Special session dissolves without finished work on 4 key issues

Demonstrators observed a moment of silence in memory of George Floyd on Thursday, June 18, 2020, outside the Minnesota Capitol building. Public access to the building was significantly limited following looting and arson fires around Minnapolis and St. Paul earlier in the month. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

The Minnesota legislative special session, which started on June 12 after Governor Tim Walz sought to extend the peacetime emergency according to the Forum News Service, closed on June 20 as “very disappointing” and “politics at its worst,” as State House of Representatives District 9A Rep. John Poston said.

The four issues to work on were a bonding bill, CARES Act funding, tax bill and criminal justice reform, according to Poston and the Forum News Service.

The bonding bill would fund projects around the state, however the cost has been a concern in passing the bill since a previous vote in May, according to the Minnesota Legislature website . As of June 18 the bill did not have a specified total or a public list of projects, though Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka stated $1.35 billion as the total, according to the Forum News Service. The bonding and tax bill were “stalled” as of June 19, according to the Forum News Service.

“Quite honestly the reason for that (the bonding bill not accomplished) is if the … emergency powers had gone away then we would have moved forward with the bonding bill but there was an agreement ahead of time not to unless that happened,” Poston said.

The two local projects include extending the two Hwy 10 lanes through Wadena to four lanes for $50 million and infrastructure related to the Tri-County Health Care hospital project for $1.3 million, according to Poston.


“I hope we can finally get the project over the finish line,” Poston said in an email.

The CARES Act funding for counties and cities totaled $841 million, according to the Forum News Service. Prior to the special session, caucus leaders agreed on the bill but amendments such as Walz’s supplemental budget halted its passing, according to Poston and the Forum News Service. Poston noted the funding not passing as “really unfortunate.”

The criminal justice reform regarding police accountability after the killing of George Floyd included 21 recommendations with 11 the Democratic and Republican members agreed on such as force incident arbitration reform, additional training for officers and a ban on chokeholds, according to Poston and the Forum News Service. There was not agreement on items such as reinstating voting rights to felons, allowing defunding or disbanding of police departments and transferring jurisdiction for police-involved death prosecutions from county attorneys to the Attorney General's office, according to the Forum News Service.

“There was a lot of criminal justice reform conversation, of course after Mr. Floyd's death that you would imagine would be really high on the priority list and it was,” Poston said.

The next special session, which must be set by Walz, could be on July 13 to discuss another peacetime emergency and return to these issues, according to Poston.

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