MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What appeared to be a possible compromise on police accountability and COVID-19 funds fell apart in early hours of Saturday morning as the Minnesota legislature voted to adjourn the special session.
The session started on June 12, with high hopes of police reform after George Floyd’s death. But throughout the week, it became apparent that the Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House had different expectations.
The House proposals, developed by the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, included bills on the ban on warrior-style training for officers and residency requirements for police. Currently, only 8% of Minneapolis police live in the city.
Republicans ruled out many of the House’s proposals, including one that would have the state attorney general – Keith Ellison – prosecute all cases of police deadly force. Democrats also tried to put forth a bill that would restore voting rights for felons, but that was also denied by Republicans.
“This one was truly supposed to be session where we heard people of color, Indigenous folks, who are crying out for reform, and those calls went unanswered,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.
At 6 a.m. on Saturday, after a week of negotiations, the legislature voted to adjourn, 35-32.
At a Saturday afternoon press conference, Gov. Tim Walz was visibly angry at the Senate. He said the legislature failed Minnesotans this week.
“The people of Minnesota should certainly be deeply disappointed. This is a failure to move things, a failure to engage. It seems like there’s a tendency in legislative bodies to place blame on everyone else. I’m not really interested in that, I just want results,” he said.
“It’s a primal scream for justice,” he said, referencing the thousands of people who have protested police violence since Floyd’s death. “Just do something. Just do the work.”
According to Walz, the House had sent over the first counteroffer at 10:30 p.m. Friday night. It’s normal, Walz said, that 10 or 15 counteroffers go back and forth between the House and Senate before a collaborative decision is made.
However, the Senate chose to sit on the offer for seven hours – without providing a counter – before they voted to adjourn.
“I’m frustrated this morning because I thought we were actually going to do some things together,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “We had the opportunity to do good things for the Senate with the federal COVID funds, pass a bonding bill, and reform police accountability. I actually thought we could get something done, but the behind-the-scenes arm-twisting from the Governor has ended any hope of working together right now.”
For the Republicans, one of their major priorities was ending Gov. Walz’s emergency powers. They have been trying to end his powers since May, when the regular legislative session ended in shambles after the Senate refused to pass Walz’s $2 billion bonding bill. As a result, critical jobs, construction projects, and education funding were left hanging in the balance.
“No arm-twisting here other than to stay here and do the work,” said Walz. “I guarantee you you can not pass legislation tweeting from Nisswa,” Walz said, referencing Gazelka’s tweet showing his visit to a coffee shop.
The House and the Senate adjourned with no specific date to return. Walz did not indicate when he will call another special session.