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'Beyond Time': Lawmakers, St. Paul PD Chief Axtell Launch Effort To Remove MN Constitution's Slavery References

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota lawmakers along with St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell have announced an effort to remove slavery references and involuntary servitude from the Minnesota Constitution.

Despite being banned since Minnesota's statehood was achieved in 1858, Minnesota's Constitution still contains "outdated permissive language regarding slavery," lawmakers said.

"Our state constitution should reflect our values. In Minnesota, it's inappropriate that language mentioning slavery still exists in our constitution, even if it's narrowly constructed and obsolete," said Rep. John Lesch (DFL – Saint Paul), chief author of the amendment in the Minnesota House.

In the Minnesota Constitution, Article 1, Section 2 reads in part: "there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state otherwise than as punishment for a crime of which the party has been convicted." The proposed amendment would remove the clause "otherwise than as punishment for a crime of which the party has been convicted."

Lesch says he was inspired by a New Year's Eve Facebook post by Axtell, who shared a desire to have the language eliminated.

"Slavery is not a Minnesota value, and I've been troubled by this clause for some time," said Chief Axtell. "It's 2020—beyond time for all Minnesotans to move forward together to ensure that our constitution reflects our shared values of equity, equality, freedom and respect for all people. I'm heartened by the effort of our elected leaders to amend the constitution and will do anything I can to support it."

In the Minnesota Senate, the legislation is chief authored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion.

If approved by both chambers this legislative session, the question would be submitted to voters in the 2020 General Election in November. The amendment will be implemented if approved by a majority of those voting.

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