Minnesota Police Reform Passed, Bonding Bill Stalled
Minnesota lawmakers adjourned early Tuesday after approving a police reform bill. However, the DFL-controlled House couldn’t get enough votes to approve a bonding bill package that contains several projects impacting northwest suburbs.
The policing bill would ban chokeholds in all but extreme circumstances and prohibit ‘warrior training’ that encourages aggressive police conduct. It would also require officers to intervene when another officer is seen as using excessive force. And the bill calls for a new state oversight body to investigate cases of police brutality. The legislative action comes eight weeks after the Memorial Day death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
The House approved the measure late Monday night by a vote of 102-29. The Senate passed it 60-7 about two hours later. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has indicated he will sign it.
“The bill we’ve agreed on this special session is based on common-sense reforms that Minnesotans, police officers, and community leaders can support,” said Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, in a statement.
DFL Leaders: “It’s not nearly enough”
DFL leaders, including House Speaker Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park, say the policing bill is a step in the right direction. However, it’s not as robust as some DFLers had hoped for. For instance, it does not give responsibility for prosecuting deadly force cases to the attorney general’s office, a proposal pushed for by Democrats.
“It’s not nearly enough, but it’s an incredible step forward,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman during a press conference Tuesday morning.
The bill, however, does provide a slate of police accountability and training measures. They include:
- Enhancing police training for mental health and crisis intervention through establishment of a Critical Incident Stress Management Team.
- Team would help emergency service providers in coping with stress and potential psychological trauma resulting from critical incidents.
- Peace officers would receive more training on responding to people in crisis and de-escalation techniques. Bill also requires autism awareness training for officers.
- Creating 15-member advisory council to assist Peace Officers Standards and Training Board in maintaining policies that ensures protection of civil rights. The council shall provide for citizen involvement.
- Establishing independent Use of Force Investigations Unit in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate officer-involved death cases, conflict of interest cases and criminal sexual conduct cases involving peace officers. This unit would sunset in four years.
“Our work on this important legislation was led by Representatives Mariani and Moran, and the members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus,” said Hortman. “We are grateful for their leadership and work.”
Bonding Bill Stalled, No State Funding for Local Projects
While a police reform bill did get approved, a nearly $1.8 billion bonding bill for infrastructure and road projects fell short of the necessary votes. The bonding bill requires a three-fifths supermajority vote in each chamber to get approved. The Minnesota House voted along party lines 75-57 in favor. The bill needs 81 votes to pass.
Hortman said Tuesday morning that the minority GOP House caucus made it clear to her that no bonding bill would get passed until August. Lawmakers face another automatic special session in three weeks if Governor Tim Walz extends his peacetime emergency authority for another 30 days. However, Walz indicated a bonding bill won’t happen in August because the state is selling bonds then and doesn’t want to halt current projects then. Walz compared it to getting a home loan and not wanting to take out another loan at that time.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said the bonding bill includes several non-starters, including language for Bottineau Light Rail, which would run from downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park. Daudt says his caucus would not vote on a bonding bill until Governor Walz gives up his emergency powers that Walz has used during the COVID-19 pandemic to restrict capacity of restaurants and other business restrictions.