Minnesota House passes police accountability measures after Chauvin verdict

State lawmakers are moving forward with new accountability measures for law enforcement. After hours of debate, the Minnesota House passed a finance bill containing public safety, criminal justice reform and civil law legislation on a vote of 70 to 63. 

The bill passed with a vote of 70 to 63. The bill would would ban traffic stops for expired tabs or window tint, restrict no-knock warrants and expand the power of Minnesota’s police oversight board. According to a news release, the bill invests in more tools for law enforcement, including $14 million over the next four years for local police to issue body-worn cameras and reform-focused training.

Democrats said the Derek Chauvin verdict had given them momentum to push for police accountability measures, and Gov. Tim Walz is vowing to exert pressure on Republicans who don't go along. But in Minnesota's divided Legislature, Republicans who control the Senate are not promising to pass bills before the session ends in mid-May.

"I would hope (the verdict) would have a big effect in terms of a resolve on the part of our colleagues to never, ever see this again," House Public Safety committee chairman Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, told reporters.

But Walz said he was worried about the opposite effect: a stalling out after the verdict. The governor, a first-term Democrat, said he would "burn my political capital" to get something done this session.

"This white-hot spotlight that's been on Minnesota can't leave now. My fear is everybody packs up and we think we've got this," Walz said on 'CBS This Morning.'

Walz has signed on to several proposals advanced by House Democrats in recent weeks, including a ban on police traffic stops for excessive window tint, items hanging from a rear-view mirror, or expired registration. It's a response to the police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center earlier this month. Police said they stopped Wright because of expired tabs.

Other DFL proposals include restrictions on no-knock warrants, sending mental health professionals instead of police to some crisis calls, and expanding the power of Minnesota's police oversight board. Each of the measures are in the House public safety omnibus bill.

Republicans who control the Senate said they tentatively planned to hold an April 30 hearing on police accountability. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he was not promising to pass any legislation.

"I still am not saying we will definitely do more police accountability these next four weeks. There may be something. I'm not saying we will not," Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

As Democrats quickly used the Chauvin verdict to push for legislation, Gazelka kept his initial post-verdict comments focused on the family of George Floyd, the Black man killed by Chauvin in May 2020.

"As we watched the verdict yesterday, I don't think anybody can say that justice wasn't served," Gazelka said.

Democrats say the Legislature must go further. State Rep. Rena Moran told reporters she was up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday because she couldn't sleep. She said lawmakers of color would continue to educate their white colleagues about racism.

"We have to make up for the ills and wrongs of yesterday," Moran, DFL-St. Paul, told reporters on a virtual news conference. "As lawmakers, it is our job to take us into the future."

The session ends May 17. While the police accountability debate has played out publicly so far, it's likely to get swept up into closed-door, end-of-session negotiations.

Walz has the power to call lawmakers back for a special session after they adjourn in mid-May.