Sen. Howe: Special Session: An Abandoned Agreement

The Senate adjourned from the special session early last Saturday morning. A week of negotiations on how best to spend federal CARES dollars, assemble a bonding bill, and pass police accountability ultimately broke down over stalemates from the House and the Governor. The special session was primarily called because Governor Walz extended his emergency powers. Senate Republicans voted the extension down in favor of a legislative lead on major state decisions.

During the special session, the CARES act bill, which divides $841 million between every county, city, and town in Minnesota, was agreed upon by both the House and Senate.  The Senate passed the agreed-upon language.  The House amended over 140 million dollars of new spending and previously unseen legislation onto the bill at the Governor’s insistence, reneging on our agreement, and effectively eliminating it for the session. 

Over the past week, the Senate did its job tackling major issues that Minnesota faced and working towards legislative compromises that help all our residents,” said Jeff Howe (R-Rockville). “Unfortunately, when reached across the aisle, the DFL House and Governor decided to instead hold COVID relief hostage to secure more of their priorities at the cost of our Greater Minnesota communities who have already been left reeling from the economic shutdown.”

“When you hear Democrats talk about why the special session ended unproductively, they’ll likely say that it was because the Senate did nothing on police reform. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Senate did their job when it came to police accountability, passing several major bipartisan reforms tackling the root of the public safety issues we face. Unfortunately, these weren’t enough for Democrats who took an all or nothing approach that required additional “reforms” from them that do nothing to address the problems we face. We need to have public hearings that have input from multiple sources, not just one.  The legislature should not take proposals from any single organization, and it pass it into law without public hearings and input. Not the NRA, Education Minnesota, ALEC, or POCIC, all proposals should face the scrutiny of public review.”

The Senate’s eleven police accountability bills included many agreed-upon ideas, like banning chokeholds, removing arbitration powers, and letting judges resolve union firing contracts. The House offered 22 bills, including extreme provisions like felon voting and dismantling police departments. The state’s constitution stipulates a bonding bill must originate in the House.  The Senate made it known that a bonding bill needed to arrive to the Senate by Friday, but a bonding bill was not even brought up for a vote in the House before the Friday deadline and the Senate adjourned. I am appalled that the Governor and his administration has brought Washington style heavy handed politics to St Paul and Minnesota.  Here in the halls of our Capitol in St Paul, our word in our bond.  If your word cannot be trusted then negotiations are fruitless.  That is what occurred during this special session.

Discussions continue even though we are not in session but without the costs associated with session.  The cost for the additional security provided by the State Patrol for the 8 days of special session was over $100,000.  That does not include the additional costs for the clerks and secretaries’ offices and staffs.  We will and should continue our work and come to agreements then call the special session with agreed upon (in writing) legislation.