July 21, 2020

Special Session II

Early this morning, both the Minnesota House and Senate adjourned Sine Die bringing to an end Special Session II.  The Legislature will likely return for a third Special Session in mid-August, when Governor Walz’s Emergency Executive Order once again expires.  When Special Session II began, there were hopes the Legislature and Walz Administration could reach an agreement on legislation related to bonding, a supplemental budget, taxes and law enforcement reforms.  Similar to Special Session I, the Minnesota Senate set a deadline for completion of any work and promised to adjourn by midnight on July 20th.  The Senate missed their deadline by a couple of hours. 
Minnesota’s Constitution requires both a bonding and tax bill start in the Minnesota House, this put additional pressure on the House DFL and Governor Walz to reach an agreement with the House Republicans in order to garner the 6 GOP votes necessary to reach the 3/5th Super Majority (81 votes) to pass a bonding bill.  In May, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and his caucus linked the passage of a bonding bill to a re-write of the legislation authorizing the Governor’s power to declare an emergency and his use of Peacetime Emergency Executive Orders.  Governor Walz and Minority Leader Daudt had been negotiating a resolution on the emergency powers issue, and late last week it appeared an agreement could be reached.  Over the weekend those negotiations fell apart, and on Monday it became apparent the House DFL would be unable to pass their combined bonding and tax bill.  When the House brought the bill to the floor late last night, the bill failed 75-57.
One positive outcome of Special Session II, the Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader and the Walz Administration were able to reach an agreement late last night on a bill addressing Public Safety, Police Accountability and Reforms.
Negotiations on the legislation have been ongoing since the May 25th death of George Floyd, most of those discussions have taken place behind closed doors and without the participation of the Minority Parties in either body and with little public involvement.  Late last night, it appeared those negotiations had reached an impasse, however resolving this issue had become a priority of Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and he worked tirelessly to reach an agreement with the bill’s proponents in the Minnesota House.  The legislation bans choke-holds and warrior training, requires an officer to intervene when excessive force is used, begins the process of reforming the POST Board, and increases training for police officers.  The legislation passed the House 102-29 and the Senate 60-7.  The following link will take you to the bill passed late last night.
It appears negotiations on a bonding bill will continue and likely be a topic of discussion during Special Session III, which will take place sometime in August.  The Governor’s Supplemental Budget request also remains outstanding and will likely be included in any discussions related to the next Special Session.  The Legislature and Walz Administration were able to take one additional issue off the table late last night when they passed a bill expanding access to online driver testing.  The bill should help eliminate the enormous backlog of new drivers unable to schedule their written driver’s exams.
Yesterday, on a vote of 82-40 the House passed a resolution establishing racism as a public health emergency.  In comments supporting the resolution, Representative Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul) suggested this language should be viewed partially as a tribute to the late Congressman John Lewis.  Yesterday, the Minnesota Senate on a vote of 37-30 passed a resolution urging the Governor to open schools this fall for in-person learning.  On a vote of 35-32, the Senate was unable to suspend the rules and bring forward a bill providing Minnesota schools with $25 million in Cares Act money to offset costs related to in-person learning.