ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz and Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday, May 12, stood alongside two dozen community and faith leaders and business owners to renew their calls for policing law changes at the state Capitol.
The push comes as the 2021 legislative session enters its final days and as lawmakers scramble to wrap up a state budget and several policy proposals. So far, the issue has split lawmakers on party lines with Democrats saying the package is essential to protecting Black and Indigenous Minnesotans, while Republicans said it was "anti-police."
Democrats, led by the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, have introduced proposals to require police agencies to share bodycam footage of violent incidents with family members, create citizen oversight boards, limit no-knock warrants and rein in the criteria for pulling over a driver in situations where they aren't endangering others. The plans are aimed at preventing police-involved deadly force situations in the state following the murder of George Floyd and the police killing of Daunte Wright.
Community leaders said they continued to feel fear and anxiety about the prospect of another deadly incident without action from the Legislature. And they urged senators who'd so far resisted the changes to take them up and pass them.
"We need change. And the Legislature is in a position to take meaningful action," the Rev. Alfred Babington-Johnson said Wednesday. "We stand together and we call for the Legislature to take quick action and send to the governor's desk these commonsense actions to move us toward the just society we all deserve."
The package's prospects at the Capitol remained in question Wednesday, despite Democrats' willingness to prioritize the legislation and to make it a facet of state budget negotiations.
"We're not done yet and we still have days left where we could get resolution to these issues that we're trying to solve with policy and lawmaking," Rep. Cedrick Frazier, D-New Hope, said. "The only barrier right now is our GOP senators that refuse to take action, that refuse to respond to the offers that we put on the table."
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, told reporters that Senate Republicans opposed many of the policies. And Senate GOP members of a conference committee weighing the proposal had previously voiced concerns about the package.
"We think that some of the police measures that they want to do are anti-police and they aren't good for actually keeping our streets safe and keeping enough police officers out there," he said.
Walz said in addition to holding the event to further highlight the push between faith groups, business groups and community advocates for reforms, he'd begun calling Republican lawmakers to individually address their concerns. He'd previously said he would use his remaining political capital to get the bill through the Statehouse. House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, on Wednesday said the policing law changes would be a "linchpin" in state budget deals.
"I remain hopeful. I spent the morning calling Republican senators and listening and that's on me, truly listening, not formulating my comeback, not already deciding what I was going to say but being mindful and in the moment and asking them, 'What can I do to help so that we can make some of these movements?'" Walz said. "I think there is some possibilities of getting there."