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Walz extends peacetime emergency through August 12; legislature targets police reform, bonding bill

Gov. Tim Walz on June 10 calls the Minnesota Legislature back for a special session focusing on police reform and a bonding bill.

(The Center Square) – The Minnesota legislature kicked off its second special session Monday, and Gov. Tim Walz signed Executive Order 20-78, extending the COVID-19 peacetime emergency through Aug. 12.

Walz first declared a peacetime emergency on March 13.

“COVID-19 continues to present an unprecedented and rapidly evolving challenge to our state,” Walz said in a statement. “The peacetime emergency has provided us tools to save lives and mitigate the devastating impacts of this pandemic. As cases skyrocket in other states, we can’t let our guard down now.”

The latest order extends $50 million of federal funding per month and prior executive orders.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 36-31 Monday to revoke those emergency powers.

The DFL-dominated House says it will vote to keep those powers.

The Senate also adopted a resolution to adjourn until next Monday to allow the House to work through bills.

The chambers will again attempt to reach common ground on police reform and a billion-dollar bonding bill, but the chambers are still divided on certain issues.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R- East Gull Lake, said the state was no longer in an emergency, citing a lowered number of filled intensive care unit beds and deaths, although there was a higher number of COVID-19 cases.

“There are many things that the governor has emergency powers over that we’re saying that must end, and we need to get back to a place where the House and Senate have equal footing with the executive branch,” Gazelka said.

Gazelka said Senate Republicans were willing to work with Democrats to ban police chokeholds, require other officers to intervene, add use of force language, and augment mental health resources for officers.

But Gazelka drew the line at defunding or dismantling police departments, allowing felons to vote, and increasing the power of Attorney General Keith Ellison in regards to police-involved deaths.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, noted that police reform should include banning chokeholds, “warrior”-style training, and approving a sanctity-of-life rule.

“I don’t think that failure is an option on police reform and accountability,” she said.

Hortman defended Walz’ powers, saying that “the emergency isn’t over.”

The speaker said the bonding bill and Republicans’ tax cuts to small businesses were tied together because each bill couldn’t gather enough votes on their own.

Hortman said the House Ways and Means Committee plans to discuss an apparent bonding bill deal with Senate Republicans Tuesday that includes $1.35 billion in general obligation bonds, $300 million for trunk highways, $147 million in general appropriation bonds, and $38 million in cash for other projects.

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