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Minnesota Senate GOP to block most policing overhaul plans

Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says there’s only a limited amount time to act because lawmakers intend to adjourn the special session next Friday.
Credit: Gordon Severson

ST PAUL, Minn. — Key Republican lawmakers in Minnesota said Friday that they’ll block most of an ambitious effort by Democrats to remake policing in the state where George Floyd died and that they plan to approve only a limited set of police accountability measures.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Warren Limmer, laid out their agenda shortly before the Legislature convened for a special session. They said there's only a limited amount of time to act because they intend to adjourn next Friday no matter what.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and the House Democratic majority are backing a slate of proposals from the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus. They’ve been rolled into three bills on the themes of “Reclaiming Community Oversight,” “Reforming Accountability” and “Reimagining Public Safety.” The first House committee hearing on those bills is set for Saturday.

RELATED: Gov. Walz, DFL state leaders announce police reform, accountability legislative package

Gazelka told reporters that Senate Republicans' top priority would be a vote later Friday to end the emergency powers that Walz has used to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limmer said the five policing bills the Senate will pass before next Friday will include some of the noncontroversial Democratic proposals.

But Democratic House Majority Ryan Winkler said the Senate Republican plan is too weak and falls short of what the moment requires.

The special session was already in the works before protests erupted in Minneapolis and spread around the world over Floyd's death in police custody. Walz called it so he could extend his emergency authority. House Democrats are expected to block the Republican attempt to lift those powers.

RELATED: Minneapolis city council approves year-long process to rebuild public safety