ST. PAUL (WCCO) – Gov. Tim Walz and Democrats are doubling down on their calls for more police policy changes as the session clock runs out next month. But Republicans in the Senate—whose support they need for that to happen—make a final deal far from certain.
“I am fearful that there’s a run-out-the-clock mentality and that we will just go away,” Walz said Thursday during a news conference with DFL lawmakers and a lone member of the New Republican caucus in the House, urging the GOP-led Senate to act.READ MORE: Man Dead, Woman In Critical Condition After Overnight Shooting In South Minneapolis
Proposals that have already passed the House include limiting no-knock warrants, changing how police should approach traffic stops and requiring release of body camera footage within 48 hours when officers use deadly force.
Democrats and community advocates who have been pressing for more law changes say this moment is a unique opportunity to making significant changes to policing in Minnesota in the wake of Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction for George Floyd’s death last summer, which touched off protests around the country.
“Before we had a guilty verdict, we had a guilty system, and it is time that the GOP Senate act on this reality,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope. “This bill doesn’t have to be anti-police. It’s going to be up to the Senate to choose how they value Black lives.”
On Monday, the two chambers will have their first conference committee hearing – which brings some members from the House and Senate together to walk through their differences – on public safety.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka promised to hold fact-finding hearings in the wake of Daunte Wright’s death but has since walked back that pledge, leaving discussions up to the conference committee process and private meetings between legislative leaders.
He still is not committing to passage of any policy and it is not a top priority for the caucus, which Gazelka said is concerned about the mistreatment of police and wants law enforcement’s perspective in any discussion.READ MORE: 'We Don't Have To Do It': Mask Mandate Confusion Abound In Twin Cities
“I think there easily could be things that come out of that, I just don’t want to promise things because it’s important for the committee process to work,” Gazelka said Thursday afternoon, responding to the Democrats’ news conference.
The Chauvin verdict made any more police legislation less urgent, Gazelka said, citing the need to pass a budget to fund state government in the next three weeks.
“Nobody can say that the verdict in the Chauvin case was unjust,” he said. “Once that happened, the pressure here went down dramatically because people thought they got a fair judgment there.”
“So the combination of that with the fact that we’ve passed police accountability reforms last year, tells me we’re in a good spot to take a look at it – do we need to do anything else – but it doesn’t feel as urgent as making sure making sure we get the budget done so the state keeps open,” he added.
Walz following the verdict said he would “burn all his political capital” on the issue and use his platform as governor to amplify the cause.
But when asked if he would block a budget by his veto power in order to make something happen, he said he’s not considering it at this time.MORE NEWS: Police Reform A Major Sticking Point As Legislative Session Nears Its End
“I don’t draw the red lines before we even start because I think that makes it hard,” Walz said of the two-year budget lawmakers must pass to avert a government shutdown. “They always start every conversation on the budget on taxes. I’m sure [Gazelka] is going to want to have a conversation on the fifth-tier tax. I’m going to make clear that we can have that conversation, but we’re also going to have this conversation.”