ST. PAUL - Minnesota Republicans are ready to crack down on the protests that have shuttered highways and commanded police attention.

A pair of GOP-backed bills at the Legislature this year would levy harsher penalties on demonstrators who block highway traffic and could allow police departments to sue some protesters to help cover enforcement costs. It's a response to the weeks of unrest that followed two shooting deaths of black men by Minnesota police officers.

Rep. Nick Zerwas is pushing for both measures. He says it's a matter of enforcing the rule of law.

That's a drastically different response from when Democrats had more power at the Capitol last year. Gov. Mark Dayton and a DFL-led Senate pushed for millions in funding for programs to chip away at longstanding racial disparities.