Political leaders in Minnesota promised sweeping changes after George Floyd’s killing turned their state into a focal point for nationwide fury and grief over police killings and racism.
But those efforts collapsed early Saturday as leaders in the Minnesota Legislature — the only one in the country where Democrats control one chamber and Republicans the other — failed to compromise on a package of law-enforcement measures before a special session ended.
Ultimately, legislators could not reach a deal that reconciled the Democrats’ calls for far-reaching changes to police oversight with Republican leaders who supported a shorter list of “common-sense police reforms” that included banning chokeholds in most situations and requiring officers to stop their colleagues from using unreasonable force.
Democrats said the plan passed by the Republican-led Senate consisted of tepid half-steps that were already in place in most law-enforcement agencies and did not rise to the moment’s calls for dramatic action. Republicans balked at the proposals passed by the Democrat-controlled House to restore voting rights to tens of thousands of felons and put the state’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, a Democrat, in charge of prosecuting police killings.
Democrats had argued they should stay in session as long as they needed to reach a compromise. Republicans set a deadline of Friday night before returning to their districts.
As the clock ticked toward midnight — and then far past it — leaders of both parties blamed each other in competing news conferences. Paul Gazelka, the Republican leader of the Senate, described the state of negotiations as essentially hopeless.
“If they’re not interested in this,” Gazelka said, referring to the Democrats’ rejection of his latest proposal, “I don’t think personally that they’ll ever be interested in something that we can agree to.”
Moments later, Jeff Hayden, a Democratic state senator whose district includes the corner where Floyd was killed, said the Republican plan was unacceptable.
“If they decide to leave here without getting anything done, it’s on their hands,” he said.
The Legislature’s failure to pass a bill was a disheartening turn for activists.
“Every time someone gets killed, there are promises, investigations, and nothing comes of it,” said Dave Bicking of Communities United Against Police Brutality. “If this doesn’t bring something and make us get heard, I shudder to think what it might take.”