Minnesota Legislature special session ends early Saturday, no major bills passed

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After nearly 18 hours of meetings and floor discussions – on the last day of the special session – Minnesota lawmakers failed to get any legislation to Gov. Tim Walz.

A few main topics were police reform and accountability, locking in money for local governments for COVID-19 resources, and a bonding bill.

Just before the Senate vote to end the special session, Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, addressed the floor.

“I’m frustrated this morning because I thought we were actually going to do some things together," he said. "We had the opportunity to do good things for the state with the federal COVID funds, pass a bonding bill, and reform police accountability. I actually thought we could get something done, but the behind-the-scenes arm-twisting from the governor has ended any hope of working together right now.”

Despite both the Senate and House individually passing legislation, legislators toed their party lines, and the two chambers could not reach an agreement on anything major, thus not getting any legislation to the governor.

Again, police reform and accountability was a top priority. The DFL had suggested more proposals and possible changes. As for the Senate, they stated they had comprised parts of their list and felt it was fair.

“The Minnesota House DFL is ready and willing to continue working to find agreement with Senate Republicans and the governor on policing reform and accountability, addressing COVID19 and its economic impacts, bonding, taxes, and much more,” said Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. “This moment in history calls upon us to deliver transformative policy to further racial justice. There is nothing more pressing than the need to change law and policy so that it values and protects the lives of Black, Indigenous, and people of color in Minnesota.”

As the session wrapped up, some Senate Republicans expressed frustrations with what they called the governor’s lack of communication. The House DFL is upset about having to end the session after having no choice when the Senate voted to end it Saturday morning.

In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Walz said legislators let down Minnesotans who have been protesting and demanding change over the past few weeks.

"The people of Minnesota should certainly be deeply disappointed," Walz said. "This is a failure to move things. It’s a failure to engage. It seems like it’s a tendency now in legislative bodies to place blame on everyone else. I’m not really interested in that — I just want results."

According to the Associated Press, the special session was necessary for Gov. Walz to extend emergency powers necessary to manage the coronavirus, but George Floyd’s May 25 death after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes put the main focus on proposals to change policing in the state.

"The fact of the matter is we didn’t have enough time to take on issues of that scale in one week. It’s unfortunate that a one-week deadline by the Senate was put on the table and they pulled through on it – I think we were making progress. Even though we are officially adjourned, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to continue to negotiate and bring packages of legislation together," said Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.

"The Senate put forward 11 criminal justice reforms, the House had 22 at the end, but I actually thought that we were going to get something done until late, late last night," added Gazelka.

If Gov. Walz decides to extend his emergency powers for an additional 30 days, lawmakers are able to return in mid-July.