Apr 30, 2021 - News

Police reform comes down to the wire in divided Minnesota legislature

Illustration of many magnifying glasses examining a police badge

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Calls for additional action on police accountability face an uncertain fate in Minnesota's divided Legislature, with two weeks to go in the session.

Driving the news: Gov. Tim Walz and legislative Democrats have renewed a push for additional changes in the wake of the police shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center and last week's verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

  • "It's on our state's policymakers to ensure that last week's guilty verdict was just a first step towards true justice," Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said at a news conference yesterday.

Yes, but: A number of the proposals lack support from Republicans and key law enforcement groups. Senate majority leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) says he doesn't want to rush major changes through in the final stretch, especially after the Legislature already passed a major reform package last July.

  • Any new provisions would need bipartisan backing and police groups "must be at the table," he added.

The details: The DFL's public safety package includes limiting traffic enforcement stops for minor violations, adding more civilian oversight of police and curbing use of no-knock warrants.

State of play: The DFL governor pledged to use his political capital to push the proposal through, but it's not clear what levers he'd actually pull and whether they'd be effective in moving Republicans.

  • He wants the package to be part of broader end-of-session negotiations, but stopped short of saying he'd veto a spending package that doesn't include the changes.
  • "I don’t draw red lines before we start," he said Thursday.
  • Gazelka, meanwhile, opposes linking the budget and police measures.

Between the lines: Last summer's deal came together with involvement and support from police groups, the business community and members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus.

  • A similar convening hasn't happened yet this season.

What's next: A conference committee of members from both chambers will meet Monday to start hashing out the public safety budget bill — the most likely vehicle for policy changes.

The bottom line: There are probably some areas where both sides can agree. But given that just 17 days remain — and the budget and other big issues loom — major changes sought by some Democrats appear less likely.


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