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Minnesota GOP to block most of police overhaul plan

Special legislative session began Friday.

Posted: Jun 12, 2020 1:07 PM
Updated: Jun 12, 2020 9:04 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Key Republican lawmakers in Minnesota said Friday that they’ll block most of the ambitious changes Democrats want to make to policing in the state where George Floyd died, and that they plan to approve only a limited set of police accountability measures.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Warren Limmer, laid out their agenda shortly before the Legislature convened for a special session. They said there's only a short amount of time to act because they intend to adjourn June 19 no matter what. That would effectively force the state House to adjourn too, but Gazelka said lawmakers would continue to work on bigger changes.

“Minnesota has the opportunity to lead the way for the whole nation for reconciliation of the races and some of the problems we’re addressing," Gazelka said. ”Let’s begin here.”

Minnesota is one of several states where Democratic lawmakers and governors are hoping to harness the anger over Floyd’s death to remake law enforcement, including by adding new restrictions on the use of force. State legislatures have been slow to tackle those issues since a wave of police killings of young black men in 2014, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and the House Democratic majority are backing a slate of proposals from the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus. They’ve been rolled into three bills on the themes of “Reclaiming Community Oversight,” “Reforming Accountability” and “Reimagining Public Safety.” The first House committee hearing on those bills is set for Saturday.

But Gazelka told reporters that Senate Republicans' top priority was voting to end the emergency powers that Walz has used to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans contend that Walz has used those powers to govern unchecked, causing unnecessary harm to the state's economy without achieving better results than states with looser restrictions, such as neighboring Wisconsin.

The vote was 38-29, with three Democrats siding with Republicans. But the House blocked the GOP attempt, rejecting a similar resolution 73-61.

Limmer said the five policing bills the Senate will pass before next Friday will include some of the noncontroversial Democratic proposals, including a ban on police chokeholds and neck restraints. Most Minnesota police departments already have rules limiting chokeholds, and Minneapolis recently strengthened its ban under a court-approved agreement with the state. He also said they may include a rewrite of rules governing the police use of force.

Limmer specifically rejected a Democratic proposal to put the state attorney general in charge of prosecuting officer-involved killings. Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison has taken over the Floyd case, but as a nationally known figure from the liberal wing of his party, he's a lightning rod for Republicans.

Democratic House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said the Senate Republican plan falls short of what the moment requires. He said Limmer has a record of blocking efforts to make the criminal justice system more just.

“It's entirely accurate to say that this is a lazy and last-minute approach to a problem that has been with us for a long time, and that we have been working on for a long time,” Winkler said.

The special session was already in the works before protests erupted in Minneapolis and spread around the world over Floyd's death in police custody. Walz called it so he could extend his emergency authority another 30 days. Given that Walz must call a special session each time he extends his emergency powers, House Speaker Melissa Hortman said her chamber would block the GOP attempt. Hortman said lawmakers will likely be back in another month “for a forced check-in” that would provide another opportunity to address policing issues.

One of the other main agenda items for the special session is a public construction borrowing package known as a bonding bill, which lawmakers didn't finish before last month's deadline for adjourning the 2020 regular session. Gazelka said he'd be willing to consider increasing the size of the package from $1.1 billion to $1.35 billion to provide money for rebuilding neighborhoods and businesses damaged during the protests over Floyd's death.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295001

Reported Deaths: 3535
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin624331107
Ramsey26238493
Anoka20851224
Dakota20527189
Stearns13245106
Washington13220111
St. Louis8141108
Scott798154
Wright720338
Olmsted639934
Sherburne552241
Clay473356
Carver443213
Blue Earth395813
Rice393335
Kandiyohi378719
Crow Wing344731
Nobles301429
Chisago29799
Otter Tail288820
Benton285847
Winona266629
Mower248523
Douglas242235
Polk238223
Morrison224027
Lyon206711
Beltrami202517
McLeod198511
Becker194015
Goodhue190628
Steele18336
Itasca179123
Isanti179016
Todd173912
Carlton170414
Nicollet154925
Freeborn14795
Mille Lacs145131
Le Sueur141111
Waseca135911
Cass133310
Brown131215
Pine12788
Meeker11638
Roseau11074
Hubbard107523
Martin105520
Wabasha9941
Redwood87518
Dodge8230
Chippewa8157
Watonwan8104
Cottonwood7942
Renville77322
Sibley7564
Wadena7476
Aitkin71729
Rock7149
Pipestone69618
Houston6534
Fillmore6510
Yellow Medicine61511
Pennington6137
Murray5623
Kanabec55713
Swift5448
Faribault5251
Pope5071
Clearwater4817
Stevens4813
Jackson4581
Marshall4508
Lake3916
Unassigned38659
Koochiching3675
Wilkin3605
Lac qui Parle3513
Lincoln3331
Norman3307
Big Stone2962
Mahnomen2834
Grant2566
Red Lake2033
Kittson2027
Traverse1391
Lake of the Woods941
Cook630

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 223783

Reported Deaths: 2330
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33166333
Linn13991164
Scott1100384
Black Hawk10795134
Woodbury10255124
Johnson940036
Dubuque913491
Story674921
Dallas629057
Pottawattamie617069
Sioux366725
Webster357033
Cerro Gordo349644
Marshall346345
Clinton322840
Buena Vista302214
Muscatine282668
Des Moines282419
Warren276411
Plymouth270641
Wapello251571
Jones228413
Jasper214643
Marion202919
Lee199416
Carroll196422
Bremer192612
Henry18107
Crawford174115
Benton167418
Tama153340
Jackson143013
Delaware141021
Washington138214
Dickinson135810
Boone134811
Mahaska126127
Wright12226
Buchanan115410
Clay11504
Hardin114010
Page11144
Hamilton11009
Clayton10875
Harrison106629
Cedar106213
Calhoun10607
Kossuth10426
Floyd103916
Mills10297
Fayette102210
Lyon10188
Butler9916
Poweshiek98213
Winneshiek95812
Iowa93012
Winnebago91323
Hancock8547
Louisa84916
Grundy84611
Chickasaw8424
Sac8407
Cherokee8214
Cass80222
Allamakee79011
Appanoose77910
Mitchell7794
Humboldt7635
Shelby76111
Union7576
Emmet74924
Guthrie74115
Franklin73421
Jefferson7062
Madison6764
Palo Alto6474
Unassigned6470
Keokuk5777
Pocahontas5572
Howard5489
Greene5170
Osceola5171
Ida48113
Clarke4774
Taylor4603
Davis4548
Montgomery45011
Monroe43912
Adair4298
Monona4272
Fremont3553
Van Buren3545
Worth3540
Lucas3226
Decatur3160
Audubon2952
Wayne2957
Ringgold2082
Adams1652
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