ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota lawmakers debating public safety budget, police accountability as deadline looms

The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate are expected to debate well into Tuesday night, as their June 30 deadline to wrap up state budgets looms

062821.MNBUDGET2.JPG
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, speak to reporters in the Minnesota Capitol on Monday, June 28, 2021. Sarah Mearhoff / Forum News Service
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — With just one day until all of Minnesota’s 13 state budgets are due on Gov. Tim Walz ’s desk, legislators finally settled their debate over the state’s politically hot public safety budget and associated policy reforms.

Lawmakers debated the omnibus well into the night on Tuesday, June 29, and into early Wednesday morning. The Democratic-controlled House passed the measure by a 75-59 vote, and the Republican-majority Senate by a 45-21 vote. Now, it can head to Walz's desk for his signature.

RELATED:

  • With 2 days to go, Minnesota lawmakers spar over police accountability reforms Lawmakers of color on Monday said the public safety package negotiated between top legislative leaders does not go far enough to address disproportionate rates of police violence toward Minnesotans of color.
  • Minn. House and Senate overcome public safety budget impasse — for the most part House and Senate leaders say there are "some minor issues" remaining between Democrats and Republicans, but they're confident the budget will be complete before lawmakers' June 30 deadline.

At the crux of the debate between Democrats and Republicans was how much the state needs to reform its policing and criminal justice statutes in the wake of George Floyd 's and Daunte Wright 's deaths at the hands of police in the state.

Democrats — particularly members of the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus — said the bill package doesn’t rise to meet the public’s demands for police reform. Republicans, meanwhile, accused their Democratic colleagues of being anti-police and pledged to shoot down any provisions they deem would make police officers’ jobs more difficult.

ADVERTISEMENT

The final bill package, largely negotiated between legislative leaders behind closed doors, includes some of Democrats' police reform priorities, like regulating officers' use of no-knock warrants and modifying the state's database on officer conduct complaints. But the package did not include some of the POCI Caucus's top issues, like ending police traffic stops for minor vehicle infractions, or extending the statute of limitations for police-involved deaths.

Rep. Cedrick Frazier, D-New Hope, said on the House floor Tuesday that he was "very disappointed ... very saddened by the fact that we failed Minnesotans, we have not met this moment." Raised in Chicago, Frazier told his colleagues that he believes he is "here (in Minnesota) for a reason" now, "to try to make Minnesota better, not only for fellow Minnesotans, but I have an obligation to my children."

"I don't want them to grow up fighting the same battles," he said, "the same battles that Martin Luther King, Jr. had to fight, the same battles that Malcolm X had to fight ... the same battles my grandfather had to fight. He grew up in the deep South and had to leave because he was almost killed because he was a Black man."

The omnibus is constitutionally required to fund the state’s Departments of Public Safety and Judiciary, which includes the salaries of state law enforcement, the state prison system, state courts and more. If those departments are not funded by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, June 30, they could see potential shutdowns. But as with many state budgets, the omnibus also includes policy changes.

On Monday, the Legislature’s People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus pledged to amend the House’s version of the bill on the floor in order to include their key policy positions. But Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said the Republican-dominated Senate would in all likelihood remove those amendments if the House attempted them. Ultimately, House Democrats didn't.

In a written statement following the Senate's vote early Wednesday morning, Gazelka said the omnibus was "one of the hardest bills to negotiate this session because there was so much passion on both sides of the issue."

"The Senate stood firm in its position that we would listen to all sides, but would not take any provision that was going to make it harder for public safety officials to do their job,” he said. “In the end, we have a quality bill that puts the safety of Minnesotans first, welcomed reforms that had broad support, and increased resources and training for public safety officials.”

Also on Tuesday, Walz signed three more budget bills into law: housing, environment and natural resources and health and human services.

ADVERTISEMENT

All 13 budget bills need to be completed by 11:59 p.m. June 30 in order to avoid state agency and services halts.

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 651-290-0707.
What to read next
All parties were wearing seat belts, roads were dry and alcohol was not a factor in the crash, the cause of which was unclear Sunday afternoon.
Authorities believe mother may have been involved in her daughter’s disappearance.
Children's father found dead at separate location
Casey Joe Arneson died after the UTV he was driving left the road, hit a tree and rolled.