Walz Puts Pressure On Legislature To Pass More Police Reform

20April 2021

ST. PAUL, MINN. (WCCO) —  In the hours following a guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, Gov. Tim Walz said he will “burn his political capital” on pressing the Minnesota Legislature to take further action on police accountability measures in the final weeks of session.

“If they don’t make these changes, just to be very clear, we will be right back again with another trial, another trial, another trial,” Walz told reporters during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “And it would just be relentless.”

The governor’s address to Minnesota followed a jury convicting Derek Chauvin, an ex-police officer, of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd’s death last summer. He called the conviction “the floor, not the ceiling” for achieving racial justice in Minnesota.

Chauvin’s trial for George Floyd’s killing — and Daunte Wright’s fatal shooting during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center last week — have renewed urgency to pass more changes at the state capitol, including a sweeping public safety bill supported by the House DFL members.

But the GOP-controlled Senate has only committed at this point to having hearings to explore more reforms following a police accountability bill approved last summer, stopping short of promising to pass more policy.

Walz said he will go on offense in coming weeks if legislative action continues to stall. Some DFL lawmakers have called for halting budget negotiations until more police reform legislation is approved and sent to the governor for his signature.

“I will burn my political capital on this,” he said. “I have tried to not bring the partisan side of this in. But if there are those legislators who choose not to make these changes, I will use the platform that I have to make sure that Minnesotans know who’s holding up progress that Minnesotans want.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a Republican, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, the top Democrat in the chamber, have spoken with the governor in a meeting together recently. Walz has previously described the conversations as productive.

The public safety budget bill before the Minnesota House includes making body camera video available within 48 hours when there’s an officer-involved death, and creating a model policy for responding to protests. It would also establish local civilian review boards and prohibit peace officers from affiliating with, supporting, or advocating for white supremacist groups, among other provisions.

Walz said he’s heard suggestions about automatically having a special prosecutor take cases involving officer-involved deaths. He tapped Attorney General Keith Ellison to lead the prosecution against Chauvin instead of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman — a decision within Walz’s power as governor to make.

When asked if the attorney general should take on similar cases in the future, Walz said he would not ask the state’s top prosecutor to step in “unilaterally” without guidance from the office.

“Not being an attorney and not being there, I don’t know,” Walz said. “What I can say tonight is his decision the attorney general made, the team the assembled, proved that it can work, and it can work right.”

The Minnesota Legislature, by law, must pass a two-year budget funding state government and its programs. The session is slated to end May 17.

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Author: WCCO | CBS Minnesota

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