Walz set to call special session for Monday

The Minnsota State Government Mall
The legislative session will be triggered by an extension of the peacetime authority Gov. Tim Walz has used to manage Minnesota’s COVID-19 response.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Administration

Updated: 6:53 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz is prepared to call Minnesota lawmakers into a special session that would begin Monday. 

The legislative session will be triggered by an extension of the peacetime authority Walz has used to manage Minnesota’s COVID-19 response. Lawmakers can revoke the executive power of the Democratic governor if both chambers vote to do so. That outcome is unlikely with DFLers in charge of the House.

The first special session this summer ended without much to show for it. Disagreements over changes to policing and a package of state-financed construction projects left both undone.

Walz said he intends to call lawmakers back for an open-ended session to coincide with the 30-day extension of the peacetime emergency. But he said other issues should get top billing.

“Obviously we cannot walk away without doing some police reforms in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder,” he said at an event Tuesday focused on child care assistance grants. “And we also have bonding that is part of the economy that is really important and some supplemental issues that need to be addressed.”

Several DFL lawmakers Tuesday criticized Republicans for not working with them on a police accountability bill. 

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DFL Sen. Jeff Hayden, who represents the area of south Minneapolis where Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, said Senate Democrats are prepared to block a public works construction bill if they can't get a deal with Republicans on changes to policing.

"We want to send a strong message to our Senate Republican colleagues to get at the table, to find a solution, to negotiate in good faith and to pass these common-sense, structural transformational reforms to our criminal justice system.”

The Republican-controlled Senate did pass some changes last month, but Democrats said they weren't enough.

“The Senate GOP supports police reforms like banning chokeholds and de-escalation training. However, we won’t support any DFL ‘reforms’ that defund or dismantle the police,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, tweeted in response to the DFL news conference. Democrats say their proposals never included defunding or dismantling the police.

Walz said he spoke extensively with legislative leaders on Monday in an effort to sort through some areas of contention early.

“I am optimistic,” Walz said. “It was bipartisan. There were positions that were being staked out. But it was in the best intentions of Minnesotans.”

MPR News reporter Mark Zdechlik contributed to this story.