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House, Senate disagree on policing bills with time running out in Special Session

House leaders say the Senate's bills don't do enough to enact systemic change.

The two chambers of the Minnesota Legislature are considering largely different bills on policing in the wake of George Floyd's killing, which doesn't bode well for bills getting passed by the end of the Special Session seeing as the Senate says it will end on Friday

The Special Session was initially intended to deal with issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the focus shifted to sweeping policing changes in Minnesota after the May 25 death of Floyd.

"So far, we're still in gridlock. So far, we've had the entire week to move things. But now is the time," Gov. Tim Walz said during a news conference Thursday, urging Senate Republican leaders to work with House Democrats on police reform bills

The Senate approved five bills this week related to police reform, including a ban on most chokeholds, a requirement for law enforcement to report use-of-force data to the state and requiring a duty to intervene and report for officers on the scene of an excessive force incident. 

But the legislation, which still needs to be passed by the Democratic-controlled House before it becomes law, has been criticized for not doing enough to enact real change and because Senate Republicans didn't work with senators of color in coming up with the legislation.

In a news release from House Democrats on Wednesday, House Speaker Melissa Hortman said: "Not a single item in the Senate proposals addresses the problem of a lack of accountability for police.

"The House proposals, shaped by working with members of our communities, would take the first steps in making systemic change that will lead to accountability.”

The House is slated to take up its police reform legislation Thursday night. According to Session Daily, the Democratic-controlled chamber has three main public safety and law enforcement accountability bills amended onto Senate files to include the House language. 

Among the legislation the House is looking to pass include provisions that would require police officers to intercede with another officer is using excessive force and report the incident to supervisors; establish law enforcement citizen oversight councils and police officer residency requirements; ban chokeholds and prohibit "warrior-style training"; increase training and transparency for police officers, and clarify when police can use deadly force.

The proposals go a step further and aim to address systemic issues beyond just policing. Those provisions, if passed, would restore voting rights to convicted felons when they're released from prison regardless of supervision status, and eliminate the need for cash bail for most misdemeanor offenses. 

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