ST. PAUL (AP) — The Minnesota House has shot down an amendment to remove a part of the public safety finance bill that would increase penalties for protesting that blocks traffic, transit lines or at an airport.

The measure failed 56-75 Monday, mostly along party lines. Lawmakers battled over the issue for several hours and testimonies grew heated multiple times.

Democrats say the measure is a thinly veiled attempt at stifling disenfranchised groups' right to protest.

Republican Rep. Nick Zerwas, of Elk River, says the bill is simply a matter of public safety. He says the changes in law would increase safety for police officers and prevent stoppages that have had serious effects on some of his constituents.