ST. PAUL — Minnesota state lawmakers will return for another special legislative session on Monday, July 13, to weigh an extension of the state's peacetime emergency to combat the coronavirus, consider a bill to fund public construction projects and potentially compromise on police reform bills.
Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday, July 7, confirmed he would call lawmakers back a month after they left the Capitol with no meaningful progress on any of either the bonding bill or police reform measures.
Walz told reporters that he'd been in contact with legislative leaders and key lawmakers continued work behind the scenes to reach agreements on legislative priorities. And he said he was optimistic that this time lawmakers in the divided Legislature would be able to strike deals at the Capitol.
"I think what we're trying to do is lay the groundwork for what that looks like. Obviously, we cannot walk away without doing some police reforms in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder, and we also have bonding that is part of the economy that is going to be really important and some supplemental issues that need to be addressed," Walz said. "I think for Minnesotans as they see a hyperpartisan environment, I can tell you this, that the legislative session is working, that there is a commitment to try and get it done."
But members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus on Tuesday said Republicans weren't coming to the table to negotiate police reform measures. And without them, they said they would hold up other policy priorities like a bonding bill.
“Minnesota is united in our call for justice for George Floyd,” Rep. Rena Moran, D-St. Paul, said. "The Senate GOP needs to show Minnesotans that we all need to be accountable for bad behavior and that includes police officers who are sworn to serve and protect."
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, on Twitter said Republicans continued to support some changes like banning chokeholds, but continued to have concerns about other measures like increasing the role of community members in policing and police accountability.
If Walz plans to extend the state's peacetime emergency to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, he will have to call lawmakers back to give them the option to veto the move. Most states have peacetime emergencies in effect to allow them to draw down federal aid funds and activate the National Guard.
Walz has said he likely will add another 30 days to the peacetime emergency and, in doing so, further his enhanced executive authority. Republicans have said they oppose the move as it gives too much power to the governor, while Democrats have said they support it as the divided Legislature can't act quickly enough to address the pandemic and its effects on Minnesota.