ST. PAUL — After weeks of political back-and-forth at the Minnesota Capitol, a compromise plan remained elusive Thursday morning as a Senate panel pushed forward a $15 million bill to fund security around a high-profile murder trial.
The Senate Finance Committee on a voice vote advanced a bill to reimburse local law enforcement agencies when they require backup in disaster situations. But gaps remained between the GOP plan and a proposal put forth by the Walz administration and law enforcement groups.
The GOP bill sets up a review process to decide whether a city should get funding from the $15-million account and, if passed, it would close out a State Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) account in 2023 unless lawmakers extend it.
Lawmakers moved the bill a little more than a week before jury selection is set to start in the trial of Derek Chauvin, an ex-Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd. State and local public safety groups urged legislators to make funds available ahead of the trial but so far leaders in the divided Statehouse have been unable to strike a deal.
“At the end of the day, I believe that this bill accomplishes those things that we need to accomplish in regards to the potential problems that are may be upcoming,” the bill's author Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, said.
Democrats flagged provisions in the bill Thursday, Feb. 25 that could blow up bipartisan negotiations planned for this weekend and they said they wouldn't support adding a condition that "civil disorder" not be covered by the funding or that requirements around deadly use of force by police officers be delayed.
“This is not going to solve the problem, it creates unrelated problems,” Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, said. “I’m disappointed in the bill.”
Preparations for the trial have continued without the requested funding and state public safety officials said police departments from around the state had signed on to assist if civil unrest materialized in Minneapolis or elsewhere. But Walz earlier this week said the absence of a state law enforcement fund had forced a pivot in state planning efforts.
"My administration’s law enforcement leaders have dedicated considerable time to encourage passage of a solution, but they must now turn their attention to pressing public safety concerns," the governor wrote in a letter to legislative leaders on Monday, Feb. 22. "They no longer have time to do both."
Walz last month put out a $35 million plan to fund emergency law enforcement costs related to the trials or any other issues that might arise later in the city or elsewhere. That plan came up for consideration in the House of Representatives but an amended version failed to pick up support from Republicans and a handful of Democrats there.
In the Senate, meanwhile, Republicans and a handful of Democrats and Independents passed a proposal that would require cities to tap into their local government aid funds to repay mutual aid agreements. The bill's supporters said Minneapolis shouldn't get a bailout after city council members voted to decrease their funding to police.
Committee Chair Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, on Thursday said private negotiations around a compromise bill would continue through the weekend. “This path is not complete yet," she said.