The Potluck

House DFL poised to approve wide-ranging police reform package

By: - June 18, 2020 12:51 pm

State Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, said she was insulted by the police reform bills advanced by the Senate Republicans this week.

The House DFL is poised to pass a lengthy list of police reform and accountability measures Thursday night, even as Senate Republicans are set to adjourn the special legislative session after passing a much more limited set of measures this week. 

Gov. Tim Walz, surrounded by public safety and DFL elected officials Thursday, urged Republicans to extend the legislative session until more wide-ranging reform is approved. “So far we’re still in gridlock,” he said. “We’ve had the entire week to move things, but now is the time.”

A handful of states across the country have already passed police reforms — including New York, Iowa, Colorado and California — in the wake of the May 25 Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Minnesota, which has the only divided Legislature in the country, is the middle of a bruising political battle that has exposed sharp racial divisions. 

Walz, who has now held two press conference in recent days with members of the bicameral People of Color and Indegenous Caucus (POCI), called the GOP bills “weak sauce.”

The Senate GOP package adds money for diversity training; bans chokeholds and neck restraints in most instances and adds a requirement to intervene and report in cases of excessive force. 

Their proposals also include new data reporting requirements: any use of force that leads to death or injury must be reported to the state. Another measure sponsored by former Douglas County sheriff and state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, would guarantee confidentiality for police officers and other first responders who seek peer counseling after a so-called critical incident. 

State Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, one of the few Black House lawmakers, demanded Republicans adopt measures that would have “teeth” and hold police officers accountable. 

“When I saw the senator’s bills, I was insulted,” she said. “And so many, many more from the community and across the world are insulted, that that’s what the Senate put forth. That has no accountability, no systemic change.”

In a tweet from their official Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus account, Republicans pushed back. “Weak sauce? We introduced seven different law enforcement accountability measures and added two more from DFL amendments on the floor.” 

The House DFL’s package includes provisions Republicans have sharply criticized, including assigning responsibility for investigating police shootings to the attorney general’s office. Gazelka said Tuesday that Ellison’s past roles as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee is a problem. “There’s no way that can be nonpartisan,” he said. 

Republicans also opposed the restoration of felon voting rights. Felons can currently vote after completing their prison term and any period of parole and probation. The DFL wants voting rights restored as soon as they are released. Republicans are also seeking to ban efforts under discussion by the Minneapolis City Council to abolish or defund their police department. “We are never going to do that,” Gazelka said

Senate Republicans are expected to hold a 1 p.m. news conference to give an update on special session negotiations. 

The Legislature is also considering a major public works package, as well as economic and public health measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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