Gov. Walz says legislative gridlock on police reforms is an 'embarrassment'

Speaking Saturday, Governor Tim Walz said it was an "embarrassment" to see Minnesota lawmakers go home overnight without reaching a deal on significant police reforms, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked calls for changes across the United States.

Overnight, Senate Republicans wrapped up a week-long special session without reaching a compromise with Democrats on their package of police changes.

"Obviously, we are disappointed that the choice to go home before doing the work was made," said Walz.

Despite having no official deadline, Senate Republicans had promised to give a week to consider changes but promised to end the session on Friday. Friday evening, the Republican caucus made what they called "one final offer" on police changes for Democrats.

The Republican package offered increased funding for officer training, mental health programs, some changes to the arbitration process for removing an officer, and a ban on chokeholds. However, Republicans drew the line on three issues: 1.) Defunding any police force, 2.) Giving the attorney general jurisdiction over police-involved deaths, and 3.) Restoring voting rights for felons.

Democrats on the other hand weren't satisfied with the proposed changes from the Republican Senators, saying it failed to execute any real change.

"Minor changes can't fix major problems," said Democratic Senator Jeff Hayden, shortly after the Republicans presented their offer. "So I think all of you guys saw what Senator Gazelka, the Republican Caucus brought, they're very minor changes."

Earlier in the week, Governor Walz had called the Republicans proposals "weak sauce legislation" in the face of the calls for change after George Floyd's death.

Around 10:30 p.m., about two hours after the Republicans made their offer, Democrats submitted a counteroffer. However, Governor Walz says Democratic lawmakers never heard back from the Republicans.

"No answer was given," said Walz, "Senate adjourned without saying what was wrong with that offer on accountability, what was wrong with those issues."

Republican leaders did say they would consider returning for a follow-up session in the future, if lawmakers could find some common ground on policing changes.

Walz said while the Senate Republicans had made the Friday deadline clear, he didn't think they would actually leave without getting something passed. And he isn't sure calling another session would do any good at this point.

"The desire to take that ball and go home is pretty shocking," said Walz. "I think I'd be naive to think they wouldn't just do that again."