An armored vehicle guards the Hennepin County Court House on March 8, where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is standing trial for murder for killing George Floyd. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.
The Minnesota Senate voted 35-32 to approve a plan backed by the Republican majority that calls for $20 million to pay for anticipated security costs during the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The vote was largely along party lines, attracting a single DFL vote from state Sen. Kent Eken of Twin Valley. The chamber’s two independents, state Sens. Tom Bakk of Cook and David Tomassoni of Chisholm voted against it.
Republicans scheduled the vote on the first day of the trial of Chauvin, who is accused of murdering George Floyd last summer.
“Keeping the streets safe is what people expect from their government,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R- East Gull Lake, said in a statement. “In times of extraordinary need, law enforcement officers from across the state stepped up to keep us all safe. This bill puts safety first for every Minnesotan while supporting law enforcement with the resources they need.”
GOP and Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers clashed over the proposal, which Democrats decried for its lack of police reforms, as well as other changes they said would harm Minneapolis.
Sponsored by state Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, the measure would also exclude catastrophes caused by civil disorder from the definition of “disaster” for the purpose of determining eligibility for state assistance. Under current law, the definition of “disaster” includes any fire, flood, or explosion, regardless of cause.
Weber also successfully amended the bill to add an additional $5 million to the fund, for a total of $20 million available.
“The bill today is not focused on public safety or a more just future — it aims to penalize the people of Minneapolis and continues to attack Gov. (Tim) Walz and his work to bring Minnesotans together,” Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, said in a statement.
Lawmakers have been deliberating for weeks on how to best pay for the costs of the massive law enforcement presence during the trial. The Senate previously approved a measure that would have diverted local government aid to Minneapolis to pay for its mutual aid bills, but that bill has not advanced in the DFL-majority House.
Walz, the first term DFL governor, had originally proposed a $35 million fund to reimburse law enforcement agencies that assist Minneapolis with security through the use of mutual aid agreements.
Walz proposed that the money be distributed by the Department of Public Safety.
Under the Senate GOP bill, however, reimbursements would be controlled by a panel of police chiefs and sheriffs appointed by the Minnesota Sheriffs Association and the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.
A House DFL effort to pass Walz’s plan previously failed and has since stalled. Republicans object to the policy changes in the bill, calling them “controversial.” Some Minneapolis House members also objected, but over concerns that the bill language did not include more forceful measures to rein in law enforcement agencies — whom they see as responsible for an overly aggressive response to last summer’s protests.
Gazelka said Republicans would press ahead despite not having an agreement from the House.
“The negotiations are absolutely continuing,” Gazelka said. “This particular bill is not agreed upon because, frankly, in the House they cannot even agree themselves because too many think we should be going the other way and defunding the police.”
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