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'Absolutely unacceptable': Walz says he'll continue push for emergency insulin, gun control bills

Gov. Tim Walz said he won't call lawmakers back for a special session without an agreement on insulin or gun violence prevention bills.

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Gov. Tim Walz, left, and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, right, speak to reporters at a news conference at the Minnesota Capitol on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he'll continue to push for the passage of gun control legislation but won't call back lawmakers for a special legislative session until he knows there's consensus on the proposals.

Walz on Monday, Aug. 12, told reporters that he still hopes lawmakers will hold hearings on a pair of gun control measures and an emergency insulin plan considered but ultimately rejected during the legislative session.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor has said he would sign into law the proposals to allow law enforcement officers to remove someone's firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others and to require background checks at the point of transfer of a firearm. And last week, he called on lawmakers to take up the bills this week in an unrelated special hearing, citing a pair of deadly shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, as the reason to move quickly.

“We have a hearing tomorrow, but here’s the hearing schedule for guns and insulin and other things," Walz said on Monday, holding up a blank piece of paper. "That’s still blank, I’m still waiting. Absolutely unacceptable."

State senators are set to hold a hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 13, to probe leadership turnover and reports of other issues at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The lawmakers running the joint hearing don't plan to take up a bipartisan, bicameral emergency insulin proposal. And a different committee would be tasked with weighing the gun control proposals or other measures aimed at preventing gun violence.

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Only the governor can call legislators back for a special session. But once they return, lawmakers call the shots about when they adjourn. And Walz said he won't call legislators back to the Capitol for a special session unless leaders in the DFL-led House of Representatives and GOP-controlled Senate could reach an agreement beforehand.

"I don't think it'd be productive to call them back with them being able to just not do anything, they proved they could do that (during the legislative session)," Walz said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, earlier this year said he'd put the bills up for a hearing and a vote if the House would pass them as standalone bills. Instead, Democratic House leaders added the measures to the budget bills, saying they stood a better chance at moving through the Capitol that way.

The Minnesota House approved the two gun control measures as part of a larger public safety and judiciary spending bill but they were removed when the bill entered a committee of House and Senate members tasked with ironing out differences between two versions of the bill.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, on Friday said he was willing to hold a hearing on the bills, but questioned whether they'd be able to pass given their failure in the conference committee.

"As I've said consistently regarding gun legislation — I am most interested in ideas that will actually produce results and have broad bipartisan support," Limmer wrote in a letter to Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park.

In the days since the Texas and Ohio shootings killed 31 and left dozens injured, gun control advocacy groups hosted rallies in Duluth, Rochester and St. Paul calling for action from lawmakers.

“I’m going to continue to push,” Walz said. “They are going to hear an earful, not just from me but from Minnesotans."

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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