MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In a joint conference committee, tensions were heightened as members of the Minnesota House and Senate shared each side’s starting points on police reform.

The framework of the conversation was the less-robust, more-affordable Senate version, in which counsel went line-by-line to compare similar proposals by the House. It deliberately prioritized budget-related measures because, according to Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), those issues have a higher chance of passing in a budget year such as 2021.

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House members who pushed back did so on police reform proposals not necessarily tied to the budget.

One element at issue: blocking police officers from having ties to white supremacist groups.

Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope), who said his hope is that senators do not use the budget year as an excuse to avoid conversations around police accountability, asked Limmer why Republican senators voted down the language banning police ties to white supremacy groups.

“Thank you Rep. Frazier. The way the amendment was written we had a question whether there was a constitutional issue in that particular proposal,” Limmer responded.

Limmer said the bill in question is a budget bill and should be limited to related issues.

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“I am just going to respectfully disagree on that point. This is an omnibus bill so it includes more than just budget issues,” Frazier said, citing the march this weekend led by Daunte Wright’s family demanding police reforms.

This was the first of at least six meetings this week where the Senate will try and reconcile its 79-page bill with the House’s 354-page bill. Both sides are predicting tense negotiations.

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.

Last year, after George Floyd’s death, the tipping point to getting a compromise on police reform was the business community weighing in. Behind the scenes, that is already happening again this year. With two weeks left in the session, we soon find out if any compromise is possible.

The People of Color and Indigenous Caucus set Monday as the date they’d like a vote in each chamber; clearly that is not going to happen.

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The next conference committee meeting on police reform is Tuesday at 1 p.m. The session ends May 17.

Esme Murphy