Minnesota House passes police reform bill in early morning vote

Minnesota House lawmakers passed a set of criminal justice and police accountability measures shortly after 1 a.m. Friday, setting up a showdown with the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Minnesota Police Accountability Act passed by a vote of 71-59 with a lone lawmaker, state Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, breaking from his party on the vote.

The measure includes three bills merged into one. It would allow cities to require officers to live within city limits, put the attorney general in charge of all police killings cases and make it easier for the state police board to take away an officer’s license after use of force violations.

Democrats have taken up the sweeping changes after the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died when a now-fired Minneapolis police officer held him to the ground for several minutes by putting his knee on Floyd's neck. Democrats said there is systemic racism in many police departments and it has to end.

“People who look like me feel that it’s time. Time for us to act,” said state Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis. ”Now is the moment.”

Republicans say the changes go too far. Police across the state are being punished for decades-old problems in Minneapolis Police Department, they said.

“The mayors and city councils of the city of Minneapolis have been negligent for many, many years,” said state Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover. “We’re going to thrust on local units of law enforcement everything that we really think should apply to Minneapolis and the systemic problems there.”

The House bill now goes back to the Senate, where earlier this week Republicans passed their own more limited changes. 

Senate Republicans have vowed to adjourn Friday, regardless of whether there's a deal. Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said it was "very problematic" that the House put all of its changes into a single bill, because it includes several issues that GOP lawmakers oppose.

Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday that it would be a "total failure" if the Legislature left town without making the changes.