With clock ticking state budget, police reform agreements remain elusive

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The Minnesota Legislature had a self-imposed deadline of Friday to have final budget spreadsheets done to put some detail on a framework of a deal announced more than 10 days ago. So far, those details remain difficult to finalize.

However, Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says policy differences regarding police reform and the governor’s emergency powers are the biggest obstacles to an agreement.

"It will be tough because of all the things we disagree about, but my hope is we did the same thing two years ago and managed to figure it out, and we’ll figure it out again," Gazelka told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in an interview this week.

While Democrats in the Minnesota House insist there must be significant police reforms passed this year, Gazelka says the Republican focus has shifted to getting more police on the streets.

"A number of the House provisions we believe are anti-police, and we won’t do any of those," Gazelka says. "The rest of them we’re certainly willing to look at, but I would say right now I’m more focused on getting more police on the streets than any additional reforms."

Provisions he considers "anti-police" include civilian oversight panels and eliminating "qualified immunity" from individual lawsuits filed against police officers.

Gov. Tim Walz is aware of the Senate concerns but remains hopeful an agreement on police reform can be reached.

"I’m getting the impression that there still is conversation happening and there’s movement on both sides around reforms," the governor said this week. "Because I do believe that Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate understand we need to have reforms in policing and it’s not a simple you’re for the police, you’re against the police."

Although the Republican Senate wants the governor to give up his emergency powers, the governor is likely to request another 30-day extension on June 14.

The governor and Legislature would like to resolve all these issues, but the only one that must get done by June 30 is the state budget. It’s likely layoff notices and other preparations for a possible government shutdown will start happening early in June if no agreement appears likely soon.