The Potluck

Minnesota House passes bill to create an Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls

By: - February 20, 2023 5:54 pm

Minnesota State Capitol. Photo courtesy of Minnesota House of Representatives.

The Minnesota House on Monday passed a bill to create an Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls, the first of its kind in the country. 

The bill (HF55) passed 110-19. It still requires Senate passage and Gov. Tim Walz’s signature to become law. 

The push to create a new office followed a state report from the Missing and Murdered African American Task Force that found Black women are nearly three times more likely to be murdered than white women in Minnesota. 

In the United States, there are more than 60,000 estimated missing Black women. In Minnesota, Black women make up 7% of the population but 40% of the domestic violence victims, according to the report. The report also says missing and murdered Black women are less likely to receive national media attention than white women.

“I want to be clear that this office is not asking for more attention. It’s about getting the same attention, and it’s about having our lives honored in the same way,” said chief author of the bill Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights. “We matter, and we deserve the same energy and coverage in our cases.”

The Legislature would spend about $2.5 million over the next two years on the effort. Of that, $300,000 each year would go to grants for community-based organizations and $948,000 would go to establish and operate the Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls. Each year, $50,000 would be used for a public awareness campaign about the office. 

The office would facilitate research, collect data, review cold cases and advocate for legislation to address violence against Black women and girls. The bill also requires the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to operate a missing person alert system. 

On the House floor, Richardson brought up the stories of two girls who were murdered: Brittany Clardy and Taylor Hayden. Their families were watching the vote in the House gallery. 

“(Hayden’s) dad talking to me said, ‘I look at you when I see you on the House floor — I see you moving this bill — and I see Taylor in you. And I wonder what Taylor could have been and what she could have accomplished if she was given the chance,’” Richardson said. 

Advocates said the office would legitimize family reports to police officers, who advocates say sometimes dismiss violence against Black women and girls.

Similar bills passed the House twice but stalled in the formerly GOP-controlled Senate. The bill is modeled on Minnesota’s Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, established in 2021 as the first state office of its kind in the United States. 

Republicans offered amendments to end the office in 2026, give the money to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension instead of creating an office and putting the grant money into a reward fund instead. 

“No one’s ever solved a homicide sitting at a desk,” said Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, who introduced the amendment to give the money to BCA. 

The amendments failed. Richardson said the office would work with law enforcement.

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Grace Deng
Grace Deng

Grace Deng was a reporting intern with the Minnesota Reformer. They studied legal studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. The Seattle native has previously been a statehouse intern with USA TODAY Network Ohio and an editorial fellow with Washingtonian Magazine.