As Chauvin trial looms, Walz and lawmakers at impasse over outside police help

Republicans on the Senate Finance committee advanced a new $15 million Derek Chauvin trial security funding package over Democrats' objections, yet the issue is far from settled. 

Gov. Tim Walz and lawmakers in the House and Senate are at impasse over paying for trial security. More talks are planned this weekend, but it's unlikely that a plan will be in place for the start of jury selection on March 8.

After initially refusing to kick in any state money, Senate Republicans are now proposing $15 million upfront for outside police help. It would be doled out by a 5-member panel of sheriffs and police chiefs. 

Yet their proposal includes several provisions that Democrats are objecting to. It excludes 2020 riot damage from state disaster relief funding, and would also delay by 6 months the implementation of the police accountability law approved last summer in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Walz favors a $35 million state fund, but his initial proposal failed in the House last week because of opposition from both parties. Democrats who control the chamber have not brought the bill back up for another vote.

Some Democrats oppose additional money for police without imposing tougher use-of-force accountability measures, while Republicans have characterized any state money as a "bailout" to Minneapolis.

"I think it’s important for people to remember, we are not scribes for the governor," said Republican Senator Michelle Benson. "When he asks us for something, he should expect a response that reflects our priorities as well."

But the package has floundered under the Capitol dome, with some critics arguing it’s a self-inflicted problem for the state’s largest city after the council cut millions from its police force.

"I still sometimes wonder why we’re doing this," said Republican Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen. "Let things happen that are going to happen and deal with it later. Cops are cops and they’re not not going to work and do public safety."

Thursday, Senate Republicans on the finance committee passed their own $15 million security package. The measure calls for the funds to be distributed by a five-member panel of sheriffs and police chiefs.

Mayor Frey told reporters this week that city revenues are suffering significantly because of COVID-19 and Minneapolis, which pays its fair share of state taxes versus what it gets back in aid, needs help to ensure law and order throughout the trial.

"The state of Minnesota is an ecosystem and that ecosystem is certainly dependent on its largest city in Minneapolis," said Frey. "We have and will continue to step up to support the rest of the state."

Thursday morning, the Minneapolis Regional Chamber—which supports the $35 million state fund—released a report showing Minneapolis pays $1.4 billion more in state taxes than it receives in a year. 

Walz has said his administration will be forced to adjust security plans during the trial if lawmakers don't pass a funding package. The state has signed agreements for hundreds of police officers from outside agencies, but some of those agencies are seeking a guarantee of reimbursement.

At its Friday morning meeting, the Minneapolis City Council will consider capping mutual aid costs at $1.5 million and overtime costs at $90 per hour if the state doesn't pass a funding package.