2013, which updated the landmark legislation that has had a profound role in protecting women and supporting the victims of sexual and domestic violence. The new law includes provisions from my bipartisan STALKERS Act to improve federal anti-stalking laws and protect victims by providing prosecutors with the tools to combat the growing threat of cyberstalking. I also supported the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act, which was signed into law in 2006 and established a publicly available national database of sex offenders. I have also worked to combat the heartbreaking crime of child abuse by introducing the National Child Protection Training Act, which would help train child protection professionals such as teachers, doctors and prosecutors to detect and prevent child abuse.
- Shielding children from inappropriate content. I cosponsored the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which would help parents protect their children from inappropriate website content by requiring the Federal Trade Commission to implement a national educational campaign to promote the safe use of the Internet by children and directing the U.S. Commerce Department to create a private sector working group to evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety. I also support V-Chip, Internet filters, and other new technology that give parents greater control over what their kids see on television and what they can do on the Internet. As a cosponsor of the KIDS Act, I will continue to fight for additional protections to safeguard children against online predators.
- Strengthening aviation safety standards. I introduced the bipartisan Aviation Safety Enhancement Act with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to toughen airline safety rules and bring an end to the cozy relationship that has developed between airlines and some federal regulators. A number of the important provisions from this bill were included in the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, which passed the full Senate with broad bipartisan support in February 2011. I have also pushed the Federal Aviation Administration to issue much-needed updates to airline safety standards to combat pilot fatigue, and in December 2011 the FAA announced new final rules that create one level of safety for all passengers in our nation's aviation system.
- Preventing carbon monoxide deaths. Known as the "silent killer," carbon monoxide poisoning results in the deaths of an estimated 500 Americans each year. I have been working to strengthen standards for carbon monoxide alarms and increase safeguards for portable gas-powered generators to prevent deaths and injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning. My work on this issue has been inspired in part by Cheryl Burt of Rochester, Minnesota, whose two young sons (ages 16 months and four years) died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a malfunctioning furnace in 1996.
- Improving teen driver safety. Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal car crashes as other drivers. Becoming a safe driver requires experience and practice. To help reduce teen driving deaths, I introduced the Students Taking Action for Road Safety (STARS) Act to use peer-to-peer prevention strategies to educate teens about the dangers of everything from drunk driving to speeding to using seatbelts to texting while driving. This bill will help bring together law enforcement, educators, and local communities to give our teen drivers the tools they need to become responsible drivers and make our roads safer. I also joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to introduce the STAND Up Act to encourage states to adopt Graduated Driver License programs that have proven effective at reducing the crash risk of new drivers by introducing teens to the driving experience gradually, phasing in full driving privileges over time in lower risk settings, and learning to eliminate distractions that cause accidents. Provisions from both of these bills were included in the Surface Transportation reauthorization bill that was signed into law in July 2012.
Senator Klobuchar’s Offices
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main Line: 202-224-3244
Main Fax: 202-228-2186
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1130 1/2 7th Street NW, Room 208
Rochester, MN 55901
Main Line: 507-288-5321
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Moorhead, MN 56560
Main Line: 218-287-2219
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Virginia, MN 55792
Main Line: 218-741-9690