During Minnesota’s legislative session this spring, the GOP-controlled legislature passed a law giving Enbridge the green light to build the new Line 3 pipeline. This “fast-track” bill would have ignored and bypassed 5 years of regulatory process that is scheduled to finish in just a few weeks. But Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the bill, along with many others, including two bills specifically designed to suppress dissent and attack grassroots social movements.
One bill clearly targeted water protectors and other Line 3 activists. The “Critical Infrastructure” bill, also known as the “Guilt by Association” bill, would have imposed large penalties for any trespass on major infrastructure. It also expanded the criminalization very broadly, to include those who “recruit or educate individuals to trespass on or damage” that infrastructure. In his veto letter, Governor Dayton said he was (rightfully) concerned it could lead to conspiracy charges for “mere conversations.”
Because this bill was clearly unconstitutional - it violated rights of free speech, assembly, and association - it likely would not have held up in a court of law, and its GOP authors knew that. It’s pure political theater. These are just bullying tactics designed to criminalize and suppress the resistance to Line 3 and other extractive industry projects through threats of violence.
The bill came directly from the far-right corporate lobbying group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and was modeled after a bill passed in Oklahoma last year. This is part of a nationwide trend of anti-protest laws that increase penalties for civil disobedience and expand state powers of surveillance and punishment.
In Minnesota, a coalition of dozens of environmental and social justice groups opposed the bill. The legislature first sent Governor Dayton the bill as part of the Omnibus Supplemental Bill, and he insisted that it be removed. It was removed, then the legislature sent it back to him as a stand-alone bill. In his veto letter, he wrote, “Although this bill is called an act of public safety, its contents would have the opposite effect. I would not support a bill that potentially holds Minnesotans responsible for other people’s actions with which they had no direct involvement.”
Earlier in May, Governor Dayton also vetoed a bill that specifically targeted activists of color and Native activists fighting back against racist police violence in the Twin Cities. That bill would have increased criminal penalties for protestors who block highways or light rail transit lines.
As you may remember, the GOP-controlled legislature made a similar attempt to fast-track Line 3 last year, with 3 different bills designed to dismantle or bypass the permitting and environmental review process in various ways. We defended ourselves against that attack, as we did this one. Laws that give blatant handouts to specific corporations are as unconstitutional as the anti-protest bills, and everyone at the Capitol knows that, so in many ways this is all just a dance that the Republicans must do. Much time was wasted by all, but we are grateful that the Governor saw all of these bills for what they were. Now we await the PUC’s final permit decision, scheduled for June 27th, the last day of a series of 4 public meetings in St. Paul (June 18, 19, 26, 27).