Sen. Bigham aims to prevent gun violence
Legislation by state Sen. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, is aimed at preventing gun violence in schools.
The bipartisan bill, introduced by Bigham on Jan. 17, would require school districts to establish threat assessment teams to spot and assess individuals who might be planning an attack. The teams typically include police, mental health professionals, teachers and school staff.
The threat assessment protocol was developed by the Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education in response to the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Threat assessment teams focus on detecting "red flags" that are often overlooked until it's too late. Should they receive a tip that someone is showing worrisome or threatening behavior, they'll evaluate that person's risk for "targeted," or premeditated violence and intervene if necessary. Supporters say the system in not profiling.
Bigham, who represents Senate District 54, co-authored a similar bill last year with former state Rep. Keith Franke.
This new bill follows conversations with local law enforcement, including Cottage Grove police Captain Randy McAlister, Minnesota's only certified threat manager. He teaches the method around the country.
McAlister expressed his frustration last year after 17 people were shot and killed in at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The gunman and former student Nikolas Cruz had hinted at his impending rampage on social media. These hints, known as leakage, are the kind of things threat assessment teams are trained to spot, McAlister said.
Last week, Bigham also introduced a bill that would make preventative mental health care accessible to Minnesotans who might be overwhelmed by a divorce, loss of job or the death of a loved one.
"These are all things that can trigger a mental health episode," she said.
Bigham is chief author on the bill, which would prohibit health care insurance plans from charging deductibles, co-insurance or other cost-sharing requirements to its members for the first four outpatient mental health services in a contract year.
Another bill she introduced would provide $5,600,000 to pay for a two-year pilot bus project that would compliment the express bus service along the Red Rock Corridor.
She has also introduced bipartisan legislation (S.F. 235) that would eliminate marriage as a defense for rape.
Other items on Bigham's legislative to-do list:
• Streamline the onerous licensure requirements for day care providers. "We are in a crisis not only with the affordability of day care but also access to day care," she said in a Jan. 11 interview.
• Increase safety and security at correctional facilities: Bigham wants to appropriate funds that would pay for more guards, counselors, psychologists and technology. Last year, Joseph Gomm, an officer at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, was bludgeoned to death by inmate Edward Muhammad Johnson. "We have to keep our guards safe and make sure that when prisoners are released from our facilities they have the tools to be productive again," she said.
• Provide property tax relief in the form of increased county program aid. Giving counties more money to pay for child protective services, mental health programs and transportation projects would reduce the burden on the taxpayer.
• Increased penalties for distracted driving, combating chronic wasting disease in deer, renewable energy standards.
"I'm very hopeful that with a new administration and new house leadership that we will get good things done for Minnesotans," she said.