Minnesota lawmakers face partisan chasm over policing reforms as special session continues this week

A busy week is ahead for Minnesota lawmakers as the state legislature is prepared for a continued special session to weigh changes to policing, criminal justice, and other social justice issues in the wake of George Floyd's death.

"I think the time is now," said Democratic House Majority Leader Rep. Ryan Winkler. "We have been looking at these issues for a long time, we’ve been proposing solutions and studying alternatives. We can do this now."

Winkler says that's why the House is moving quickly to hold committee hearings on around 20 bills, separated into three categories: Reclaiming community oversight, reforming police accountability and re-imagining public safety.

"We're combining things that we’ve been working on for some time with issues that are coming to the floor right now and I suppose nothing is more poignant than banning choke holds in Minnesota," said Winkler.

And that could be one area Republicans and Democrats agree on. Republicans who hold the majority in the Senate are coming out with a package of five reform bills including banning choke holds. But Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says the Senate will likely take up only one third of the bills the House is looking at.

"There are going to be areas that we’re just never going to agree and those just aren’t going to happen," said Sen. Gazelka. "But there are plenty of issues we can agree on."

Republicans lawmakers have said they plan to end the special session after this week. However, some lawmakers believe the special session could and should last months. Governor Walz says lawmakers should stay at the capitol until "we get the people's work done."

Gazelka says some of the more complex issues the parties disagree on right now should be revisited during regular session in January.

"Special sessions were not meant to be on and on and on," said Gazelka. "When you agree with the things you can then you go back in adjournment. If something else comes up that we agree on, we can come back."