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: 490011

Reported Deaths: 6618
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1016821593
Ramsey43388811
Dakota36714394
Anoka33545392
Washington22247262
Stearns18847202
St. Louis14915265
Scott13445107
Wright12635116
Olmsted1187890
Sherburne879474
Carver790941
Clay696288
Rice678691
Blue Earth604435
Kandiyohi582274
Crow Wing523682
Chisago502945
Otter Tail487171
Benton451890
Winona419749
Mower411931
Douglas395068
Goodhue390169
Nobles387347
Polk345363
McLeod341950
Beltrami339151
Morrison328147
Itasca315346
Becker315143
Lyon314045
Isanti310056
Steele304311
Carlton300649
Freeborn287124
Pine283616
Nicollet263341
Todd250330
Brown249137
Le Sueur238620
Mille Lacs230047
Cass221424
Waseca211217
Meeker208534
Martin190829
Wabasha18733
Roseau181017
Hubbard161041
Houston158214
Dodge15464
Renville152940
Redwood147127
Fillmore14029
Pennington139816
Chippewa137035
Cottonwood136120
Wadena131520
Faribault125017
Aitkin119233
Sibley118310
Watonwan11838
Rock116314
Kanabec109120
Pipestone101924
Yellow Medicine97817
Murray9548
Jackson94710
Swift87818
Pope8185
Marshall78715
Stevens7478
Lake74318
Clearwater72014
Lac qui Parle68816
Wilkin67711
Koochiching62111
Big Stone5173
Lincoln5122
Grant4928
Norman4808
Unassigned45368
Mahnomen4437
Kittson41121
Red Lake3615
Traverse3115
Lake of the Woods2231
Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 337836

Reported Deaths: 5500
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk52116562
Linn19519317
Scott17180213
Black Hawk14973294
Woodbury13858214
Johnson1317875
Dubuque12452196
Dallas1023593
Pottawattamie9899146
Story965445
Warren515176
Clinton502884
Cerro Gordo501483
Webster495888
Sioux480469
Marshall465473
Des Moines428661
Muscatine426493
Buena Vista413337
Wapello4059110
Jasper388167
Plymouth369178
Lee354653
Marion341772
Jones285355
Henry279837
Bremer270655
Carroll266848
Crawford253435
Boone244830
Benton241554
Washington239247
Mahaska215846
Jackson210339
Dickinson204340
Tama203165
Kossuth198655
Delaware186340
Clay184525
Winneshiek183729
Fayette179535
Page178119
Buchanan178029
Wright174531
Hamilton173942
Cedar172923
Hardin170339
Harrison167870
Clayton160154
Butler159331
Mills148520
Floyd148141
Poweshiek148030
Cherokee146336
Lyon145741
Allamakee144948
Madison143318
Iowa140723
Hancock138030
Grundy132530
Winnebago130531
Calhoun129711
Cass129751
Jefferson128534
Appanoose123447
Louisa122644
Mitchell120740
Chickasaw119915
Union119331
Sac118818
Shelby117634
Emmet115440
Humboldt113925
Franklin109719
Guthrie109728
Palo Alto101721
Howard99722
Unassigned9790
Montgomery97036
Clarke95220
Keokuk92429
Monroe90028
Ida82132
Adair81630
Pocahontas80919
Davis76623
Monona76527
Greene73110
Lucas72321
Osceola68315
Worth6678
Taylor64112
Decatur5719
Fremont5619
Van Buren53818
Ringgold50720
Audubon4769
Wayne47521
Adams3194
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