Special session underway in MN Capitol

The Minnesota Legislature reconvened Friday, after being called to a special session by Gov. Tim Walz.

Big items on their docket include the bonding bill, police reform and, according to Bemidji’s representative John Persell, distributing federal COVID-19 dollars.

Gov. Walz extended the peacetime state of emergency Friday, and the Republican-controlled Senate voted to end the Governor’s emergency powers, but the measure failed in the House.

Day-long committee hearings on police reform commenced in the Legislature Friday and continued through the weekend, and 18 bills were introduced by members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, many of the bills arising from recommendations of the Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters Working Group, chaired by Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Some of these measures include bills to improve police-community relations, launching a community-led policing office, hiring, such as residency requirements for peace officers, and enhanced training for mental health and autism.

“Warrior training,” or training for peace officers that teaches that self-preservation is an officer’s highest priority, or that trains officers to approach each interaction with a citizen as a potential threat to an officer’s safety, would be prohibited under the bill.

Other measures cover use of force during an incident, such as changing parameters for its use, a ban on choke holds, and “duty to intercede,” which would establish a duty of an officer to intercede when another officer is using unreasonable force.

The Republican-controlled Iowa legislature unanimously passed a police reform bill Thursday, which bans chokeholds except in life or death situations, prevents officers with a history of misconduct from being hired in Iowa, and allows the state’s attorney general to investigate deaths caused by officers.

Read more on the bills introduced by MN POCI Caucus here.

Some of these measures have support in both the DFL-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate.

Minnesota’s Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka expects to adjourn this Friday.

The bonding bill remains up in the air, which includes millions of dollars for Bemidji’s water treatment plant.

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